DUVAL, FL -- 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.