Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Line Must Improve for Blake Bortles to Succeed
If there was one thing that was apparent on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, it’s that Blake Bortles inspires the people around him to play better. From the wide receivers to the running backs and even to the defense, the Jags seemed energized knowing that Bortles was under center. The offensive line saw improved play with Bortles replacing Chad Henne, but they still need to improve if the team wants consistent, quality play from their rookie quarterback.
There is nothing worse than seeing a young quarterback slammed into the turf over and over again. David Carr with the Houston Texans is the classic example of a talented young player who was just beat into the ground too often to recover and play effectively when talent finally rose around him. The Jaguars can ill afford to have Bortles become a David Carr.
Yet the offensive line has shown that they aren’t much good in pass protection. Chad Henne is the comparative measurement here, having suffered a franchise record of 10 sacks allowed in week two, Henne is the most sacked quarterback in the league after three weeks. In fact, it’s not even close. 16 sacks in three games is a momentous failing of communication and understanding of responsibilities. Henne hasn’t even played a full three games (really just 10 quarters) and tops the charts by a full five sacks over second place tackling dummy Alex Smith. Even without the 10 sacks allowed to the Washington Redskins, Henne would still be in the top ten with six sacks thus far.
Sacking the quarterback isn’t the only way to disrupt the passer. He can be hurried, he can be hit, and he can be sacked. The good quarterbacks feel the pressure and release the ball with an ease that belies the incredible frenzy around the pocket. The bad quarterbacks hold onto the ball too long and take the sack. Blake Bortles will be developing habits toward one or the other through the season and he needs the offensive line to hold up long enough for him to get comfortable with pressure around him at an NFL level so he can release the ball while staying calm instead of being constantly worried he could be pounded in the turf.
The early returns are in from Sunday and Bortles looks solid. Hopefully he’ll be able to inspire better offensive line play and build on that. It’d be a shame to see him brought down again and again and see him get rattled as a result.
It’s time for the Jaguars to prove they can protect their valued third overall pick and the future of the franchise.