JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles completed 6 of 9 passes for 53 yards and scored on a short bootleg in Jacksonville’s 24-20 loss to New Orleans in the exhibition opener for both teams Thursday night.
Bortles was poised in the pocket and nearly perfect in one series of work, a significant improvement from the way his preseason started a year ago. Bortles had a five-interception performance during a training camp practice in 2017 and continued to struggle during joint practices with New England. He was benched two weeks into the preseason and had to earn the starting job.
A year later, his starting spot is as solid as just about anyone’s on the team. It showed against the Saints.
Playing without two starting offensive linemen — left guard Andrew Norwell (calf) and right tackle Jermey Parnell (precaution) — Bortles led the Jaguars on a 15-play, 79-yard drive to open the game. He converted both third-down passes he faced and finished off the series by going untouched around the right side.
Saints star Drew Brees got the night off, allowing backup Tom Savage to play the first half. Savage completed 10 of 14 passes for 70 yards. Brees only played in one preseason game in 2017.
Mark Ingram, suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating NFL policy on performance enhancers, carried seven times for 23 yards and a touchdown. Ingram scored against Jacksonville’s backups and after a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty kept the drive alive.
The exhibition game involved two teams playing for the first time since heartbreaking postseason exits.
The Saints were on the losing end of the “Minnesota Miracle” in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. The Jaguars led New England by 10 points in the fourth quarter of the AFC championship before falling 24-20.
Jacksonville had four players in the locker room during the national anthem, but team officials said it would be up to the players to explain why they weren’t on the field. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Telvin Smith, and running backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon joined teammates on the sideline after the anthem.
The Saints overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win. Jayrone Elliott’s strip-sack set up rookie Jonathan Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run with 2:16 remaining. Elliott had another strip-sack late in the game, but the Jaguars recovered.
Jaguars backup quarterback Cody Kessler completed 14 of 17 passes for 139 yards, with a touchdown . Jacksonville acquired Kessler in a trade with Cleveland in March.
Saints backup cornerback P.J. Williams appeared to get the wind knocked out him while making a tackle. He jogged to the bench but later headed to the locker room. … The Jaguars had 10 guys who didn’t suit up, including All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and rookie defensive lineman Taven Bryan (abdomen).
Saints host Arizona next Friday night.
Jaguars travel to Minnesota on Tuesday for two joint practices with the Vikings before their exhibition game on Aug. 18.
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