Blake Bortles is bad under pressure.
Rookie quarterbacks traditionally struggle under pressure in their first seasons, but after seeing Bortles make some bad throws under pressure against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, I decided to see just how bad he was.
While some other rookie quarterbacks have a small sample size (Zach Mettenberger) there is enough right now to compare the four rookie quarterbacks who are making starts against each other. We’ll be using Pro Football Focus’s statistics (account required) through week nine for the analysis. Updates will be available when week 10 games’ stats are added.
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Bortles is right along with Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr in completion percentage under pressure, but he is struggling mightily with interceptions. We already knew Bortles tossed a fair number of picks (tops in the league) but his five giveaways are far outpacing his zero touchdowns while under pressure. Bridgewater by comparison has no interceptions under pressure and one touchdown.
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The definitive number that confirms that Bortles is the worst among rookie quarterbacks under pressure is the QB rating of just 31.4. That’s painful to see for a Jaguars offense that desperately needs Bortles to excel in situations where he can recognize pressure and exploit it. We loved seeing Bortles escape pressure and make plays in the preseason, but PFF’s numbers are showing that he isn’t making plays, he’s making mistakes.
While none of the rookie quarterbacks stand out under pressure (67.4 is the highest QB rating), Bortles is certainly at the bottom. He needs to recognize the pressure quickly and make smarter decisions with the ball. After getting hit five times against the Dallas Cowboys with four sacks to go along with the hits, Bortles’ score is likely sinking lower.
Interestingly, Bortles doesn’t have the lowest PFF score (-6.9) as that mark belongs to Carr (-8.4). All four rookies are in the red in PFF’s ratings.
Hopefully Bortles can improve quickly as he is struggling in his peer group. He needs to improve his completion percentage and he needs to improve his decision making. Right now the pressure is getting to him and the Jaguars need to find a way to mitigate the pressure or get Bortles to make quick reads and smart throws. Based on the offensive line play lately, the latter may be easier to do. Though both tasks are much easier said than done.