Since he entered the league in 2014, quarterback Blake Bortles had the worst win percentage(.244) and passer rating (79.6) upon entering the 2017-18 season. He also threw 51 interceptions, the most in that span. His struggles in the preseason of his fourth year caused many to demand his benching.
Instead of being benched, Bortles started all 16 games in 2017. He posted a career-high 84.7 passer rating and a career-low with 13 interceptions. His play contributed to the Jaguars going 10-6 and securing the AFC South division title. It even led to Ryan Clark apologizing for his previous criticisms of Bortles on ESPN.
Many players on the Jaguars elite defense have praised Bortles for his improved play. Here are some of the most notable players to back him:
Tennessee Titans defensive linemen Jurrell Casey said Bortles would ‘choke’ in big moments, but in reality he helped the team to a 45-42 divisional round win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson wouldn’t let Casey forget what he said.
“[Bortles is] a dog. I want to know what Jurrell Casey has to say about him choking in big moments, while you sit at home and watch us next week,” Jackson said.
Cornerback A.J. Bouye reflected on his first year with the Jaguars while on the Rich Eisen Show. One of the topics he discussed was the change he saw in Bortles, his former college teammate.
“He’s starting to be a pro,” Bouye said. “Even in the playoffs, especially against the Steelers and [New England Patriots] he carried his weight against the two best quarterbacks in the AFC.”
“Ever since I came and I saw him he was in the training room doing the same movement, [preparation], everything like that. Making sure that his body was right, taking care of himself, watching extra film,” Bouye said. “Everything he was doing he wanted to win, he wanted to be the best player he can for the team.”
Check out Bouye’s full interview, here.
Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell also showed his support while on SportsNation. He mentioned Bortles stats and his personal view as well.
“He’s young.” Campbell said. “He’s gonna mature and get better each year, so I’m excited about Blake.”
The defenses views contrast last year’s Seattle Seahawks defense, who that believed games were ‘really on us’. Instead, the Jaguars defense has made it clear that Bortles and the offense has their full support. Hopefully, Bortles can reward their faith with continued excellence this upcoming season.