Bortles takes another step forward
August, 9, 2014
By Michael DiRocco | ESPN.com
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Play Blake Bortles Now movement gained some followers Friday night.
It's hard not to blame people for jumping on the bandwagon either. Not after the way the Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback played in the team's 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in front of 59,100 at EverBank Field.
Bortles completed 7 of 11 passes for 117 yards, stood in and took a pop in the face on a long completion, and made only one bad throw in his four series of work. It was as good of a debut as Bortles, coach Gus Bradley, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and fans desperate to erase the Blaine Gabbert era could have hoped for.
"I thought he did a nice job," Bradley said. "He's shown some good poise. ... I thought he did some good things. I know that there's some things Jedd and I quickly talked about with the quarterbacks --areas of improvement. But the poise factor; we wanted to see that, and he did a nice job."
Bortles guided the offense to only three points, but he was victimized by three drops (two by Mike Brown, one by Chad Bumphis). He also had two other completions wiped out by offensive pass interference penalties. The only bad throw he made all night was a check down to Storm Davis that he tried to loft over defensive end Da'Quan Bowers in the middle of the field. Bowers got a hand on the ball and knocked it down.
Otherwise, Bortles was on target. He didn't force a ball into coverage or panic when pressured in the pocket. In fact, he stood in the pocket and took a shot from defensive tackle Akeem Spence after he threw a 31-yard pass to Brown. The gain, plus the 15-yard penalty on Spence, got the Jaguars in field goal range early in the third quarter.
"Felt pretty comfortable," Bortles said. "Felt comfortable with the plays Jedd was calling. Felt comfortable with the reads and where to go with the ball. That's just something that I have to get more [predisposed] to and more comfortable with. That'll take place over however long. I'll continue to study and continue to ask questions and try to learn."
Bortles' performance came with the second-team offense and against the Bucs' second-team defense. He certainly had a much easier time than Chad Henne, who completed 4 of 7 passes for 30 yards on four possessions. The Jaguars' first offensive line really struggled in the running game, generating just 37 yards, and center Mike Brewster sent two shotgun snaps over Henne's head, losing 37 yards.
The first-team offense's first play of the game was a Jordan Todman run that went for minus-5 yards. It began its third possession on its own 2-yard line, and rookie tight end Marcel Jensen jumped early on second down after Todman gained 1 yard on first down.
"It felt like we didn't get in a rhythm because of the snaps and the sudden change, but it's really no excuse," Bradley said. "It doesn't matter where we start or what happens. We've got to find a way to execute. The run game, I think the offense would run smoother if we get that established."
The offense, whether it struggles or surges, still belongs to Henne. The Jaguars aren't going to waver from their decision to keep Bortles on the bench in the regular season. But the third overall pick in May's draft will get a chance to play with the first team at some point in the preseason, Bradley said.
"Somewhere you're going to see it because that's our philosophy, to give those guys an opportunity to play with the ones so they can feel the speed of the ones," Bradley said. "We do that with all of our [rookies]. I'm sure we'll do it with Blake as well.
"I just think he's progressing nicely."
That's all Bortles wants to do right now: make progress.
"There was some good stuff, some bad stuff, things that I've got to work on," he said. "It's a process. It's not going to happen overnight. There was some good reads, some bad reads, some good footwork, some bad footwork -- so, stuff I'll continue to work on."