Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is still a work in progress.
The fifth-year quarterback and his teammates just completed three days of minicamp, preceded by 10 OTA practices before taking the next five weeks off before the start of training camp. For Bortles, the progression continues as he learns about the Jaguars’ offense and himself.
Bortles is taking yet another step towards becoming the franchise signal caller the team wants him to be.
After the team’s final minicamp practice, the 26-year-old Bortles spoke to the media. He said he is pleased with the progress he and the team made in camp and looks forward to doing more over the offseason (training camp) to get ready for the 2018 season. There are things he and the coaching staff are working on – learning more elements of the offense – and making adjustments to what has been implemented for the coming season.
"“When we started last year, it was kind of an elementary level, in terms of ‘I’m hearing the play, I’m thinking about the footwork I have to take, the identification, trying to remember what routes guys are running and all that.’ Now, I think I’m kind of owning the offense and having a better understanding of it,” Bortles said. “Obviously, it is a continuous study and a continuous grind to continue to master it and stay on top of it, but I definitely feel more comfortable with it.”"
Bortles work so far has drawn rave reviews from offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who praised his quarterback for continuing to progress and become more of a leader on the field while working with new teammates brought in during free agency and the NFL Draft. Now, the key is a continuation. Bortles believes he is moving in the right direction. He is making strides in many facets of his game and becoming more comfortable in an offensive game plan that is now in its second season under Hackett’s tutelage.
"“I think the run game is kind of where we have focused a little extra these OTAs. The passing game as a quarterback – I think everybody installs it a little differently and goes about it a little differently. As a quarterback, you want to know that in and out because that is what quarterbacks are known for and all of that,” Bortles said."
Last season, Bortles took better care of the football. He also made better decisions in the pocket and was able to make adjustments during plays that turned into positive yards. The read-option was used more heavily, which plays to his strengths. Bortles is one of the better athletic quarterbacks in the NFL. His legs helped turn what would have been losses on plays in years past into positive yardage to keep the chains moving in 2017.
"“The run game is what a lot of guys or a lot of people do not really pay attention to and give quarterbacks credit for. I think continuing to learn that – continuing to stay on top of that. [I am continuing to learn] what run plays are good versus what looks and getting us in the best situation to get up to guys and get angles and all of that and give Leonard [Fournette] and the [running] backs the best chance to go and get yards,” he added."
The Jaguars have more speed on the outside with their wide receivers this season. They also will continue to use the run game to set up the pass. But this is a unit that can score points – as evidence of the fifth-ranked scoring offense in the NFL last season. The additions at wide receiver and tight end could mean more scoring opportunities in 2018.
Bortles said he will continue to challenge himself both mentally and physically to improve on the field and in team meetings. Chemistry with his teammates is important. This year, with the start of camp, he feels more in control of the offense, but there is plenty more to accomplish.
"“Kind of like I said earlier, it is never ending. You have to continue to work and continue to challenge yourself mentally and physically to continue to get better,” Bortles said. “ Going into the second year, there is still a long way to go and a lot of stuff to learn, but compared to this time last year, I think it is night and day.”"