NFL

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles Could Be NFL’s Most Improved

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It seems that second-year quarterbacks Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater have received most of the attention for being labeled as “future stars” at the quarterback position following their impressive rookie seasons.  The Raiders added Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper for Carr, and Bridgewater will now have workhorse Adrian Peterson in the backfield to help further along their development.

Johnny Manziel made offseason headlines for most of the wrong reasons as he entered rehab and now has to work to find playing time in Cleveland.

The second-year quarterback that has been all but forgotten about was also the first one taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles.

Bortles was tasked with making chicken salad last season out of…well, you know.  Bortles had a piecework offensive line which couldn’t protect him as they allowed 71 sacks in 2014.  He had a trio of rookie wide receivers along with an often injured and unreliable veteran receiver in Cecil Shorts.  Veteran Marcedes Lewis missed half of the season and the Jaguars had no real running game to take pressure off the young quarterback.

To put it simply, no quarterback could have achieved success given the circumstances that Blake Bortles was put in.

So what has changed in 2015? 

Nearly everything.

For starters, Bortles has more confidence and has a greater grasp of what he’s supposed to be doing.

“I think last year, (my) head was spinning and this year it feels more normal, feels natural, it feels like this is my job. This is my workplace and I want to come in every day and try and focus on owning this offense and really trying to master this craft,” Bortles said.

Aside from the mental reps in the offseason, Bortles was able to throw with Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas.

“Obviously the time we got to spend together in the offseason out in California and then here all of July, it’s been really good, so that’s something that’s continuing to grow,” Bortles said of his offseason work.

The Jaguars biggest offseason addition in terms of salary was adding Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas.  Thomas is already showing his mettle in training camp by not only catching everything thrown his way, but he’s also been able to lead the younger guys on offense, including Bortles.

“The time he was in Denver, the stuff he did, it’s not for no reason,” the second-year gunslinger said of Thomas.  “You spend time with him, you work with him, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s an intelligent guy, and he puts his time in. He takes care of his body and he’s big on being on the same page, obviously playing with someone like Peyton Manning, that’s huge. He’s constantly talking, ‘what do you think about this’, ‘what do you think about that’, ‘how do you feel about this’, so it’s cool to be a part of that and continue to build chemistry with him.”

Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has noticed the impact that Thomas has made on Bortles and the rest of the roster.

“The great thing about these guys is I think they’re willing to learn from anybody and Julius comes in and has the right approach with them,” Bradley told reporters. “They’ve seen he has good results and takes care of his body and that’s the importance of some veteran leadership. He is not a 10-year veteran either.”

Make no mistake, Bortles is not a finished product and the Pro Bowl isn’t likely on the horizon for this season.  Bortles is not going to put up monster numbers.  He’s not going to be a 40-touchdown, 10-interception guy.  He has some Brett Favre in him, a quarterback that will take some chances and that will lead to a higher interception total.

“I think as a quarterback you’ve got to have a little bit of that in order to take shots and move the ball downfield, but you’ve also got to know when to do it and when to be smart with the ball and check it down,” Bortles said.

He took plenty of chances last season which led to his 17 interceptions against just 11 touchdowns.  He will continue to take chances, but they will come from a position of more experience.

“I think it’s more educated now,” Bortles said of his taking chances with the football. “It’s more of ‘Okay, this is a matchup, this is a situation, this is what I got” as to last year, it was like ‘Let’s chuck it.’ (laughs) So, it’s definitely more of an educated guess now.”

Blake Bortles has been getting better everyday in his second NFL training camp.  The Jaguars front office has done a nice job of putting pieces around him to succeed and he has put in the work in the offseason to become a better quarterback.

It’s understandable why many fans are excited about Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater, but there’s a reason why Blake Bortles was selected before both in the draft, and after a tough rookie season he is on pace to make an enormous leap in his second year.

 


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.