The Jacksonville Jaguars enter the 2017 season in a state of flux. The team fired Head Coach Gus Bradley this winter before bringing in Tom Coughlin to oversee football operations and former Bills coach Doug Marrone to run the ship as Head Coach. With the team hosting a number of new names at the top of both the front office and coaching departments, it’s imperative for the roster to establish a positive relationship and produce early on. After all, it’s well documented how coaches like to have “their guys”.
With that in mind, perhaps no player on the Jaguars roster faces more pressure than their starting Quarterback, Blake Bortles. The former UCF product has started 45 out of a possible 48 games since being selected with the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Before inspecting Bortles’ future with the Jaguars, it’s important to reflect on where he was as a player entering the league.
Below is Bortles’ 2014 NFL Draft report:
A few items of historical interest on Bortles:
- Bortles and former Texans QB David Carr are tied for the most sacks taken in their first three seasons of any passer in NFL history (140 sacks).
- Bortles is just one of fourteen passers in NFL history to throw 50+ interceptions in their first three seasons in the league. The good news? So are Warren Moon, Peyton Manning and John Elway.
To suggest that Bortles has been a mixed bag would be fair to this point. It’s certainly not time to write him off as a starting Quarterback, although his time in Jacksonville could begin to dwindle without timely improvements. It appeared as though the passer turned the corner during his sophomore season in 2015, where Bortles threw for 35 touchdown passes and nearly 4500 passing yards thanks to the emergence of WRs Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. But the passing offense regressed in Bortles’ third year in spite of taking 17 less sacks than the previous season (34 vs. 51). Bortles lost a third of his touchdown production and failed to eclipse a completion percentage better than 58% for the third consecutive year.
It was established entering the 2014 NFL Draft that Bortles was a bit of a project and that has come to fruition. He’s still dogged by many of the same mechanical errors that plagued him in college, which has exacerbated some poor decision making while under duress.
In spurts, Bortles has looked like the very good passer he has the potential to be. But those flashes are far too few and irregular to overlook. Going forward, I believe the Jaguars’ renewed dedication to running the football will serve Bortles well, much like how Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill benefited from a recommitted ground attack in 2016. The Jaguars invested their first two selections in the 2017 NFL Draft in assets to supplement the ground game: OT Cam Robinson and RB Leonard Fournette. Coach Doug Marrone endorsed a smash-mouth brand of football in Buffalo and that approach should lessen the load on Bortles; who has over 600 pass attempts in each of the last two seasons.
It will be interesting to see if that new approach yields more consistent results from Bortles. If not, then the passer may be challenged for his starting role in 2018, which is the last year of his rookie contract.