Blake Bortles Flashed “Wow” Plays, is Primed for a Leap in Year 2
The Jacksonville Jaguars pulled off one of the biggest surprises in recent draft history when they selected quarterback Blake Bortles with the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. While there was some talk of Bortles possibly going to the Houston Texans with the first overall selection, no one managed to connect the dots and figure out general manager David Caldwell‘s very real interest in the signal caller out of UCF. After starting slow in offseason workouts, Bortles stepped on to the field in the preseason and was without a doubt the most impressive rookie quarterback.
Head coach Gus Bradley could only keep Bortles on the bench for the first 3 weeks of the season, and the absolutely abysmal output on offense forced his hand. Bortles came in halfway through week 3 and put together a handful of impressive quarters. Ultimately though, Bortles had a pretty poor statistical season – 11 TDs to 17 INTs, a 58.9% completion rate, and a 6.12 yards per attempt average. The Jaguars only mustered 3 wins under Bortles, but the team was competitive in almost every game down the stretch.
Looking back at his rookie season, one might conclude that Bortles has the steepest climb of the 2nd year quarterbacks, but we shouldn’t forget how amazing some of Bortles’ highs were during his rookie season. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com recently discussed Bortles and the possibility of a big sophomore season.
"Blake Bortles flashed more potential in Jacksonville than you rememberBlake Bortles had one of the worst statistical seasons of the last decade by a quarterback. Yet the more I watch him play, the more there is to like. Bortles rips off at least five “wow” plays per game that most starting NFL quarterbacks could not pull off. Eli Manning and Alex Smith were not doing that during their awful rookie seasons.Bortles was hampered by drops and an absolutely dreadful offensive line more than any rookie quarterback in 2014. His decision-making quietly improved as the season wore on and he is very athletic. Yes, I am projecting here. He needs to be more accurate. But his biggest problems (getting fooled by defenses, spotty decision-making) should be solved with experience. He can be a solid starter, which would be a massive jump after his unpleasant introduction to the league."
Rosenthal touches on Bortles’ progression through the season, and he notes how his decision making improved. It was clear the coaching staff emphasized minimizing the interceptions after a 4 game stretch with 8 interceptions (capped off by 2 pick-sixes against the Miami Dolphins) and this clearly affected Bortles’ style of play over the last half of the season. Bortles needs to find that balance between aggressiveness down the field and calculated risk-taking. As Rosenthal says, Bortles is flashing in ways that other successful quarterbacks didn’t during their rookie seasons.
Next: Jennings Coming to Help Bortles?
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