Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has a lot to prove in 2017 and hopefully will look more like the quarterback that finished 2016.
Heading into the final two weeks of the 2016 NFL season, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles looked like a bust. He looked like one of the worst players on the roster and he hadn’t managed to do more than flash the same positivity that carried through 2015.
Coming off a Week 15 game in which Bortles completed just 42.8 percent of his passes and threw just 92 yards and an interception, it was fair to wonder if it was a complete low for the young field general. It was fair to wonder if it represented fans’ worst fears: back to the drawing board at quarterback.
That Week 15 game was a low point for Bortles’ painful 2016 season. The 36.6 passer rating was just two weeks removed from a similar 37.9 passer rating in which he threw two interceptions and completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Bortles had zero games with a quarterback rating higher than 100 and just three above 90 to that point.
But something changed in the final two weeks.
Something sparked the quarterback to look competent.
In Week 16, Doug Marrone’s first week as interim head coach, Bortles rebounded. He stepped up his game against the Tennessee Titans, a team on the cusp of the playoffs, and looked every bit like the passer the Jags need him to be. A season-high 68.4 completion percentage, 325 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions and a 103.2 passer rating. The Jags torched the Titans 38-17.
In Week 17, Bortles managed to do it again, albeit in a loss. Looking completely different from the weary quarterback he had been just two weeks before, Bortles completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 301 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 96.2 passer rating.
All told, the young quarterback finished 2016 strong. His 66 percent complete, 626 yards, two touchdowns to zero interceptions and 99.8 passer rating is exactly the kind of two-game stretch that makes coaches think a young quarterback could be something special. Those are numbers that win games.
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And those are the kinds of numbers that spark confidence and optimism for the coming year.
This whole post isn’t to say that Bortles is suddenly the messiah or that the 2016 season wasn’t a disaster overall – it was. It is to say, however, that things are looking up more than the final 3-13 record would indicate or Bortles’ 16 interceptions and four fumbles would seem to show. Yet it is a solid start to a new era under Marrone. The final two games helped make a clear departure from the Bradley era to that of the Marrone era.
In a world where the Jaguars continue to get beat down by the NFL media and players from other teams, that is some positivity worth noting and worth holding onto. The future may still be bright.