NFL Wire News

Jaguars’ 2014 Analysis: Bortles brings some hope


JACKSONVILLE — The Jaguars aren’t sure whether their glass is half filled or half empty.

They seemed to take a step backward in the second season of the Dave Caldwell-Gus Bradley regime when they posted a 3-13 record in 2014 after going 4-12 in their first season.

It’s easy to think the Jaguars are on a losing treadmill and are at least two years away from being a contender.

The Jaguars, though, think they took a step forward this year. They believe they found their quarterback of the future, Blake Bortles, they found three rookie receivers with potential and three young offensive linemen who should improve.

And their defense took a step forward.

And Bradley showed the Jaguars are going to be looking for more results next year when he fired offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch after two years on the job.

Looking at the numbers, the move might not seem that surprising. The Jaguars ranked 31st in total offense, averaging 290 yards and 15.6 points a game.

Still, there were extenuating circumstances. The Jaguars played much of the season with six rookies — including Bortles — and with three second year guys on offense.

But that wasn’t enough to save Fisch. Even though they are friends, Fisch was blamed for the low production. Bradley said they had “philosophical differences.”

Bradley was vague on the differences, but he suggested Fisch wanted to put a lot on Bortles’ plate and see how he could handle it, while Bradley’s philosophy is to play fast.

“What way is best? I don’t know,” Bradley said. “I know the way we kind of want to do it.”

This means all of this year’s rookie offensive players, including Bortles, will be learning their third offense in as many years — their college offense, Fisch’s offense and now the offense of the new coordinator.

It also puts more pressure on Bradley if the offense doesn’t improve next year.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars are armed with $60 million under the salary cap so they can make a big splash in free agency. In their first two seasons, they were reluctant to plunge in the market except basically stopgap players because they knew they weren’t ready to be a contender.

The Jaguars did make a five-year $42 million offer for Cleveland center Alex Mack last year, but the Browns matched it.

The one minus is that the salary cap is going up for some teams which may be able to keep players they feared they couldn’t afford.

But the Jaguars will be active in free agency.

And they have the third pick in the draft for the second consecutive year.

Jacksonville figures to take the best defensive lineman on the board with the third pick since the first two teams, Tampa Bay and Tennessee, seem likely to take quarterbacks.

The Jaguars had a solid defensive line they built through free agency, but they don’t have that one player that teams feel they have to double team.

And both defensive tackles, Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, are undergoing knee surgery. Marks suffered a torn ACL in the season finale at Houston and the Jaguars don’t know if he’ll be ready to start next season.

In the end, though, the season will depend on how fast the new coordinator can develop Bortles, who needs help with his fundamentals and footwork.

And Bortles concedes that how he goes will likely determine how the team goes.

“I think that’s the case in a lot of situations,” Bortles said. “Usually if the quarterback plays well, the team does well. If not vice versa.”

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