Jacksonville Jaguars franchise quarterback Blake Bortles went from promising to great during his sophomore campaign. As a rookie, Bortles threw just 11 touchdowns compared to 17 interceptions and averaged 207.7 yards per game. In his second season, Bortles threw 18 interceptions, but his touchdown total skyrocketed to 35 and his yards per game jumped to 276.8 yards a contest.
And the good news for Jags fans is that he’s poised to be even better this season.
Bortles doesn’t look like a “one-year wonder” from his performance in training camp and preseason. He’s looked sharp and in rhythm in practice, and he looked even better during Jacksonville’s preseason.
The biggest issue Bortles has had in his young career has been taking care of the football. Through two seasons, Bortles has thrown 35 picks and has fumbled the ball eight times, losing three of those. But Bortles has done a much better job of limiting his turnovers during the preseason.
In the three preseason games Bortles played in, he never threw an interception. He attempted 34 passes in his three games, and he tossed two touchdowns and never turned the ball over. Not once.
He finished the preseason with a 70.6 completion percentage, 242 yards, and two scores. Bortles didn’t run much, which is a big aspect of his game, but he avoided sacks, and his offensive line helped there as well, as Bortles was only sacked once in his three appearances.
But his own performance isn’t the only reason he’ll have a big 2016 season. The supporting cast around him has also improved.
Jacksonville still has the duo of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns at receiver, with Marqise Lee and backup tight end Neal Sterling have looked good too. Julius Thomas has also looked promising in his limited action.
Hold on, there’s more.
The Jaguars had an ineffective run game last year. Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon had a solid first season, but Jacksonville struggled to get much production beyond him. Bortles himself had 310 yards, the second-most on the team, but Jacksonville’s backup running backs failed to get the job done when Yeldon was out. Denard Robinson totaled just 266 yards and a score a year after having over double that rushing total in as many games. No other Jaguars’ running back eclipsed 54 yards total for the season.
Jacksonville’s running back situation is looking much better because of the addition of Chris Ivory in the offseason. Yeldon needed a running mate last year to reach his true potential, and Ivory has been just that this preseason. The two combined to carry the ball 27 times for 130 yards and a score in three preseason games.
Almost all of Jacksonville’s talented offensive players are young. Bortles, Robinson, Hurns, Lee, and Yeldon are all 24 years old or younger. Which means they are coming into their own at the same time, developing alongside each other and picking up a rhythm as they all grow in the NFL.
Throw in veteran skill players like Ivory and tight end Julius Thomas, and the Jaguars are built to succeed on offense.
Blake Bortles had a breakout campaign in his second season last year. But he’s poised to take that next step in 2016 and put himself among the best quarterbacks in the NFL.