JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Baltimore Ravens' defense has produced more interceptions in its first two games than the Jaguars' defense did in all of last season.
Those eight picks double the Detroit Lions' four interceptions, which are good enough for second-best in the NFL.
For Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, this may be the ultimate test of his game management skills.
Bortles has thrown 53 interceptions in 48 career games. He threw his first two picks of the season in the Week 2 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
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Facing a defensive backfield that features veterans like Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle, Brandon Carr, and Tony Jefferson, Bortles will need to make good decisions when throwing the football.
“I think when you say ‘heightened awareness,’ I think it’s hard to say that you don’t go into every game with an awareness of protecting the football or protection or making sure things that are challenging are not brought to the table," Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said Wednesday.
"I think every week you do that, you bring that in there. This team just seems to be better at it than a lot of the other teams that maybe we face, and I’m talking about getting their hands on the football, strip sacks, things of that nature.”
Along with a talented secondary, the Ravens have several strong pass rushers. Veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has been selected to six Pro Bowls due to his ability to force pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
"He is a guy that has done it for a long time," Bortles said.
"He has been around for a while and he has played at a high level for a really long time. For the most part, you have an idea of where he is going to be. He doesn’t move around a ton. He plays on the one side and stays there for a lot of the time, but he is a guy you have to pay attention to because he can move around and go different places and you have to be careful of him.”
Suggs and the rest of the Ravens' defense have produced eight sacks through two games, which is tied for fourth in the league. The group has also forced additional pressure, which has led to some of the interceptions produced by the secondary.
Bortles' decision-making will be tested by the combination of pressure from the pass rush and coverage from the secondary.
"They’ve always been good in the secondary," Marrone said. "They’ve always done a good job up front. I think if you look from 2000 on, it’s pretty much been the same, I’m not going to say the same team obviously because it’s changed, but they are always very physical, they are always very aggressive, they are always getting their hands on footballs."
Despite the talent of the Ravens' defense, Bortles does have an advantage in this game.
The quarterback has played in London at Wembley Stadium three times. This will be the Ravens' first trip to England for an NFL International Series game.
The field is different. The atmosphere is strange. The time change takes some getting used.
Bortles has dealt with all three issues since his rookie season.
"I think anytime you go there or anywhere, in general, I think you have this sense of comfort the more you play there and I think there is a little bit of that," Bortles said.
"I don’t know if that’s the difference or if that’s what makes that happen. But I think there are some guys here that that have gone over there for years and have played there and are comfortable being in that locker room and playing there and doing all that. I think there is a little bit to that.”
In their last six meetings, neither the Jaguars nor the Ravens have produced repeat wins. This will be the fourth-straight season the two teams have clashed. The Ravens won last year's meeting, 19-17.
Given the history of the rivalry, the battle should be close and favor the Jaguars. However, history and streaks can be pushed aside when it comes to performance.
Bortles' output will go a long way in determining the final score. Avoiding costly turnovers will be paramount across the pond.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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