Heading into the 2018 season I'm going to do something I haven't done before. I'll write a series of pieces where I predict what some of the key Jaguars players seasons will look like from a statistical point of view. If that sounds like it might be your cup of tea then please keep reading.
Note: this should be a fun way to look back after the season and see just how wrong I was about how the season would go for these key players.
Let's get to it!
The single most important player on the Jaguars roster is Blake Bortles. It's been said thousands and thousands (millions?) of times: quarterback is the most important position in all of sports. Even with the Jaguars vaunted defense the team will need their QB to perform at respectable level to achieve their ultimate goal. Blake Bortles had his best season as a pro last year. No, he didn't throw as many touchdowns as he did in 2015 (35), but he reduced his interception count to just 13. If not for two games at the end of the regular season in which Bortles threw a combined five interceptions (that took place after the Jags had already clinched a playoff spot) he would have finished with a very respectable eight interceptions on the year. Still, he was markedly improved in completion percentage, QB rating, TD-INT ratio, and several other key statistics.
2017 Stats: 21 TD passes, 13 INTs, 60.2 % completion, 84.7 QB Rating
Rushing: 57 rushes, 322 yards, 2 TDs
With all that said, how will he fair in 2018?
Bortles should see improvement again. He was able to work with Tom House and company at 3DQB Camp in California during the offseason. Both of his successful NFL campaigns have come after working on mechanics with the crew out in Cali.
He's also entering his second year in the same offense - an opportunity he hasn't been afforded since his days at the University of Central Florida. Throughout the offseason and training camp Bortles has not only shown and understanding of Nathaniel Hackett's offensive system, but he's taken command of it. During practice he's looked like the field general that every coach wants to have. And that's saying a lot because prior to 2018 Bortles had been a terrible practice player.
The pieces around BB5 have improved.
His offensive line now features a stronger, more experienced Cam Robinson at left tackle, an All-Pro in Andrew Norwell at left guard, a Pro Bowl Caliber center in Brandon Linder, a hungry and improved AJ Cann at right guard, and a mountain at right tackle in Jermey Parnell. Three of the Jaguars starting offensive lineman didn't allow a sack in 2017. There's quality depth at every position across the O-Line.
The options that Bortles will be able to sling the rock to have also improved. The Allens departed this offseason, but with the addition of Donte Moncrief, DJ Chark, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the return of Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, and Dede Westbrook there is a plethora of diverse options for the Jaguars signal caller.
Prediction: With a better understanding of the offensive system, improved mechanics, a solid rushing attack, and better players around him Blake Bortles will have the best statical season of his young career. He'll throw for 4,050 yards, 25 TD passes and 12 interceptions. He'll complete 62% of his passes and post a QB Rating of 89. With a bigger emphasis on RPO's and opposing defenses respecting the deep ball more he'll finish with 360 rushing yards and add 3 scores on the ground. Bortles will guide the Jaguars to their second straight AFC South title and will play with more confidence and consistency than he did in 2017.
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