Going into last Sunday’s season opener against the Texans, there was a lot about his team that Jaguars coach Doug Marrone still wasn’t quite sure about.
At or near the top of the list was how an offensive line that made it difficult for Marrone and his staff to evaluate their running game and their quarterback play during the preseason would hold up.
As their 29-7 drubbing of the Texans suggests, it actually held up rather well, especially in the passing game, where quarterback Blake Bortles has seldom, if ever, received the kind of protection he had in this game.
The victory over Houston marked only the third time since he came to the Jaguars as their top pick in the 2014 – a span of 47 games – that Bortles has not been sacked in a game, and he absorbed only three hits on the day as well.
Now, you can argue that Marrone didn’t give the Texans all that many opportunities to get to and either hit or sack Bortles. After all, he was only asked to drop back and throw on 21 occasions, a career low.
But Bortles explained that on several of those occasions, he still managed to make long completions despite realizing early on in the play that the receiver he expected to be open wasn’t.
“We were expecting Marqise (Lee) to be open on (one) side (of the field) and he wasn’t,’’ Bortles said of two such plays. “We ran that same play back-to-back and (I had to go) to (my) third progression (both times).
“So (for the line) to have that kind of test and be able to hold up for that long, with me taking a five-step drop and going through three progressions, I felt that was incredible. I thought they did a good job.’’
Bortles added that the play of the tight ends, the backs and the success the receivers had in getting quickly getting off the line, into their routes and creating separation all played a part in his success as well.
Marrone agreed, but he also noted that it wasn’t just in the passing game where the line exceeded expectations. Though running back Leonard Fournette made some yards on his own, breaking four tackles, the line performed well in the run game, too.
“I was happy with the physicality of how they were going after it,’’ Marrone said of the line play. “I wish I would have known what that magic potion was earlier in training camp because I think that now the level of expectations of how they are going to play is going to be challenged each week and I think that is a good thing.
“I think when they go out and show that they can do this, then obviously, not only the coaches expect (more), but the players, their teammates and the people who support the program (expect more).’’