Blake Bortles is Becoming a Serious Contender for NFL Comeback Player of the Year

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 28: Blake Bortles /

After an impressive performance in week 10 against the L.A. Chargers, Blake Bortles is making a solid case for NFL comeback player of the year.

Few players have underwent more adversity than Blake Bortles did entering the 2017 season.

Bortles has went through an incredible number of highs and lows since being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014. After coming off of what was by far the worst season of his career, Bortles is now playing some of the best football that Jacksonville has seen in quite some time.

An unimpressive 2016 season followed by a concerning preseason in 2017 had many fans ready to admit that Blake Bortles’ career in Jacksonville was as good as over. The end of his disappointing 2016 season had many optimistic that a fresh start with a new head coach and a fairly new offensive coordinator was exactly what Bortles needed to rebound in 2017.

Despite training and preparing all offseason in California, the Blake Bortles that arrived to training camp in July looked just as bad, and maybe even worse than the Bortles that we saw in the previous season. Bortles continued to struggle throughout all training camp and preseason, and rumors were beginning to surface that Bortles was losing the trust of his teammates. Anonymous teammates were reporting to the media that he was holding the team back.

Bortles received endless bashing from fans and media alike.

Among countless others, Logan Ryan, a division rival and Safety for the Tennessee Titans voiced his opinion on Jacksonville’s quarterback situation:

“I think it’s well-known…they don’t have a lot of confidence in their quarterback situation. They’re relying on the running game, and they’re relying on possession passing and taking the ball out of his [hands], preventing him from losing the game.”

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However, somewhere around weeks 2-3, something clicked inside Bortles, and he completely changed his game around.

It all started in week 3. In a game that shocked the entire league, Blake Bortles and the Jaguars dominated a top-tier Baltimore Ravens defense in a 44-7 victory at Wembley Stadium in London. Bortles amassed 244 passing yards and four touchdown passes, something that had not been done since December of 2015.

In week seven against the Indianapolis Colts, Bortles set a franchise record by throwing for 282 yards in the first half, the most passing yards by a quarterback in franchise history. That game Bortles totaled 330 Passing yards in addition to 11 rushing yards, all despite the absence of both Allen Robinson and Leonard Fournette, who are easily the two best offensive players on the team. The Jaguars went on to win that game 27-0.

Since then, Bortles play has been nothing short of impressive. His interception ratio has dropped significantly, and he continues to dominate in the passing game despite the absence of his number one receiver. He’s proven his ability to maneuver around in the pocket, and avoid sacks where most quarterbacks would have gotten sacked. Hackett and Marrone are no longer afraid to let him drop back and launch the ball, and despite being  part of an offense that throws the football only 37% of the time, he is still surpassing his numbers of the previous seasons where they were passing the ball 60% of the time. It comes off looking like his stats have only seen a slight increase since the previous seasons, while in reality they are much higher than they perceive.

His current Quarterback Rating (QBR) is at a career high average of 54.3, versus his 26.7 in 2014, 51.8 in 2015, and 42.8 in 2016.

Next: Jaguars fight back and beat Chargers

According to NFL Matchup on ESPN, Blake Bortles is the fifth best first down quarterback in the NFL, ahead of Tom Brady and Carson Wentz, and only 1.9 points behind Drew Brees.

While he is far from a pro-bowl caliber quarterback, his play over the last several weeks cannot go unnoticed. Few players this season have been able to turn their season around the way he has, and he is starting to make the Jaguars quarterback decision for next season a difficult one. If he can keep playing the way he is for the rest of season, he can be a serious candidate for NFL comeback player of the year.

Other strong candidates for the award include DeMarcus Lawrence (DE-Dallas) and Rob Gronkowski (TE- New England). Lawrence registered only one sack in 12 games played in 2016, but is currently second in the NFL in sacks this season with 10.5, only a half-sack behind Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell.  Gronkowski missed much of 2016 due to injuries, but is playing relatively well so far this season with five receiving touchdowns.