Is Blake Bortles The Best Quarterback In The AFC South?
The AFC South could have four of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL season, but there are questions that persist with each team’s signal caller.
In Indianapolis, will the Colts have Andrew Luck healthy enough to start the season? Will the team turn to Jacoby Brissett, who learned on the job training while absorbing 52 sacks with a faulty offensive line?
Will Deshaun Watson return to form in Houston and be ready by training camp after tearing his ACL last season? Watson was as dynamic as any rookie to ever play the position. He threw for 1,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games while completing 61.8 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 269 yards and another two touchdowns.
Marcus Mariota wasn’t the quarterback he was two seasons ago before breaking his leg against Jacksonville, which cost the Tennessee Titans a 2016 playoff berth. Last year, Mariota threw 13 touchdowns and had 15 interceptions. The Tennessee Titans may have had the Jacksonville Jaguars’ number during the regular season, but they did miss out on an AFC South wildcard berth.
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Then there is the case of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who was the arguably the best passer in the AFC South. While Bortles still had an up and down year, he did throw for 3,687 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes and was only sacked 24 times. Bortles played even better in the two playoff games against Pittsburgh and New England.
Is Bortles the best quarterback in the AFC South? For the moment, you have to say, “yes.”
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone was candid in his comments about Bortles and the need for a big season from his signal caller:
"“We’re looking to see great improvement from him going into this next season,” Marrone said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, days after the team laced Bortles with a three-year, $54 million extension packed with $26.5 million in guarantees."
In April, Marrone talked to Good Morning Football about what is expected from No. 5:
"“By being rewarded a contract — like I always tell the players — you get rewarded with that contract, obviously, we expect something in return and we expect you to make a big jump again this year”, he added."
The Jaguars’ running game should be improved with the addition of free agent guard Andrew Norwell from Carolina and fourth-round draft pick Will Richardson of North Carolina State. If anything, a better season from second-year back Leonard Fournette should make things a bit better for Bortles.
There are other signs this could be the best year of Bortles five seasons in the league.
This offseason, Bortles had surgery on an ailing wrist that was listed on the injury report every week last year. With the procedure deemed a success, it will be up to Bortles to show he is ready to take that next step Marrone talked about.
Then, fans and the media wouldn’t have to speculate if Bortles is the best quarterback in the AFC South. He will have proven it on the playing field.