Despite the national media giving the Jacksonville Jaguars and Blake Bortles a little more love this preseason, this is a franchise with something still to prove in 2018.
The best way to sum up the Jacksonville Jaguars may have been said in a story by New Arena ranking all 32 NFL teams from bottom to top. The Jaguars, who came in at fifth overall in their website’s rankings, still have a few questions to answer in 2018. The first is the play of quarterback Blake Bortles.
"“Loaded Defense? Check. Top-end running back? Check. Two-tone helmets eradicated? Check. Quarterback who can win you a Super Bowl? Inconclusive,” Dylan Fraychineaud wrote."
It’s the same old story, same old song and dance here in Jacksonville. As we the local media and fan base see a quarterback in Blake Bortles who played better in 2017, the jury is still out. Will the fifth-year starter finally be acquitted of a crime he is being accused of committing – not being a franchise player?
Bortles lets the national media comments roll off his back, goes about his business and proves to be one of the most durable signal callers in the league. He also lets those around him do their part, which in most cases is more than the former UCF star is asked to do in a football game.
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As a fan, I want to see Bortles shine, get that huge weight off his shoulders and prove doubters wrong. The writer in me, the one who sees him from time to time on a practice field, wonders if he can duplicate last season and take his game a step further.
As long as his surgically repaired wrist doesn’t give him an issue, I don’t think there is any reason to believe Bortles won’t be a better player in 2018.
"“Blake Bortles has been a polarizing figure during his tenure in Jacksonville due to inconsistencies. While he was serviceable last year, many would argue the Jaguars were held back due to his play,” Fraychineaud added."
No matter how you spin it, everything this season will rely on what No. 5 is doing on a football field. The national media will continue to analyze every move, every throw. And whether it is warranted or not, each mistake will come with over-the-top criticism.
The Jaguars and Bortles open the regular season on Sunday against the New York Giants. It’s a tough draw for the defending AFC South Champs as the team opens 2018 with a tough stretch of games in New York and home for clashes with New England and then Tennessee.
Bortles must come out of the gate and play consistent football, let the offensive line open holes for the running game and let the game come to him. The defense is once again the organization’s calling card. It shall be as good if not better than last season.
The one thing I really like that Fraychineaud wrote in his analysis is that the quarterback position was not the team’s weakest link last season. I’m not sure I agree it was the play of the offensive line, but at least someone is thinking outside the box.
"“The biggest addition of the offseason can be a huge boost to Bortles. In Andrew Norwell, the Jags added a first-team All-Pro lineman who will solidify the interior of the line – the offense’s biggest weakness a year ago,” he added. “If Bortles can play up to his potential, we could be looking at the new kings of the AFC.”"
I think fans here in North Florida would take that assessment and pray to the football gods he is right. Because if he is, Bortles finally has a chance to exhale. There will always be critics. Some, however, may take their foot off the accelerator in placing blame where it might not belong.