The 2017 NFL season could be make-or-break for Blake Bortles. The third overall pick in 2014, Bortles progressed mightily from his first year to his second but struggled in his third.
Here are the numbers: In 2014, Bortles threw for 2,908 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. Not good.
In 2015, though, he threw for 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. That’s solid. Jacksonville, even with its 5-11 finish, was optimistic.
But then 2016 happened. Bortles regressed across the board, throwing for 3,905 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 16 picks, as Jacksonville finished 3-13 and lost 10 of its last 11 games.
If Bortles, 25, does not have a breakthrough season, the Jags may be in the market for a quarterback.
And yet, at least one former Jaguar still has faith.
“He’s a Ben Roethlisberger,” former NFL running back Fred Taylor said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I compare him to Big Ben. He has the size, has the mobility, and he has the elusiveness to shake would-be tacklers for sacks.”
Unfortunately for Bortles, the parallels end there.
“In crunch time – unlike Big Ben, to this point – the pressure seems to mount, and he gets careless with the ball,” Taylor said. “Fourth quarter, maybe 2nd-and-Goal, instead of throwing it up next to the concession stand, he’s throwing it at the front of the end zone and it might get returned for a pick-six. That’s not good for a football team or the quarterback that’s leading the team.
“Blake’s challenge is just being smart with the ball, understanding situational football,” Taylor continued. “His arm isn’t terrible.”
The Jaguars haven’t made the playoffs – or finished with a winning season – since 2007, when Taylor was still in uniform. With better play from Bortles, the Jags could end both of those streaks this season.
“I do like Blake,” said Taylor, who played for Jacksonville from 1998-2008. “I like the fact that he has Coach (Tom) Coughlin back. Now they’re going to be able to manage the game, micro-manage the game, play situational football, allow the defense that you’ve built to go out there and win these games for you and not allow your quarterback to hurt you. Run the ball with (Leonard) Fournette and hopefully get 10 wins and sneak in the playoffs.”
The Jags open the season in Houston on Sept. 10 at 1 p.m. ET. They then host Tennessee in Week 2 before taking on Baltimore in London in Week 3.