Blake Bortles ready to excel in the redzone?


The Jacksonville Jaguars lost in Tennessee last Sunday to the lowly Titans, but you can’t blame second year quarterback Blake Bortles and the offense. The burgeoning young star had a terrific day, throwing for 322 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions. Perhaps the most impressive part of his performance was what he did in the redzone – a perfect 6/6 (including a touchdown run by T.J. Yeldon) – after struggling in that area all season.

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The Jaguars have had trouble putting the ball in the endzone when they get close for most of the year, but Sunday’s game was big step in the right direction. Bortles was decisive when the play was there and he kept other plays alive with his legs.

Football Outsiders ranked him as the 5th best quarterback in week 13 (by DYAR) and they had an interesting tidbit about his redzone production:

"Is Bortles the NFL’s best goal-line passer, or does he just get the most goal-line opportunities. Inside the 10 in this game, he went 5-of-8 for 27 yards, with all five completions going for touchdowns. Over the course of the season, he has 39 attempts inside the 10, which is the most in the league, but not by a wide margin; Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are tied for second with 37. Bortles’ DVOA on those throws (8.2%) is much better than Brady’s (-24.6%) and much worse than Rodgers (84.1%). Bortles leads the NFL with 16 touchdowns inside the 10, followed by Rodgers with 15, then Brady, Carson Palmer, and Matt Stafford, who each have 13."

If you had told me Bortles led the NFL in touchdowns inside the 10 yard line, I wouldn’t have believed you. The way the Jaguars have struggled anecdotally near the goalline would lead you to believe Bortles hasn’t been that prolific.

Additionally, it’s quite revealing that Bortles leads in the NFL in attempts inside the 10, further highlighting the need to run the ball more in that part of the field. With Toby Gerhart now out for the year, I expect Yeldon to get more touches near the goalline. On paper it makes sense that the Jaguars would prefer to pass given some of the goalline weapons they have (Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas), but they need to have more balance.

Going back to Bortles, he’s made clear progress this season and the game he had on Sunday is a good indicator that he’s learning how to play within the scheme while still making plays.