Blake Bortles was a mess in 2016 and his frustrating season was personified by his regression in one are that was a strength in 2015 – his deep passing acumen.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have done quite a bit to their roster this offseason to improve ability to win games, but all eyes will be on quarterback Blake Bortles as we hurdle towards training camp.
Bortles was on the rise after a strong 2015 season but his massively disappointing 2016 season pumped the brakes on his ascension into the conversation of franchise cornerstones.
With that in mind, let’s talk basketball.
Chris Herring over at the terrific analytics site FiveThirtyEight recently broke down how Kevin Love can affect the NBA Finals (stay with me here), and somehow NFL quarterbacks came up.
If you follow basketball and the Cleveland Cavaliers in particular, you probably know Kevin Love is far and away the best in the league at throwing outlet passes down the court. In fact, he’s so good at it that he successfully completed more long passes than a number of NFL teams – including the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Beyond that, Love’s ability to find open receivers streaking down the court makes him the NBA’s answer to an NFL quarterback. In fact, when it comes to connecting on long passes, he was better than several actual NFL quarterbacks this season. Love’s 17 “completions” that traveled 20 or more yards in the air were more than five NFL teams across a 16-game season (the sad-sack Cleveland Browns across town were not in this group — barely)."
Obviously this is a bit of a novelty stat, but it does highlight some of the struggles Blake Bortles had in 2016. Just looking at the NFL Stats, Bortles’ 13 pass completions that traveled 20 yards in the air was the second worst in the entire league.
While Bortles struggled mightily in several respects in 2016, his regression was highlighted by his lack of plays down the field. His deep passing was a strength in 2015, when his deep-ball pass accuracy ranked 6th in the NFL and his deep-ball passer rating ranked 5th in the NFL. Those numbers dropped significantly in 2016, where he ranked 27th in both categories.
Bortles needs to get better in a number of ways this year to right his career, but his best bet at becoming a viable NFL quarterback is by doing what he did best in 2015 – throwing the ball down the field and manufacturing big plays.