When Blake Bortles was drafted, it was almost as a surprise to some in Jacksonville. A lot of the local media did not believe we would pick a quarterback with the number 3 overall pick. Many had it down to Khalil Mack, linebacker out of Buffalo. I was at a local eatery, along with many other football fans, for the draft day festivities and awaited the pick.
Once the decision was announced, there was a small, silent pause and then the usual, “what were you thinking” comments. I was even quite surprised. We knew Jacksonville was going to draft a quarterback and most of us expected at the top of the second round to be the earliest. All the scenarios dealt with us maybe drafting back and waiting for a specific quarterback (most thought Teddy Bridgewater — drafted by Minnesota) or just waiting until day two.
To be drafted in the first round brings pressure. To be drafted as a quarterback in the first round brings even more pressure but to be drafted number 3 overall as a quarterback that is a different kind of pressure….pressure to start and to start soon.
What is the plan for Blake?
There was a common thought process from the Jaguars organization. The overall goal was for the rookie to learn behind seasoned veteran Chad Henne and stay on the sidelines, like Aaron Rodgers, for the entire 2014 season.
Through the first 2 games of the season, this team played like it was the beginning of the 2013 season. Finals of 34-17 against the Eagles and 41-10 at Washington was not what the organization truly expected. They were preaching growth and a “race to maturity.” I feel the straw that broke the camels back was the first home game of the season against Indianapolis. The Colts ran, actually passed, all over the Jags and led at halftime 30-0. Then it happened.
Blake Bortles made his first appearance for Jacksonville and started the second half of the Colts game and really took over. You could feel it in the stadium and you new this was different. From a fan perspective, the Jaguars won the 2nd half by a score of 17-14 with our new quarterback at the helm. The feeling throughout Everbank Field was amazing and we are ready for the future.
The future is now
Through 5 games, there has been quite a difference in this team with the biggest being an offense that can sustain drives allowing the defense to grow into what the organization was expecting.
Since Bortles first start against the Chargers in week 4, the Jacksonville offense has averaged only 14.8 points per game. His presence though has helped the defense tremendously.
Through the first 3 games of the season teams have scored an average of 39.6 points per game. Since the rookie came in, and has helped keep drives going longer and letting the defense rest, teams are averaging 19.8 points per game — yes opponent’s defensive touchdowns are included in this calculation.
The team is looking like the competitive team everyone was expecting at the beginning of the season. It has been in years since we, as fans, have seen this and it can be partly attributed to the arrival of the 3rd overall pick.
With the good comes the bad
- Bortles currently leads the NFL in pick-6s with four, including two in the 27-13 loss to Miami on Sunday
- He has 12 interceptions compared to 6 touchdown passes through his 5 games (on pace for 15 touchdowns and 31 interceptions)
What is next?
Eight games are left on the schedule. Eight games for Blake Bortles to mature, grow and get the experience needed to get this team off the ground.
Let’s review some of the games left and see what we can expect:
- @ Bengals (11/2) — the Bengals defense can be beaten but it is a road game in which the Jaguars have not won on the road this year. If Bortles can keep the turnovers in check, this may be a perfect trap game for the Bengals as they have a divisional foe the next week in Cleveland
- vs Cowboys (London — 11/9) — One of the best teams in the league? Their defense can be beaten (right Redskins?). If we can keep the balance between the run game and passing game we should do fine. The big thing is the focus will be on the trip itself which may have the rookie quarterback a little more relaxed and ready to “ball out!”
- vs Giants (11/30) — Tom Coughlin comes back into town and who knows how the Giants will play. This will be the first game of an “easy part” of their schedule and, yes, another opportunity at a trap. By this time, Bortle’s mistakes should be minimized and the run offense should be helping the young guy a lot
- vs Tennessee (12/18) — I HATE THE TITANS! I think this is the breakout game for the team. National spotlight and everyone watching why Blake Bortles will be the best quarterback drafted in 2014. Do not be surprised if this game is not close and this should be the game that shows us what we have for 2015.