Let’s go ahead and put the notion of the Jacksonville Jaguars bringing in a quarterback to replace Blake Bortles in the middle of the season. It’s not going to happen.
Jacksonville’s brain trust of Tom Coughlin, David Caldwell and Doug Marrone had a chance to bring someone in during free agency to challenge Bortles. It didn’t happen.
The NFL Draft came and went, where the team could have bypassed Leonard Fournette and taken Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes. It didn’t happen.
The team announced just days after the NFL Draft it would pick up Bortles’ fifth-year option, which they can still void if they are not satisfied with the former first round pick’s play. They showed a commitment to him for at least this season.
Even when Bortles has looked like the Bortles of old, giving the Tennessee and New York Jets games as examples, the team did not bench him. And when he has looked good, in games against Houston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, the team has won their four games by blowout margins.
Trading for another signal caller would be more of a detriment than a help. The middle of the season is not when a team should shake up a potential playoff team. It is successful on few occasions. The San Francisco 49ers went to the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick because Alex Smith got injured during the season.
Bortles may not throw for 3,000 yards this season. He may not throw 25 touchdowns and he may throw for only 12 interceptions. Those are victories for this quarterback. His decision making is better because offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett hasn’t had to lean on him to carry this offense. The running game is to thank for that. The improved offensive line has kept him clean, with only 11 sacks in the first seven games. More importantly, the Jaguars have been able to start games at a faster pace and they are scoring early and in winning football games â€“ often.
“I just think it’s a matter of when you go out there and get off to a good start it’s like two-minute [drill],” coach Doug Marrone said. “You make that first completion and you get on a roll. If you miss the first one then it’s very difficult when you study all the two-minute stuff. I think it’s a matter of that. Knowing that, listen if something doesn’t work out and it doesn’t go well and you go back to the sideline, correct it, get refocused and get back on the field and let’s go.”
Bortles’ fast start has also given him confidence to make plays in and out of the pocket. While the passes he throws looks like a wounded duck at times, he has found his targets on short and intermediate passing routes. This might be as much to do with the loss Allen Robinson as anything else. With rookie Dede Westbrook coming of injured reserve, the team may have another target to rev the engine up in the second half of the season.
Marrone has been able to preach progress over regression from past mistakes. The lesson has worked â€“ so far. This is a more fluid offense, which relies on the run first, the pass season.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars have scored more points (51) than any other team, are averaging the most yards (115.6) and rushing yards (49.1), and have not committed a turnover in the first quarter. They’ve scored touchdowns on their opening drive in four games and kicked field goals in two others.
With it, the Jaguars are running over teams with the run game and stiff-arming them on the defensive side of the ball.
For now, Bortles is the best option for this team moving forward until the end of 2017.
After this season, the Jaguars will decide if they will bring BB5 back for his fifth season. The 19-million price tag is highly unlikely, but a new deal with a reduced rate could be on the table. It’s also possible – almost a guarantee – Jacksonville brings in a veteran signal caller (Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Kirk Cousins) to lead this team in 2018 or they draft a quarterback to forge the future.
Now that they team has brought in Marcell Dareus to help defending the run, quarterback is the team’s weakest position. It’s hard to say that with a 4-3 team and a possible playoff berth. Bortles isn’t as bad as many would think, he’s just not the elite passer they want. Jacksonville needs him to be the same player he has been this season to get to the playoffs. Any improvement would be gravy. Any regression would be disaster.