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Jacksonville Jaguars scouting report: QB Blake Bortles

Skarekrow takes a look at Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles

Back in August, the combination of a Doug Marrone/Nate Hackett offense being led by quarterback Blake Bortles sounded like a surefire recipe to give their punter a repetitive strain injury. Now, as the Buffalo Bills prepare to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars this coming Sunday, Jacksonville ends the regular season with the fifth-most points in the league. A steady and efficient run game has certainly helped matters, but it’s rare to see that without at least adequate QB play. This week, we examine Blake Bortles to see how much of a part he’s played in the surging Jacksonville offense.

The Player

Playing in Florida his entire life, Bortles likely only needed a one-day rental on his moving van when he was selected by the Jaguars 3rd overall in the 2014 NFL draft. Currently in the fourth year of his rookie deal, he was given a vote of confidence in the offseason as the Jaguars picked up his fifth year option. This decision was far from a foregone conclusion with Doug Marrone starting his first full year as the head coach and more than a bit of controversy surrounding how well Bortles had played his first three years.

As a player, the best word to describe Bortles over the years has been “inconsistent.” Demonstrating the ability to place the ball anywhere on the field and accurately, frustrations generally stem from his inability to do so with any regularity. Has this changed in 2017? Not at all.

Starting with his positives, this year Bortles has displayed good to excellent ball placement in the middle of the field on short and intermediate throws. For these passes, he’s more likely to hit the receiver in stride than not. Occasionally he’ll add a little more zip than I’d like to see on shorter throws, but this isn’t a drastic flaw like it was early in Colin Kaepernick’s career. In this area of the field, he’s consistently dangerous.

On short sideline throws, the above holds up pretty well. He has a higher tendency to place the ball a little off and force receivers to alter their body position.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

On deeper passes, especially outside the numbers, he’ll once in awhile make a throw that makes you go, “holy **** that was good.” Most of the time, though, he will do no such thing. Velocity and accuracy are major issues here, and Bortles creates opportunities for heads-up defensive backs. Compounding this is an unwarranted confidence in making longer throws, as Bortles isn’t shy about throwing into double or even triple coverage. Againt the San Francisco 49ers, Bortles threw an ugly interception that was directed at a lone spot of teal in a sea of red and gold.

Bortles’s pocket presence is a case of “what’s today again?” Against Houston, he looked poised and confident, making subtle slides in the pocket to avoid pressure and deliver the ball. Two weeks later, against the Tennessee Titans, it appeared as if he were seeing ghosts. His lack of poise had him making terrible throws while off balance and panicked.

The Stats

Doug Marrone and Nate Hackett’s key to success seems to be having Blake Bortles work a little less than prior years. Bortles has attempted 523 passes this year, roughly 100 less than 2016 and 2015. Despite that, his total yards sit right around last year’s total at 3,687. They’ve also designed passes that better suit his strengths. Bortles’ completion percentage has climbed over 60% for the first time in his career. His yards per attempt sits at 7.0, which is the second-highest of his career and right around league-average.

Another major difference this year for the success of the Jaguars is that they’re doing a terrific job keeping Bortles off his back. 22 quarterbacks have been sacked more times than Bortles. The 24 sacks he’s taken on the year is 10 fewer than 2016 and the lowest total of his career. It’s less than half the number of the sacks he took in his first two years in the league.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The lower volume has decreased his touchdown production, with 21 on the year. Only the 11 he threw in his rookie year is a lower total than this year’s number. His interception total of 13 is the lowest of his career. He has hovered between 16-18 every other season.

When compared to the league, Bortles is 11th in passing yards. He is 16th in TDs and 24th in completion percentage. He has the 12th-highest number of interceptions, but is 21st in interception rate. If you like passer rating, he sits at 20th, and he is 15th in QBR.

When looking at individual game logs, Bortles’ inconsistency jumps off the screen. Using recent games against the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans as examples, Bortles attempted 29 and 34 passes, respectively. Against Houston on December 17, he threw for 326 yards and had 3 touchdowns. His completion percentage broke 72. It could be argued this was his second-best game. Against Tennessee on December 31, he had 158 yards with no TDs. His completion percentage fell to 44. It could be argued this was only his second-worst game of the year.

The Lowdown

Anyone who has watched Blake Bortles in the past has seen the present version, as well. He remains a wildly inconsistent player that can easily jump between electric and quite bad. The biggest change has been his supporting cast. A dominant defense has certainly helped matters. An offense more suited to his ability and more capable of keeping him standing have also helped him to improve. In a nutshell, the Jaguars identified the best QB on their roster and committed to giving him the best chance possible.

The Bills will have a much better shot at winning their wild card round playoff game if “Bad” Bortles shows up on Sunday. “Bad” Bortles will have a rough day facing off against Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, who have made a habit of turning bad decisions and throws to Buffalo’s advantage. Designing some early pressure could go a long way toward encouraging “Bad” Bortles to hit the field, which is an area the Bills have struggled with this year. “Good” Bortles should be able to find soft spots against the Bills’ linebackers and end Buffalo’s Cinderella story.