Despite only winning 3 games in 2014, the outlook for the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into 2015 appears to be quite positive, at least locally. General manager David Caldwell put together yet another strong draft class after hauling in a rather impressive free agent crop, and the Jaguars are consequently a more talented team than they were this time last year.
Regardless of how well all of these new acquisitions play, the success of the Jaguars in 2015 will be measured predominantly by the progress of one player – quarterback Blake Bortles. Coming off a pretty terrible season (at least statistically), some people are higher on Bortles than others. One thing everyone can agree on is Bortles is by far the most important player for the Jaguars in their third year under Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports agrees, as he highlighted Bortles as the most pressing issue for the Jags heading into training camp:
"Is Blake Bortles ready to take the next step?The second-year quarterback is learning a new offense for the second straight season, which can be tough, but at least he won’t be playing with a bunch of rookies this time around. Bortles spent time this offseason working on his mechanics, and they looked better in OTAs. But what happens when the bullets fly for real? Does he revert to his old ways? He isn’t a great practice player, but the team feels he’s ready to be an even better game-day player. He better be."
All reports from last year indicated Bortles played much better in real, game situations than in practice. If Bortles is actually looking better in practice, it’s a good sign that he’ll bring some of that into the games.
Bortles taking the next step is vital for this team in both the short term and the long term. The only real chance the Jaguars have of competing for a playoff spot this season is behind the arms and legs of Bortles. Even if the Jags don’t compete for a postseason slot, Bortles needs to show enough to give the team confidence in him moving forward.
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