Having concluded their off season OTAs and mandatory mini-camp, the Jaguars will come back to training camp in July with more expectation for a season than they’ve had in a decade or more in North Florida. And while it’s not the biggest reason, still, one of the reasons the Jags hope to see similar or more success in 2018 is QB Blake Bortles.
And, if you know anything about his first three seasons in Jacksonville, and his training camp/preseason a year ago, typing that sentence above about Bortles almost seemed laughable at times.
Nevertheless, as the season progressed, Bortles played solidly and coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett began to trust him a little more here and there, to make the right decisions and make key plays occasionally to help the offense.
An interesting look at the Jags thinking a year ago with Bortles and their outlook now, was put together by NFL Network reporter/insider Mike Garafolo. He also wrote an extensive article about everything that Marrone (with backing of VP of football Tom Coughlin) was trying to instill last year for the entire team.
‘Don't fall into this trap of people taking you to … the end of last year.’
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 19, 2018
There is plenty in that item from veterans on defense like Malik Jackson and the top free agent acquisition for the Jags, Calais Campbell, on the belief that was instilled in the young players.
And Bortles was in that category, too.
Marrone, who had been on staff in 2016-17 with former coach Gus Bradley, and then became the interim head coach the last two games of 2016 when Bradley was fired, wanted to give Bortles one last chance to be the guy in Jacksonville.
And as Marrone’s and Hackett’s comments to Garafolo indicated, it was baby steps at the beginning:
At this time last year, Marrone was issuing an ultimatum: “If you continue to turn the ball over, you won’t be our quarterback. It’s that simple. Everything else we can work on, but that is non-negotiable.”
Marrone said that is still the No. 1 point of emphasis for Bortles, whose interception percentage has dropped from 3.6 in his rookie year to 2.5 last season.
As for Hackett’s mentality/outlook with his QB coming off last season? Garafolo wrote that a key part to his development is being able to quickly adjust play calls/audibles. And, it has continued with Bortles being able to see the field better and know more of the risks to take and what is there for him.
Last season, the Jaguars simplified Bortles’ reads early on, allowing him to read only half or a third of the field on a given play. It was partly because he had new pieces around him, but also to build his confidence. As the season progressed, they began to open up the field for him. That continued into an impressive spring.
“It’s not about learning a new play. It’s about, How can I make this play better?” Hackett said. “I think those are the good things about where Blake is going.”
“Where Blake is going,” is into his fifth season. The Jaguars gave him a new contract extension. However, as we’ve written it’s basically a huge financial gain for 2018 for the QB, but the team is not obligated much after this year.
So, if Bortles play regresses, again, then they can go with other plans at QB.
Again, Jacksonville’s outstanding young defense and the power running game from Leonard Fournette are the bigger foundations in Jacksonville.
Still, ultimately, your quarterback will have to make plays in key situations and big games.
And headed to July, the Jaguars feel Blake Bortles is ready to make plenty of those.
Will it continue? We will find out.
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