Quarterback Blake Bortles was supposed to be the savior for the moribund Jacksonville Jaguars. He had all the skills: the arm, the pocket presence, the accuracy. Coming out of college he was a strong leader with a major upside. The Jags made Bortles the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. When he wore that hat for the first time, everyone was all smiles.
Too Much To Blame
Not too many folks have been smiling since. Blame the bad defense, the inconsistent running game or the spotty offensive line, but Bortles has not performed up to expectations. He’s shown signs of flash, but they have been measured against long stretches of mediocrity. So far this season, he hasn’t been much different.
Jacksonville coaches kept the first team offense in for a while against the Buccaneers in a recent preseason game. It was clear they were looking to see what Bortles would do. He went 8 of 13 for 65 yards and no TDs. And the work was even worse than the stats would reveal. He missed wide open receivers twice, including one that could have been a big gainer, maybe more. Boos rained down from the stands. Boos. In preseason. Four offensive series led to four punts before Bortles was pulled.
Speaking to the press later, Bortles was blunt in his assessment of his play thus far: “It’s hard to not hear people booing… it’s kind of irrelevant, at least for me it is. I think you’ve got to treat adversity and prosperity the same way. They’re not booing for no reason. They’re booing because you didn’t do your job.”
That “it’s kind of irrelevant…” soundbite didn’t exactly play well with Jacksonville’s long-suffering fans, who have been waiting for the right offensive spark for years now. Some even called out for hometown guy Tim Tebow to be given a shot. But that was never going to happen. Instead, hoping to inspire their big name first rounder, Jacksonville’s staff is potentially looking to longtime NFL backup and former Jags starter, Chad Henne.
Pressure on Bortle and Jags
As far as training camp QB battles go, this one doesn’t really bring the drama. Until the Bucs game, Henne hadn’t completed a pass in the NFL for two years. After being drafted by Miami, Henne eventually ended up in Jacksonville, where he started 22 games before being benched in favor of Bortles. Henne came in against the Bucs, going 6 of 10 for 44 yards. Not exactly spectacular, but good enough and efficient enough to put some pressure on both Bortles and the Jags front office.
Jacksonville fans remember Henne’s nearly 13,000 yards and 58 touchdowns. He also had 63 interceptions, so it wasn’t all rosy. But, against the Bucs, he was the quarterback that was plagued with receivers dropping balls that should have been caught, including one that would have been the game-winning touchdown if Kellan Cole had been able to hold on.
The real question for the Jacksonville front office and coaches is how long will fans be willing to hold on as long as the team can’t manage to put a winning product on the field.