Jaguars need to keep Blake Bortles on the bench for good

Quarterback Blake Bortles appears finished in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars announced today they’re turning to backup Cody Kessler to start next week.

The Jacksonville Jaguars seem like they’re finally giving up on Blake Bortles as their franchise quarterback.

Jacksonville, losers of seven straight after a 24-21 defeat in Buffalo on Sunday, announced on Monday they’re benching Bortles for next week’s game against Indianapolis. Backup Cody Kessler will instead get the start.

Bortles had just 127 yards on 12 completions against Buffalo, with a touchdown and two interceptions. A week ago he had 104 yards as the Jaguars blew a 16-point lead against Pittsburgh. He’s now failed to reach 150 yards passing in four of his last six games.

Jacksonville was able to erase an early 14-point Buffalo lead on Sunday, and appeared to take the lead with three minutes left in the third quarter. Bortles threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief, but Moncrief was ruled down at the one-yard line on review. On the same play, running back Leonard Fournette was ejected for throwing a punch, and Jacksonville failed to score on the drive after Josh Lambo missed a 42-yard field goal.

Bortles said after the game the loss of Fournette, as well as the Bills’ defensive pressure, was the reason for the Jaguars’ struggles in the second half.

“Leonard going down, and then obviously they’re going to make adjustments at halftime. They’re not going to continue to allow it to happen,” he said. “So they started bringing some pressure and heating us up a little bit and making plays, so we weren’t able to overcome it.”

Bortles threw his only touchdown of the game to Dede Westbrook with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to three, but Jacksonville failed to recover the onside kick.

The struggles of Bortles coincides with the Jaguars team success this season. In Week 2, Bortles threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-20 win against New England that had the team optimistic they could improve on their AFC Championship showing from last year.

Instead, they’re now 3-8 and in last place in the AFC South, their playoff hopes all but over.

To salvage what’s left of the season, the Jaguars are turning to 25-year-old Kessler. Kessler made eight starts with Cleveland in 2016, throwing for 1,380 yards and six touchdowns. The Browns, however, lost all of those games. He appeared in one game for the Jaguars this year, coming in against Houston in Week 7 after Bortles was benched.

Despite the offensive struggles of the team on Sunday, head coach Doug Marrone says he never considered making that same move this time. Like Bortles, he recognizes that the loss of Fournette was a huge blow to the team but says he didn’t feel like that was why they lost.

“I don’t know if I felt that on the sideline,” he said. “I do know we lost a heck of a player, a guy we rely on quite a bit.”

Bortles, 26, is in his fifth year as the Jaguars quarterback after being picked third overall in the 2014 Draft. He signed a three-year extension this offseason that includes $26.5 million in guaranteed money.

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