Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, the highly scrutinized 3rd overall pick from the 2014 NFL Draft, finished his 2017 season on a very strong note. After throwing a career low 13 interceptions in the regular season, Bortles continued to take care of the ball and went on to play turnover-free football in the three postseason games played by the Jaguars. Blake Bortles should go on to have a tremendous 2018 campaign.

Why Did/Do People Doubt Blake Bortles So Much?

Going into the 2017 NFL season, many analysts felt that Blake Bortles would be the reason why the Jaguars wouldn’t be able to break their 10-year playoff drought. There were several reasons for the doubts, such as

It actually got so bad that Bortles was put into a preseason battle with Chad Henne with less than a month before the season opener in Houston. Even a Jaguars writer was bashing Blake Bortles. The doubts were at an all time high. Many felt that this was the end of the Blake Bortles era in Jacksonville. However, as we all now know, Blake Bortles and the Jaguars proved the doubters wrong.

Why Was Blake Bortles Successful In 2017?

Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, along with Head Coach Doug Marrone, did an outstanding job of building the perfect offense for Bortles. The strong running game led by 2017 1st round pick, Leonard Fournette, played a huge role. Fournette, along with the great play of the offensive line, helped the Jaguars finish as the best rushing offense in the 2017 NFL season. Blake Bortles also contributed 322 rushing yards, and 2 rushing touchdowns in that department.

The success of the Jaguars’ strong rushing game helped alleviate pressure off of Bortles. Consistently, it seemed like opposing teams were stacking the box against the Jaguars. The reason for this was to stop the run. However, another reason teams would stack the box was because there was a lack of respect towards Bortles and the Jaguars passing game. This was not just a theory either. Players were actually publicly speaking about this in interviews. Yet, Bortles would consistently go out and prove teams wrong and lead the Jaguars to wins.

Bortles enjoyed 5 multi touchdown games and up until Week 15, he had only thrown a fantastic 8 interceptions in the entire season. The fact that he threw 5 of his 13 interceptions in the last 2 games, speaks a lot about how great Bortles actually played for the majority of the regular season. His final regular season stats don’t do justice for how well Bortles played. Blake Bortles truly took care of the ball in 2017 and that is the most important aspect to look at about his 2017 season.

What Can We Expect In 2018 And Why?

Of course, people are still doubting Blake Bortles. At this point, it’s not a surprise. In reality, it’s reasonable to expect that people will never believe in Blake Bortles. Everyone has their reasons.

However, after studying the roster moves that the Jaguars made. One should be expecting a big season from Bortles for various reasons.

Contract Extension

The Jaguars extended Bortles through the 2020 season; thus, expressing their confidence about Bortles as their signal caller of the present and future. One should not overlook how much this means to Bortles and how it will increase his confidence. Confidence is key when it comes to playing the quarterback position.

Free Agent Additions

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September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88) runs the football against Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88) runs the football against Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars added key players from free agency that will help Bortles in 2018.

  • Guard Andrew Norwell
  • Wide Receiver Donte Moncrief
  • Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins
  • Tight End Niles Paul

Donte Moncrief and Niles Paul should be solid additions to the roster. But, the most noteworthy name to look at here is Andrew Norwell. Norwell was arguably the best guard in the NFL in 2017, and it was a fantastic addition by Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin to solidify the left side of the offensive line. The added protection should help give Blake Bortles even more time to make plays.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins also has the potential to break out in his first season with the Jaguars. The tight end, who has played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets since being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft, can finally live up to the hype in 2018. Standing at 6’5, Seferian-Jenkins is a big weapon for Bortles. In his time in the NFL, Seferian-Jenkins has proven to be a reliable target in the passing game, as well as a solid blocker. Off the field issues have derailed his career a bit, but after enjoying a solid season in 2017 with the Jets, Seferian-Jenkins should be ready to contribute in a big way as the starting tight end for the Jaguars in 2018. According to reports, he is already building a strong rapport with Bortles.

NFL Draft Additions

Chris Jorgensen/Iowa State Daily

The Jaguars added a few guys in the draft who have a chance to make big contributions and help Bortles in 2018.

  • Wide Receiver D.J. Chark (2nd Round)
  • Offensive Tackle Will Richardson (4th Round)
  • Wide Receiver Allen Lazard (Undrafted)

After the departure of Allen Robinson, I had mentioned in a previous article that the Jaguars needed a big body receiver to replace him. The Jaguars failed to add a big receiver to replace him in free agency, but they did a great job of adding two big targets for Bortles through the NFL Draft. D.J. Chark is a 6’4 receiver from LSU and looks to be a focal point of the offense after being drafted in the 2nd round. Allen Lazard is an even bigger target at 6’5, but went undrafted despite being the most productive receiver in the history of Iowa State. Lazard has a chance to gain some red zone reps and perhaps some playing time with a strong showing in training camp and preseason games.

The Jaguars also added Offensive Tackle Will Richardson out of North Carolina State in the 4th round. His move adds quality depth to an already above average offensive line. The entrenched starters at the tackle position are Cam Robinson and Jeremy Parnell. However, Parnell turns 32 years old in July. Because of that, the 2018 NFL season could turn out to be his last season as a Jaguar, and as a result, clearing the way for Richardson to become a starter on the offensive line in 2019.

Predicting Bortles’ Final Statline In 2018

The added protection in the offensive line should help Bortles make less hurried passes; thus, dropping his number of interceptions. Also, the big targets added in the offseason should help Bortles increase his number of touchdowns.

Everything is pointing towards Blake Bortles having a great season in 2018. Carrying momentum from the postseason, along with the great off-season additions, it looks like Blake Bortles will finally silence the doubters.

2019 Prediction: 63% pass completion, 3300 passing yards, 29 TD, 11 INT, 23 sacks, 350 rushing yards, 1 TD, 3 FUM

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