The Jacksonville Jaguars Need “Playoff” Blake Bortles
By David Levin
It’s no secret the Jacksonville Jaguars had an impressive playoff run last season. One of the major reasons for the team’s postseason success was the play of quarterback Blake Bortles.
If the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to get back to the playoffs, the organization needs more of the “Playoff” Bortles that proved he could play some of his best football when it mattered most. Anything else could mean this franchise is sitting home in January when games matter most.
Bortles did what he was supposed to do. He took care of the football, did not commit turnovers and make the right decisions at the right time. For someone who was the most maligned quarterback in the NFL, and to some extent still criticized by the national media, the former UCF star grew up before fans’ eyes against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots.
If the “Playoff” Bortles is what head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator have on the roster this season, then making it to the Super Bowl is a real possibility.
Something changed in Bortles after the regular season. He was aware of it and spoke about his improvements and taking care of the football in an interview during the team’s OTAs in May.
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“You want to have that every game [taking care of the football]. But when you get in the playoffs – obviously, it was the first time I have ever been in the playoffs and the first time the Jaguars were in the playoffs in a long time,” he explained.
"“I think I just wanted to make sure that no matter what I did, I gave us a chance to win. I knew that if I did not turn the ball over, we were going to have a chance to win every game. That should be and it is my mindset every single game we play, but I think it was just something in the playoffs that I made sure I wasn’t the reason we lost a game.”"
The results were encouraging. No interceptions, no fumbles. Positive yardage when the team needed it most and leadership on the field and in the huddle. It is one of the reasons he may be one of the most important players on the field this season. The Jaguars may be a run-first offensive team, but if the quarterback is playing at a 2016 level, Jacksonville isn’t going anywhere this coming season.
"“At worst, the Jaguars need him to play like he did in 2017,” writes Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. “Don’t take a lot of chances. Get the offense out of bad plays. Don’t turn the ball over (career-low 13 interceptions).”"
Bortles was a turnover machine the first three seasons of his NFL career, averaging 21 per year. The changes in his play in 2017, his maturity in avoiding costly turnovers (he wasn’t perfect) and his ability to play through a wrist injury were reasons why his contract was renewed with a three-year deal. It’s also a reason the Jaguars have hope this season can be even better.
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When asked, Bortles said he will try to bring the same mindset from the playoffs to this season and use what worked in key situations to find success. He said he hopes his teammates play with that same kind of intensity moving forward from OTAs and minicamp.
"“You try things and you do different things and they don’t always go well and if you are going to mess up, you can mess up on the practice field you get that out of the way,” Bortles explained. “I think playing with the same focus and the same intensity that we finished last season with is big. Being able to replicate that day after day will really help not only being better practice players and going through the week better but making so that Sunday is just another day.”"