Blake Bortles hasn’t exactly thrived during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The talent is there, but pressure is mounting on him to finally become a true franchise quarterback and deliver.
2015 was a pleasant surprise for Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. Armed with impressive receiving options like Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Julius Thomas, Bortles was able to throw the ball almost anywhere and find a positive play.
Mistakes were made and he still hung onto the ball too long, fumbled too often, and threw too many interceptions. Yet the production rose to outstrip all of that, notching 35 touchdowns and an impressive 4428 yards.
That production helped ease many worries among those who follow the Jaguars, this writer included.
2016 has shown that worries still exist with Bortles and he still needs to show more than just one impressive sophomore rebound to be considered a true franchise quarterback. Clearly he has the tools to become one, now he needs to settle into a groove and consistently deliver.
A week ago Tony Khan posted on his new Instagram account (very excitedly) citing Bortles’ performance under pressure in his first two years and year three. In particular, his 63.3 completion percentage and his 8.4 yards per attempt stand out (second in the NFL at the time of his post).
But it isn’t that kind of pressure that Bortles needs to overcome.
Yes, it’s a shame that the quarterback still can’t sit behind a great offensive line a la Dak Prescott in Dallas. Yes, it’s impressive that he is growing as a quarterback in adverse situations. The key, though, will be making sure he isn’t just getting better in a cherry-picked statistic (no matter how helpful it is on the field) but getting better with consistency.
Right now in 2016, Bortles is throwing 6.6 yards per attempt (the same yards per attempt as his first two years when under pressure) which is only .5 better than his rookie season and is .5 worse than his sophomore campaign.
Bortles’ interception percentage (3.8 percent) is at its highest in 2016 compared to his rookie and sophomore years. His yards per completion (10.7) is just .3 above his rookie year and 1.8 below 2015.
The best thing about Bortles’ third season to this point is in breaching the 60 percent barrier in completion percentage. He’s at 61.3 percent, which is easily the best of his career. Yet the overall production to go along with that growth simply hasn’t shown up.
As the Jacksonville Jaguars come out of their bye week the challenge will be to bolster all of those non-completion percentage numbers for Blake Bortles. He needs to rise to the challenge and show that he can do more than just find the safe throws that will demonstrate progress in one statistic.
The challenge isn’t just for Bortles, though. The challenge also falls to offensive coordinator Greg Olson. Olson needs to find that spark that made 2015 so exciting and impressive and combine it with Bortles’ abilities. Less wide receiver screens on fourth down and more downfield attacks that play to Bortles’ strengths and the strengths of his receivers.
There is a lot to learn from the 2015 season but, to this point, it doesn’t look like Bortles and the Jaguars have been able to put it all together. With a week off and a win in the books, Bortles now has the pressure on him to be much more successful.