Is this the year Blake Bortles Proves he is a Franchise Quarterback?

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Blake Bortles
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Blake Bortles /

Is this the year of Blake Bortles? Has the fifth-year quarterback finally found the comfort zone he needs to become what the Jaguars envisioned when they made him the third pick in the 2014 Draft? Is this the season that Bortles, who signed a three-year, $54 million extention in the offseason takes Jacksonville to a place they have never been – to Super Bowl 53?

Blake Bortles was full of answers as he met with the media on Tuesday following the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first OTA practice of the 2018 season. This is the second season Bortles and the offense will work with the system offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett implemented. It’s something the former UCF star is excited about.

For the first time in his career, there is true continuity in the team’s offensive game plan. Bortles sees the opportunity for more growth in the season to come:

"“I think continuing to do that [grow]. Me and Nate talk about that all the time – knowing the offense. He talks about [how] I should know the offense better than anyone in the building, including him, he said. “I think that it is constant work towards that and being able to do and say and see everything that he can do as an offensive coordinator and being that coach on the field.”"

Bortles had a better season based on statistics, but there were still things to work on this offseason. While the 13 interceptions he threw and the 24 sacks he took were career lows, there were still questions about his throwing motion and a wrist issue that continually appeared on the injury report every week during the 2017 season. Surgery to correct that hopefully means passes are tighter and there aren’t a plethora of wobbled passes missing targets in the open field.

The Jaguars have made changes to their wide receivers this season, with both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns moving on to the NFC, and the addition of Donte Moncrief from Indianapolis and D.J. Chark from LSU in the draft replacing them.

Schematically, this is the still the same offense that’s stepped onto the field last season, with a few changes both Blake Bortles and Hackett have gone over. He told the media he knows there is going to be a difference this season.

"“I don’t know if it is night and day. I felt good about it last year even during this time last year. I felt good last year with the base foundation of everything. It is probably the intricacies of everything, the adjustments. What we talked about this morning is kind of taking it to the next level,” Bortles added.“Although we haven’t installed some of the stuff that we did today, there were some checks and stuff made that we did a couple times last year. I think taking the next step and taking it to the next level as far as what you are doing with all the different looks and not just running the play call. It is about getting yourselves in the best situation possible.”"

The Jaguars are still a run-first offense with Leonard Fournette being asked to carry the burden of the offense, however, this was still a top-six scoring team last year. Having both the offense and defense ranked that high by NFL standards means something is working and working well.

Blake Bortles took better care of the football last season, something Executive Vice-President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin stressed prior to training camp. If No. 5 was to be the starting quarterback and remain in Jacksonville, more attention to detail was needed. He also showed he could make plays with his legs when the team used the run-option multiple times. Bortles knows he needs to continue that progress. While he does not set exact goals for himself, the QB knows cutting down on interceptions can only help this team.

"“Zero is usually the number for interceptions. You don’t ever want to turn the ball over. I think as a quarterback in the NFL, you say single digits is kind of always where you want to be. I think that is kind of always what I said, but it is not something I think about. You don’t want to turn the ball over and you want to take care of the football, but if you have to put a number on it, I would say we play 16-plus games. Less than 10 [turnovers].”"

Bortles has said all the right things this offseason, taking the torch as more of a leader on offense and has the locker room’s support as “The Guy” behind center. All of the pieces to the offensive puzzle are there. In year two of this transition under Hackett, there is no reason why this cannot be the best season Blake Bortles has had in the NFL. Huge numbers won’t dictate his success.

Doing the little things to improve himself mentally and physically will be the tell-tale signs of how good Blake Bortles will be in 2018.