In just his second year in the league, Bortles has already challenged the upper echelon of elite quarterbacks.
After a promising rookie campaign in 2014, where Bortles was called on to start from day one and came through with shinning colors, he followed it up with a brilliant season in 2015 where he racked up over 4,400 yards to go along with 35 TDs.
He did all of this despite being sacked 15 more times than any other quarterback in the league over the same two year period.
The knock on Bortles is that he makes poor decisions and throws too many interceptions. This is a fact that becomes far more understandable when you realize the amount of pressure the young signal caller has been under.
To help try to fix that problem the Jags went out in free agency and signed left tackle, Kelvin Beachum, and guard/center Mackenzy Bernadeau.
When healthy, Beachum helped anchor an offensive front that was very solid both running and passing the ball. The problem is he is still recovering from an ACL injury which cost him more than half the season last year and may not be fully recovered in time for this season, but should be a great asset to the unit when he returns.
Bernadeau has started all 16 games of his four years as a Cowboy, and was a major contributor to a front line which is widely considered the best in the league.
“I know there’s a plan they have, and being able to play those three positions will help,” Bernadeau said. “That helps in any situation, no matter what my role is. I think it’s a key point and [versatility is important] No matter what position you are, no matter what stage you are in your career. I’m just happy I’m able to do all of those positions and help contribute.”
The other player they are hoping to have contribute to taking pressure off of the passer, is newly acquired free agent running back, Chris Ivory. Last year’s rookie running back, T. J. Yeldon, did a decent job accumulating yards as he racked up 740 yards, but struggled in short yardage and in the red zone, as he only had 2 TDs. The Jags brought Ivory in to compliment Yeldon and to help move the chains with his punishing style of running.
This should help freeze the corners and move the safeties up in the box to give 3rd year receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, that extra moment they need to get open and make even bigger plays than they did last year.
Robinson is the more consistent and polished of the two, but I have a feeling that Hurns who has been surprising the league for the last two years since he came into the league, has a few more tricks up his sleeve and could end the year as a top 5 receiver.
If that happens, opposing defenses will spend 60 minutes trying to figure out a way to protect the line of scrimmage and still cover both sides of the field.
Enter Julius Thomas…
In his time playing alongside Peyton Manning in Denver, Thomas was one of the most feared tight ends in the league as he hauled in 12 touchdowns in both of his seasons in Denver.
That number dropped to 5 in his first year in Jacksonville after Thomas broke a bone in his hand during the preseason and missed the first four games of the regular season, but he and Bortles are both aware of how valuable he can be to the Jaguars offense. That’s the major reason they have been working hard on their rythym and timing this offseason.
“We had a chance this offseason to sit down multiple times, watch film and talk about things,” Bortles said. “Talk about what he wanted from me and what I wanted from him and how we can quickly get on the same page to grow together. He’s been unbelievable. He’s obviously a freak athlete and he’s continued to prove that and make plays.”
This offense is not only loaded to the gills with playmakers, but now they have actually started to be able to add specialists, which should make it even easier for the coaching staff to be able to implement the no huddle offense they believe will increase Bortles consistency and accuracy. This will not only give defenses less time to substitute and prepare for the next play, but it will simply the offense for the young players on offense and give Bortles more freedom to audible and change the plays at the line.
In spite of his success, Bortles only completed 58.6% of his total passes last season. If his offensive line can improve enough to keep him even somewhat upright, his running backs can move the chains, Julius Thomas can find the end zone, the receivers can get that extra step, and Bortles can raise that completion percentage even a few points…
It’s not impossible to imagine the young gunslinger being the next quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards and 45 touchdowns in just his third season in the league.