A Look Around The AFC South

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A Look Around The AFC South: 8.12.18

Colts.com offers a comprehensive look at the latest action around the AFC South Division, courtesy of the Associated Press.

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) drops back to pass during a NFL preseason football game against the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Logan Bowles via AP)

Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake 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 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 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 back.

A year later, his 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.

"It's a good way to start," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said.

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Houston Texans

Patrick Mahomes had a quiet first start for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mahomes' first appearance as the Chiefs' starting quarterback lasted nine plays and netted 29 yards Thursday during a 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans in the preseason opener for both teams.

The announced crowd of 58,465 also witnessed the return of Houston's second-year franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, who was selected two picks after Mahomes at No. 12 overall in the 2017 draft.

Watson won the Texans' starting job last season, but missed the second half of the season with a torn ACL. He played only one series and threw only one pass — a 4-yard completion to wide receiver Bruce Ellington — while handing off four times to running back Lamar Miller.

"I thought it was important for him to go through the whole warmup process and preparation for the game and get out there and operate the offense," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said.

That was good enough for Watson, who relished the return.

"It was a good time to get the juices flowing a little bit, to hear the fans and just walk on the field," Watson said.

Brandon Weeden took over for Houston after the game's opening drive and led back-to-back touchdown drives — including a 12-play, 68-yard drive during his first series that was capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Jordan Akins.

Weeden hooked up with Akins for a 14-yard touchdown on the next drive and finished 9 of 11 for 97 yards with two touchdowns after starting out with two incompletions.

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Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota is proving to be a quick study with a new coach installing yet another offensive system for the Tennessee Titans.

Maybe Mike Vrabel will stick around for a while for Tennessee.

The Titans had a memorable opening series in Vrabel's preseason debut as coach before the Packers pulled away in a matchup of the backups for a 31-17 win on Thursday night.

"It was cool. I love this team, I do. I love these guys," Vrabel said about first time on the sideline leading the Titans.

Mariota was 2 of 3 for 42 yards with a 4-yard scoring pass to Darius Jennings on the opening drive of Mike Vrabel's first preseason game as Titans coach. Mariota also had one carry for 7 yards before leaving after the nine-play series.

It was a nice, if brief, start for Mariota. He's picking up a new scheme under his third head coach in four seasons.

"I thought we got into rhythm. We were able to go down and score a touchdown, which is always good. And hopefully we can just continue to build off of that," Mariota said.

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