Every time Nathaniel Hackett has been asked about Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, he gets a little animated.
Actually, that’s just Hackett’s nature. He is genuinely excited about what can happen this season, his second full season as the team’s offensive coordinator. You can see in his facial expressions and the tone he believes Blake Bortles is on the brink of being a star in this league.
Maybe we all should believe it as well.
"“The one thing that was consistent throughout the whole [2017 season] was Blake, and Blake getting better and better,” Hackett said Tuesday when he spoke with the media at the team’s fourth OTA practice. “If he keeps progressing on that upward hill, good things are going to happen.”"
And if Bortles continues to climb the ladder of progress, Nathaniel Hackett and the entire Jaguars coaching staff will once again be planning for another trip to the playoffs and possibly beyond.
The things both Hackett and Bortles have preached is getting better, learning the system, and making adjustments as they have been needed. This is year two of that process. If the first year produced a trip to the AFC Title game, just think what might happen this coming season.
There is a bit of renegade in Nathaniel Hackett, who wants Bortles to play more freely and with more confidence. No starting quarterback in the NFL takes as much heat as No. 5 does in a Jaguars uniform. That has only toughened his resolve and has one of his mentors proud of the work he has done and the progress he has made.
"“Whatever was clicking, he knew that’s what he had to do more of – whether it was run the ball, whether it was throw the ball, whether it was to get it to this guy or that guy,” said Hackett, “That’s playing. That’s understanding what the defense is going to do, audibling to things, getting into a better play.”"
Granted, the defense had a huge part in the team’s AFC South division title and was a part of the reason the team made the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons. Now, with new weapons in the arsenal, it’s time to see what Bortles has in store for 2018.
Everyone in the building at TIAA Bank Field (it’s hard remembering the new name) hopes it means an even better display of his abilities on the field.
Bortles’ maturity with the offense was evident in him maturing during the 2017 season. With the offseason work he put in and the anticipation of this coming season, Nathaniel Hackett could have his best coaching job in front of him with his quarterback and the keys to the Jaguars’ offense.
"“Our conversations are so different than the first day here when we were just trying to figure out defense and what different fronts were – to the new system we were implementing,” Hackett said. “Now, we don’t talk about that as much. It’s, ‘Why are we calling this play? What are we trying to get to? Where are you going to go in the progression?’ His advancement is just so much more.”"