Blake Bortles struggled last season. His first season in the league and the NFL treated him like the next David Carr, throwing him to the ground to the tune of 55 sacks (tops among all quarterbacks). We’ve assessed that this problem indicates a need for improvement from both Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line, but there is an underlying concern that should have us all worried: Bortles isn’t very good even when not facing pressure.
Now, this isn’t meant to be us jumping on Bortles while he is down. We here at B&T think he took his just lumps as a rookie and that he has the talent to become a good – maybe great! – quarterback in the NFL. But the numbers for his first season cannot be ignored.
Pro Football Focus recently put together their listing of quarterbacks based on how they did against pressure (Blake Bortles was fifth from the bottom in performance) and compared that to how well the quarterbacks are when not facing any pressure. Bortles came in as the worst quarterback in the NFL per their grading when not facing any pressure. They graded him at -30.4, almost a full 10 points lower than the next worst (Jay Cutler). It was such a poor performance that it was noted by writer Steve Palazzolo, saying, “Even in a clean pocket, Blake Bortles still had his struggles as a rookie. His passer rating of 84.9 wasn’t bad, but he had some help from his receivers as his grade did not match up to that number.”
Opposing defenses certainly took notice, preying on the young quarterback’s inconsistencies regardless of pressure and simply backed off. Bortles was in the middle of the pack when looking at the number of times he was blitzed, with the opposition blitzing 31.7% of the time. Bortles was the worst quarterback against the Blitz, per PFF’s grades. He was also the worst against no blitzes.
The message is clear to the opposing defenses: do whatever you want. Blitzing, no blitzing, it didn’t matter in the first campaign for Blake Bortles, so expect the defenses to be more than willing to drop another guy into coverage, especially early in the season. Bortles has to prove to the opposition that he can be successful in a clean pocket before blitzes are required to throw him off his game or sack him. He should make a statement early in the season or else other teams may no respect the passing attack under his leadership.
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