In what has become an offseason staple, the fine gentlemen over at Around the NFL of NFL.com have begun their “Making the Leap” series where they profile players who are primed to breakout and become big time contributors. Last year, the Jaguars made a handful of appearances, none of which really panned out. Toby Gerhart, Johnathan Cyprien, and even the tandem of David Caldwell and Gus Bradley made the list, but the Jaguars lack of success on the field makes it hard argue that any of those guys “made the leap.”
This year the Jaguars don’t have as many candidates, but the most obvious player did make it on the list – second year quarterback Blake Bortles:
"In speaking with a few assistant offensive coaches at this year’s scouting combine, the opinion onBlake Bortles was divided into two camps. The first said he is nothing more than Zach Mettenbergerwith wheels, meaning that his cannon arm gets more attention than it deserves seeing as it’s less practical in game situations. The other camp was simply busy hoping that the Jaguars won’t put the time and resources into developing him properly because if they did … watch out."
Conor Orr wrote up the breakdown on Bortles, and he did a good job of going through what Bortles did well last year and what could be the catalyst for his ascension in 2015. The first thing he focused on was his demeanor, which should help him bounce back from a poor rookie campaign:
"Talk to people close to Bortles and they’ll note a demeanor largely unaffected by his meteoric rise in college. He’s laid back and he plays that way, too…I think Bortles has the mental capacity to put his rookie season behind him. I think he now has one of the three best offensive line coaches in football, which will certainly help, and I think he’ll have a better running game to work with."
Orr also discusses the oft-used comparison to Ben Roethlisberger, and talks about how much more of an advantageous position Big Ben was put in when he was a rookie.
"The fewest amount of balls Bortles threw in a game last season — 24 against the Colts in a game he did not start — was just four fewer than the most Roethlisberger threw during his rookie year.As bad as Bortles was during some games, he was also a sitting duck in obvious passing situations playing on a team that couldn’t make very many plays around him."
Roethlisberger had the luxury of playing on a veteran team with an established defense and running game, and he was never really in a position where he had to put the team on his back and pass his way to victory. Bortles was put in obvious passing situations far too often last year, but the team is doing a good job of trying to lighten his burden moving forward.
Orr doesn’t seem completely sold on Bortles taking that next step and becoming a great quarterback, but he did the work, watched the tape, and noted that Bortles has a chance if the Jaguars continue to help him and surround him with talent.
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