Jacksonville Jaguars 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 21. The final score has pretty much no impact on the season – just look at the 4-0 2008 Detroit Lions who finished 0-16 – but the roster evaluation is critical.
Game experience and game situations can dictate whether a player who is solid in training camp can actually excel at the NFL level. The preseason is an opportunity for the players on the bubble to rise or to suddenly sink.
With that in mind, we’ll take a look at some of the players who saw their stock rise during the first matchup of the preseason.
Aug 14, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) throws a pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
1) Blake Bortles, Quarterback
Blake Bortles was sharp on Friday night. Finishing 11 of 15 for 118 yards and four-yard run for a touchdown, Bortles looked comfortable in the pocket, looked in command of the offense, and his throws were strong with plenty of zip. There were a few drops, otherwise his numbers would be even better.
Head coach Gus Bradley let Bortles play into the second quarter, willing to give his quarterback more chances to put points on the board before pulling him. Bortles delivered, orchestrating a drive that started on their own 17 yard line and moved into the opposing end zone. While it wasn’t against all of the Pittsburgh starters, it was nice to see the Jags offense move the ball effectively down the field and finish with points on the board.
That drive was 12 plays and took more than six minutes off the clock. It gave the Jags defense a rest they haven’t been accustomed to getting during recent years and showed the offense may finally balance the time of possession.
Overall, not enough good things can be said about how Bortles did in this game. Completing passes to eight different receivers, showcasing his improved throwing mechanics, and demonstrating a vast departure from the past, Bortles should see his stock soaring from media outlets everywhere following this game. He looked good in his first NFL preseason as well, but this was a far more controlled showing from Bortles than in last year’s outings.
Next: Athleticism keeps us interested