The Jacksonville Jaguars may have once again seen the future of the franchise with the performance of quarterback Blake Bortles in the 31-20 win over the New England Patriots. That game might have been the breakout moment of the fifth-year starter’s career.
The Jacksonville Jaguars used the passing game and Blake Bortles to beat the New England Patriots. Given the status of Leonard Fournette, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett opened up the offense and gave the keys to Blake Bortles to take it for a spin.
The fifth-year signal caller had his best performance of his NFL career. The 377 yards passing and four touchdowns might have been a message to the NFL and his detractors, possibly a middle finger to everyone who has doubted him since he set foot on a pro football field. If this is the Bortles Jaguars fans are going to see on a regular basis – the one who can win football games with his arm as well as handing a football off to Fournette and a solid running game – the other 31 teams in the league are in trouble.
This Sunday, when the Jaguars host their nemesis the Tennessee Titans, chances are this franchise will use the running game to once again establish the pass. Fournette, who is listed as questionable for the 1 PM kickoff at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday, figures to get the lion share of carries against a Titans defense that held him to 109 yards rushing in two games last season.
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If the Jaguars want to make a statement and set the NFL world on its ear, Hackett and the coaching staff must let Bortles take the reins of this offense and light up the scoreboard once again.
Playing against the Titans is motivation enough for these Jaguars, a team that could not solve their rival last season. A new coaching staff and a possible familiar face behind center in Blaine Gabbert give Jacksonville even more incentive to remember the Titans as just a stepping stone in their pursuit of excellence.
"“I think our goal and what we always talk about is winning the AFC South. This is obviously the first opportunity to start that – by beating Tennessee,” Bortles said when he spoke with the media this week at TIAA Bank Field. “We have our work cut out for us. It’s a good defense. Offensively, we are going to have be on point and have a good plan and execute it. We have a couple more days left of getting good preparation and getting ready to go on Sunday.”"
The Jaguars currently rank 12th in passing offense (272 yards per game) and ninth in rushing (120.5 per contest). In 2015 when Bortles was breaking records for passing yards (4,428 yards) and touchdowns (35) many of his stats were padded because of “garbage” points when the team was so far behind, the offense was able to move the football in the fourth quarter.
This season is an opportunity to show Bortles is a top-15 quarterback instead of the bottom tier many have rated him as. Against the Titans, it could be another 300-yard passing game if given the chance to air it out with his cast of speedy wide receivers.
Just knowing he may get a chance to sling the football around the yard was enough to make Bortles smile.
"“As a quarterback, it is always fun. You want to throw the football. You want to air it out and throw it as much as you can. I look at it as I have a role and a different role each game,” Bortles explained.“Some games my role is to get us in the best run plays and make sure the guys up front are on the right guys and get Leonard [Fournette] the ball and let him do his thing. Sometimes it’s to get the ball down the field. Sometimes, it is just get it out quick. I think each game plan kind of defines what my role as the quarterback of this team is. I have to play that way.”"
It would seem the Jaguars will expand their offense this season while still committing to the running game. A quarterback who can manage games and turn the switch when he needs to is just what this team needs in pursuit of aspirations in February.
The organization and the fanbase appear ready to jump on the Bortles bandwagon. Maybe it is time for the reason of the NFL landscape to do the same thing.