As Blake Bortles explained on NFL Network’s NFL Total Access on Thursday, these Jacksonville Jaguars won’t sneak up on anyone this season. For a team looking to makes a statement in its second full season under head coach Doug Marrone, the days of being an underdog are long gone.
For Bortles and his teammates, if the Jacksonville Jaguars are to be considered a serious threat to win a Super Bowl title in 2018, they need to continue on the path they began last season, improving along the way with more consistency on offense and a tougher run defense than the franchise had a year ago.
Again, as it has been in the past, everything will stop and start with No. 5 behind center and a running game can still improve after leading the league in average yards per game last year.
"“I think last year we kind of caught some teams by surprise — if that’s possible in the NFL,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something that’s going to happen this year,” Bortles said in Kevin Patra’s story on NFL.com. “The way we play, as good as our defense was, I think we’re definitely a bit on people’s radar now as far as a team that’s headed in the right direction and a team to be taken seriously.“I think we’re going to get everybody’s best shot, which you do week-in and week-out in the NFL, regardless, but I think we’ll definitely get that. And the AFC South is going to be tough, and you know it’s our goal every year to win that.”"
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It’s no big secret Bortles want more for himself and his teammates. After a more consistent season throwing the football and an even better postseason, could this be the year – number five in the NFL – that the signal caller erases the criticism that has dogged him since he was drafted out of UCF with the third overall pick in 2014?
Gosh, I think everyone in the building at TIAA Bank Field hopes so.
As Patra continued, the biggest question for the upcoming season is which Bortles will show up this season? In 2015, he broke records team records with of 4,400 passing yards and 35 touchdowns. The 206 seasons was a regression – a season lost on inefficient pass play, turnovers and discernable imbalance.
Last season, despite a reoccurring wrist injury that plagued him all season, Bortles’ rhythm but not doing everything on the field, relying on a strong running game and not committing costly turnovers at the least opportune times.
If the Jaguars get even the same kind of production from Bortles as last season, they can win the AFC South for the second season in a row. If he plays slightly better, they can make it to Atlanta and Super Bowl 53. Better yet, they can WIN!
Bortles knows full well about the issues that continue to dog him with the local and national media, the fans and even some players in the league. Some have taken jabs at him, which have been refuted by his teammates. Better yet, the defense has come to his aid and the locker room has shown it has his back every day he steps out on the practice field and on game day.
"“There’s times when I deserve it,” Bortles explained about his critics. “And I don’t have a problem admitting that I didn’t play good. And I don’t have a problem with people critiquing me when I don’t play good. It’s just never really bothered me.“I love going to work every day. I love playing football, and the locker room, so why let something affect me that I have no control over?”"
One thing no one will ever complain about is Bortles’ heart, grit, and determination. His athleticism allows him to take plenty of punishment he takes off on the field. It’s the punishment he takes off the field that might not be warranted.
A better grasp of the offensive game plan will silence critics, possibly to the point that the national media praises the quarterback they love question for what he has done to bring this team more success.