Aug 8, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) warms up prior to the preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
The Jacksonville Jaguars wrapped up their 2014 Preseason on Thursday with a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The 24-14 score masks the one-again superb play of first round selection quarterback Blake Bortles.
Selected with the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Bortles came to the Jaguars with much fanfare but quickly got a dose of NFL reality: he would be sitting the bench all year behind incumbent Chad Henne. Bortles took it all in stride, bought into the management’s vision for the quarterback position, and got to work.
And work he did.
The only thing Bortles can control in the NFL is his play. He let his play do the talking through the first four games of the preseason and he walked off Everbank Field on Thursday with nothing left behind. Bortles successfully orchestrated multiple scoring drives, showcased his skills, and amassed an impressive 521 yards and two touchdowns while completing 62.7% of his passes. Without a doubt he made the decision to start Chad Henne all season much, much harder for the Jaguars. But, that doesn’t begin to cut it. Bortles left his peers in the dust.
Bortles owned the NFL preseason. There’s no other way to describe his play. And it isn’t just Jaguars fan sites like us at Black and Teal singing his praises. Over at NFL.com, Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah analyzed the rookie playcallers during the preseason. Here’s what they had to say about Bortles:
"Bortles has been outstanding during the first three preseason games. He made several impressive stick throws from inside the pocket, and he was very accurate on the move. He’s really improved his velocity by incorporating more of his lower body into throws. Preseason grade: A+"
"Bortles’ stellar performance in Jacksonville has been one of the biggest surprises in the preseason. The rookie has shown better footwork, mechanics, poise and confidence than most observers expected after watching his college tape. And he reportedly has played better than team officials expected after watching him closely in minicamps, OTAs and training camp. Preseason grade: A"
Entering the NFL Preseason the excitement level for Bortles wasn’t nearly what it is right now. The young quarterback is doing the right things, saying the right things, and his work speaks for itself. While he has not been perfect and there have been some bad decisions that – fortunately – have not had bad consequences, Bortles is leaps and bounds beyond where many of us thought the rookie would be at this point heading into the season. “There were a couple plays where he locked on to his target early — failing to look off the safety — but, frankly, I’m being nitpicky,” Jeremiah had to say in the same piece.
The Jaguars are also incredibly pleased with where Bortles is right now. Jaguars.com senior writer highlights Bortles in his piece on Friday, saying:
"The guy looked the part. He showed everything you want a quarterback to show. He looked downfield first, and had very good awareness and presence in the pocket. He gave everyone – fans, media, coaches, personnel types – confidence that his future is bright."
Bortles couldn’t have written a better resume than his play throughout the preseason. Eyes have shifted from Johnny Manziel in Cleveland and have landed on Jacksonville. With Bortles waiting in the wings the excitement around the Jaguars – which has been building since the additions of general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley – gains more momentum. For those of us who follow the Jaguars, the preseason promises to be a glimpse of an incredibly positive future for the Jaguars under Bortles.