The Jaguars say they want to be more aggressive on offense this season, but that’s not something Blake Bortles can successfully do for the team.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to have an effective offensive unit in 2018. The addition of Andrew Norwell to an already above average offensive line means Leonard Fournette and company will have a big year on the ground. The one remaining question is whether or not Blake Bortles can emerge into an above average NFL quarterback.
Don’t let the fact the Jaguars gave Bortles a three-year, $54 million contract fool you. There are still serious questions about his ability. His inability to make plays down the field was a big reason the Jaguars weren’t able to make it to the Super Bowl last year. The team’s conservative game plan definitely cost them in the AFC title game.
That’s a big reason why Jacksonville offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is promising everyone he’ll make his unit more “aggressive” in 2018. In theory, that’s a great idea. In practice, with Blake Bortles at the control, it’s a game plan fraught with danger.
The simple truth is Bortles is the wrong quarterback to help this offense become more dynamic. He’s done a fine job of becoming an adequate NFL signal caller, but he lacks the feel to take another step forward. In an ideal world, the Jaguars front office would have realized this and found another quarterback this summer. Of course, the scarcity of such a player on the open market made retaining Bortles the best option.
We’re talking about a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations here. Achieving those dreams with a caretaker at the quarterback position is possible, but it’s very unlikely. Expect the Jaguars to make sincere attempts to let Bortles stretch his wings this season.
He may even produce big numbers upon occasion. Bortles has good arm strength. That, combined with the obvious fact that opposing defenses will load up against the Jaguars ground game every week means he’ll have some opportunities down the field. On occasion, he’s going to loft the ball up and his receivers will make some big plays.
Unfortunately for Jaguars fans, that won’t happen often enough. Bortles’ propensity to throw interceptions is going to derail any dreams of grandeur the Jacksonville offense has. He’s thrown double-digit INTs every season of his professional career. Last year’s total of 13 was his best, but it’s still far too many for a quarterback who was protected by his offensive scheme.
When you watch Bortles on tape you see a player with solid arm strength, but pretty mediocre accuracy. He can’t make throws into the tight windows required to beat elite NFL defenses. The Jaguars offense tries to limit his need to make those sorts of plays, but they can’t eliminate it altogether.
Even more concerning is Bortles’ inability to read complex coverages. Again, the Jags coaching staff tries to keep things simple for him, but that isn’t always possible. He makes too many dangerous throws into tight coverage when he simply doesn’t recognize what the defense is trying to do. That, more than any of his physical limitations, limits his upside the most.
The Jaguars best hope to make the Super Bowl this season is to be so dominant on defense and running the football that their quarterback play doesn’t have to be special. If Bortles is forced to do too much, it’s going to end up in absolute disaster for Jacksonville.