Blake Bortles’s rookie season has not gone according to plan.
When Jacksonville took Bortles with the third overall pick in the NFL draft, the plan was to sit him for the entire year. But the Jaguars were so bad early this season with Chad Henne as the starter that the coaches decided at halftime of Week Three that they had no choice but to bench Henne and see what Bortles could do.
It’s never a good sign when a team has to abandon its plans for developing the franchise quarterback after only 10 quarters, but the good news for Jacksonville should be that it has almost an entire season of tape on which to evaluate Bortles. The problem, however, is that from watching Bortles play, it’s tough to say what the Jaguars have in him.
In last night’s win over the Titans, Bortles showed some progress: He led two 11-play drives that ended in touchdowns, he didn’t have any turnovers, and he used his feet effectively, running for 50 yards and generally doing a good job of avoiding the pass rush despite not getting much protection.
However, Bortles also had a season-low 115 passing yards, a season-low 4.4 yards a pass and a season-low completion rate of 50 percent last night. As his rookie season wears on, Bortles seems to be throwing shorter passes and throwing the ball away more often. The result is that his interceptions are way down (he has just two picks in the last four games after having 12 picks in his first six games), but his yardage is down too, and we’re not seeing him throw downfield successfully. And Bortles’s big arm was one of the main reasons he was viewed as a strong prospect.
The Jaguars’ entire offense has been a mess this season, with a bad line and injuries at running back and wide receiver. As a result, you can hardly blame Bortles for the way he’s become a safe and at times overly cautious quarterback down the stretch. But you also can’t really evaluate Bortles. He’ll be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback next year, but the Jaguars really don’t know if he’s a franchise quarterback they can rely on for years to come.