The Jacksonville Jaguars need to address the QB position in 2019
By David Levin
After a run through the 2018 playoffs and the belief the Jaguars had finally seen Blake Bortles turn the corner, the team must move on from the much maligned quarterback.
Blake Bortles has taken his share of criticism over the past five-plus years of his career. The UCF quarterback showed he could play better football in a system that allows him to be a complementary player with a strong running game and a defense that punishes opponents. This season, none of those things have happened and the Jaguars have a 3-7 record to prove it.
The running game got a shot of adrenaline with the return of Leonard Fournette and the defense has come up big in the last six quarters of football. But the undoing of the offense, coupled with a six-game losing streak, has made it painfully obvious the Jaguars may have to move on from their current starter and may have missed out on finding his replacement last offseason.
Try as they might, the Jaguars continue to limp through injuries and have a signal caller who is handcuffed by poor play calling and a coaching staff that may have lost confidence in the line that protects him.
Eleven months ago, the Jaguars and Buffalo Bills were preparing for an AFC Wild Card game. Now, they are bottom feeders in a league where the passing game means everything. Instead of challenging for a playoff berth in 2018, they are part of the lottery of teams that could grab the top overall pick in the NFL Draft.
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As a fan, it’s frustrating, having been teased with excellence last season only to see the team go through the same moribund play that plagued this team most of the Gus Bradley tenure. As a reporter, it is just as frustrating writing about a team on the decline instead of rising to become one of the NFL’s elite. These are the Jacksonville Jaguars, and their window to win a Super Bowl may have closed quicker than expected.
When the Jaguars and Bortles line up on Sunday in Buffalo, they will face Josh Allen, a rookie quarterback who has not looked “the part of a first round draft pick,” yet. As Allen has time to grow and mature and lead his locker room, Bortles may be on the roster next season, but he may not be starting the entire campaign.
"“Bortles hasn’t had a very good season, either, and his inconsistent play is one of the main reasons the Jaguars’ season has fallen apart,” writes Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com.“He has been able to sporadically carry the team (he was the NFL’s top-rated passer in the first three games of December 2017) but generally needs everything around him to go perfectly to have sustained success.”"
The organization can point to injuries and talk about how the coaching staff must do a better job of helping the offense score points, but the most important position on the field and the most media-abused quarterback in the NFL wears Black and Teal. No matter how you spin this, Bortles hasn’t played well enough to put this team on his back when things have fallen apart and lead his teammates to victory.
Unless there is a drastic upswing in the final six games of the season, this may continue if Bortles is under center next season.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett acknowledged his lack of ability to put this team in position to score points when me met the media on Tuesday. Hackett, who is a young assistant coach who is connected at the hip to Bortles and his success and failure, also talked about the injuries that have piled up this season and a conversation he had earlier in the year with Executive Vice-President of Football Operations, Tom Coughlin.
It shows how everyone in the organization is frustrated with how things have unraveled this year.
"“I don’t even know if I’ve ever heard of something like this,” Nathaniel Hackett said. “Even asking Coach (Tom) Coughlin, this was actually I want to say probably Week 5 before it had actually gotten to this level, which you didn’t think it could get much crazier, but even talking with him, I just remember he looked at me and said, ‘This is a total abomination. I don’t understand how this can happen.'”"
You can only imagine the look on Coughlin’s face during the conversation. The man who is meticulous with detail gave the greenlight to keep Bortles for a fifth season and re-sign him to a three-year, $54-million deal. Had the Jaguars picked up where they left off last season, it would have been hailed a bargain by NFL quarterback standards.
Now, it is viewed as a colossal mistake. How Jacksonville rebounds in the remaining six weeks of the season and plays for pride will determine if other players on this roster return next season.
If the NFL Draft were held today, the Jaguars would hold the eighth pick with a few quarterback prospects on the board. It’s not a class that wows you, in my opinion. The team has other needs as well. Help on the offensive line. A game-changing wide receiver. A tight end (although we haven’t seen enough of Austin Seferian-Jenkins in this offense).
On defense, there may be a need for another pass rusher or an outside linebacker. Still, if the Jaguars do not grab a quarterback in the first two rounds of the Draft or sign one in free agency (the talent level for 2019 does not excite me either) or trade for one (Teddy Bridgewater), the same questions will arise from the moment the 2018 season ends.
When will the Jaguars make a change at quarterback, and when will they start winning like they did only a year ago?