Blake Bortles has been abused as the quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, leading the league in sacks taken for two of his three seasons at the helm. That may change with Tom Coughlin aboard.
It is hard to understate just how important Tom Coughlin’s presence is for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is both triumphantly returning as one of the best coaches in the last decade, having won two Super Bowls, but his presence also hearkens back to the glory days of the Jaguars’ young history.
Part of Coughlin’s legacy with the Jaguars was just how dominant his offensive and defensive lines could be. Coughlin recognizes the value of the offensive and defensive lines and routinely invested heavily in them during his 20 years as a head coach. He turned it into a winning strategy.
Ryan O’Halloran at the Florida Times-Union highlighted this recently, during a portion of his Jaguars Insider piece, titled “What will a team built by Coughlin look like?”:
"…expect Coughlin to prioritize the offensive and defensive lines and have teams who have the fortitude to win on the road. Check out the Giants’ two Super-Bowl winning seasons:2007: Fifty-three sacks and allowed only 28 in the regular season. … Fourth in rushing offense. … Seventh in total defense. … Went a combined 9-2 on the road (6-3 regular season/3-0 playoffs).2011: Forty-eight sacks and allowed only 28 in the regular season. … Last in rushing offense, but Manning had 38 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 20 games. … Went a combined 8-2 on the road (5-3 regular season/2-0 playoffs)."
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Those numbers speak for themselves. Coughlin knows that games are fought and won in the trenches. The big pass plays get most of the attention these days and the skill players certainly get the glory, but it’s the players up front that can turn teams into winners.
Unfortunately, Blake Bortles hasn’t had coaches who know that value (or the Jags haven’t worked hard enough to find it). Bortles was sacked 140 times over the last three seasons, leading the league as the most sacked quarterback in his first two seasons under center. No other quarterback has been sacked as much since he entered the league in 2014. In total, it has cost the Jaguars 860 yards in production.
That isn’t to say these sacks were all on the young quarterback. Bortles has a tendency to hold the ball longer than other quarterbacks as he scrambles to save plays. Yet the numbers are still quite telling.
Pro Football Focus is in agreement, ranking the 2016 Jags O-Line just 22nd in the NFL. That is actually a major improvement for a unit that allowed Bortles to be taken down over 50 times each of the two preceding seasons. Still, he took 34 sacks.
If the Jacksonville Jaguars hope to get better production out of Bortles, they need to improve the protection. That’s where Coughlin and the new regime comes in. With Coughlin’s focus on improving the lines, it is a fair expectation that Bortles will have much better protection going forward. This will put him in a position to stand on his own merits, finally giving the Jags a true opportunity to evaluate if he really is the right player to lead the franchise at the game’s most important position.