On paper, the Jacksonville Jaguars have one of the more talented offenses in the NFL, along with a capable young quarterback in Blake Bortles. Yet it’s the same old song and dance in northern Florida. The Jaguars are still losing football games, and everyone is grasping at straws for reasons why.
There’s no need to point fingers at the front office this time around. Jaguars’ general manager David Caldwell went out of his way to ensure the offense was loaded with talent. Bortles should be calling him Santa Caldwell for the bevy of weapons that have conveniently been placed at his disposal.
There are no more excuses for the former No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft as the ship continues to sink in Jacksonville. Given the talent on offense, this was supposed to be the year that he would breakout and lead the morbid franchise to playoff contention. But if Sunday’s blowout loss to the San Diego Chargers was any indication, it is shaping up to be another long and disappointing season for the dedicated Jacksonville fan base.
And it all starts at the quarterback position.
Bortles was shaky at best behind center all afternoon against a defense that had Alex Smith looking like Tom Brady last week. Pay no mind to his garbage time stats of 329 passing yards and two touchdowns. This was an ugly offensive effort before the Chargers called off the dogs by settling into softer zone coverages in the fourth quarter when the score was 35-0.
Bortles alone was responsible for all three of the team’s turnovers: a pass thrown behind receiver Marqise Lee that was tipped into the hands of Chargers corner Casey Hayward, a strip sack fumble recovered by defensive end Corey Liuget and another give-me pass to Hayward on a poor vertical seam throw. It wasn’t the kind of performance anyone would expect from someone being viewed as a franchise quarterback.
“Three turnovers in the first half — all completely my fault. It’s hard to win when you play like that,” Bortles told reporters after the game. “I just didn’t play well. It’s hard to win when you don’t play well at the quarterback position. I can speak and say the majority of the locker room, if not all of it, is sick and tired of this feeling. It’s up to us do something about it.”
Bortles isn’t a stranger to having his prolific passing yardage be overshadowed by turnovers. He put up nearly 3,000 passing yards in his rookie campaign, but he also threw 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His touchdown-to-interception ratio improved a little bit in his second year with 4,428 passing yards, 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. This season he has already thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdown passes.
It’s tough to win games when the offense turns the football over. Not to mention, the Jaguars also struggled getting off the field in third down situations, where they went two for 11 against the Chargers on Sunday. That put a lot of stress on the defense, which is already dealing with its own problems.
Perhaps the debut of running back Chris Ivory will help Bortles settle down behind center. The team has longed for a sledgehammer type of back to go along with T.J. Yeldon. Ivory would at least keep defenses honest and possibly even open a more efficient passing game.
Bortles is like a kite caught in a media storm this season. Padded passing yards will no longer cover up his mistakes with the team still losing. This is his third year in the league, and the offensive firepower he has been given is more than adequate to get the job done.
He’ll either find buoyancy within the offense or sink with the ship.