The first segment of A Retrospective: Blake Bortles Rookie Season spans the 2014 NFL Draft all the way through the fifth week of the 2014 NFL regular season.
The first two regular season games were against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins, two NFC North teams, who both had roster questions of their own. The first half of the first game against the Eagles with the Jags on the road could not have gone much better for the Jaguars. The defensive line was dominating the game and the defense was able to rack up 5 sacks which helped the Jaguars take a 17-0 lead into halftime. The next 8 quarters of football for the Jaguars were horrendous. They failed to score another point against the Eagles and lost 34-17. The next game, which was also on the road against the Redskins, was even worse. The Jaguars could do nothing and fell 41-10 to the Redskins, even though they were without their starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III, for most of the game. The Jaguars season was off to a terrible start. At 0-2, after two crushing road defeats, the Jaguars would travel back home to The Bank to face their division rival, the Indianapolis Colts and their star quarterback Andrew Luck.
It was a picture perfect day for football in Jacksonville when the Colts came into town, and despite the Jaguars terrible start to the season, the fans known as DUUUVAL, flooded the stadium with optimism and a rabid thirst for football that hadn't been quenched in over 8 months. Despite the palpable enthusiasm from the fans, the team fell flat on their face. The Jaguars went into halftime trailing the Colts 30-0. The BOOO’s from the fans were booming. These boo birds however quickly changed into chants of a different kind. “BORTLES, BORTLES, BORTLES” could be heard throughout the stadium. Despite what the coaches might say, it was clear that the fans had had enough and a change needed to be made. At the start of the third quarter there was a new quarterback steering the ship for the 0-2 Jaguars. Enter Blake Bortles. The first big play that happened on offense after Bortles entered the game was, unfortunately, an interception. In the third quarter Bortles dropped back and threw a deep pass down the sideline to Allen Robinson. Robinson slipped and the pass was intercepted by Pro Bowler Vontae Davis. Bortles did not display proper footwork on the throw. Despite the poor footwork, it appeared that if Robinson could have stayed upright he would have been able to make a play on the ball. At this point the game was clearly out of hand, but that did not stop the fans from getting excited every time Blake stepped on the field. Later on, in the fourth quarter, Bortles rewarded the fans’ excitement. Lined up in the shotgun formation, he took the snap and looked to his right where he found Allen Hurns on an intermediate slant route. Hurns subsequently broke two tackles and streaked down the middle of the field for a 63 yard touchdown. The first touchdown of Blake Bortles career sent a bolt of electricity through EverBank Field that day, despite the lopsided scoreboard. The thrill of the touchdown was soon replaced by frustration when Bortles was rolling out of the pocket with just over three minutes left in the game and threw a wild pass into heavy coverage that was intercepted and returned for a 47 yard touchdown by Greg Toller. After the score the Colts led 44-10, but there was no quit in the rookie quarterback. Bortles led the Jaguars down the field and finished the drive with a 10 yard slant to Cecil Shorts for a touchdown. On the touchdown pass Blake faked a spike, reminiscent of Dan Marino’s legendary fake spike, stood in the pocket and threw a quick dart to Cecil who was able to beat his defender to the ball and make the catch. Bortles’ first game had its ups and downs, but it was an exciting start to a new career. Bortles finished the game with 223 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, while completing 14 out of 24 passes. He showed great leadership, by never quitting on the team, even though the game was out of reach. There were some poor decisions made by Blake throughout the game and he showed bad footwork. Despite the negative aspects of his performance, he was able to show flashes of brilliance. Several times throughout the game he made remarkable escapes from the pocket and showed good mobility after escaping the pocket. He also demonstrated the ability to keep his eyes downfield while running with the ball. He has that rare ability to square up to the receiver while on the run, while still delivering an accurate pass. Bortles also showed that he can sell the play action fake better than most. After that first game, he had a lot of mistakes to learn from, but he also had some good things to build on.
Here at Generation Jaguar, we try to bring fresh and thought provoking insight on all things Jaguar. Here, we will be chronicling Jaguars’ rookie quarterback, Blake Bortles’, rookie season. As most of you know Blake Bortles was the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Very few people predicted that the Jaguars would take the 22 year old rookie out of UCF. More common opinions were that the Jags would draft Johnny Manziel aka “Johnny Jam Boogie” (thank goodness they avoided that disaster) or a pass rusher. Many people around Jacksonville were baffled, stunned, and upset about the selection. More anxiety about the 6’5” rookie developed through out OTA’s and training camp. Bortles was not looking good. He threw a wobbly ball and simply did not look impressive enough to warrant being the third pick in the draft. The first glimmer of hope didn’t come until the preseason, where in 4 games Bortles completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 521 yards and 2 touchdowns, all the while throwing no interceptions. His preseason quarterback rating was an astounding 110, which led to some excitement and buzz throughout the city. Maybe this kid was the answer after all. Despite Bortles hot start in the preseason, the Jaguars made it clear that they wanted him to ride the bench his entire rookie season and learn from starting quarterback Chad Henne. This led to much debate amongst the fans and media alike. Many people favor the theory that putting in a rookie immediately gives them the best chance to develop quickly, and gives the team a chance to see what they have. Others proclaimed that the Jaguars needed to sit Bortles in order to let him learn and develop his understanding of the professional game. Regardless of what the fans and media thought, Bortles was going to hold a clip board and learn under the tutelage of his coaches and veteran, Chad Henne.
His second game was a road matchup against the surging San Diego Chargers. He would need to develop quickly and have some luck in order to take down the red hot Chargers in his first start. The Jaguars received the opening kick off and Toby Gerhart fumbled the ball after a run that would have given the Jags a first down. Luckily for Blake Bortles and the Jaguars the defense was able to stop the Chargers and did not give up any points. Bortles second drive in his first start stalled out on a 4th and 1, where he was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on a quarterback keeper. Again the Jaguars defense kept the Chargers out of end zone, but they did give up a field goal to put the Jags down 3-0. The next drive for the Jaguars went much better than the first two. Bortles was able to complete a few short passes and one deep pass down the middle to Clay Harbor, which set up a one yard touchdown run by Toby Gerhart. Bortles looked very sharp on this drive, as did the running game. The Chargers were able to respond to the Jaguars touchdown by scoring one of their own to take the lead 10-7. On the next Jaguars drive Bortles was able to find Allen Hurns wide open in the middle of the field for a 44 yard gain, and what would have been a touchdown if Hurns had been able to keep his balance. On the next play with 7:30 left in the second quarter Bortles threw a touch pass to the back of the end zone to back up tight end Nic Jacobs. Bortles showed great touch on the ball and showed fans something new. The Chargers scored on their next drive and went into half time with a 17-14 lead. The Chargers got the ball again after the break and torched the Jaguars defense again, taking a 10 point lead. The Jaguars were in trouble, again. The next drive lasted only four plays before Bortles was picked off by Brandon Flowers on a pass he should not have thrown. Cecil ran a short button hook to the left side and the defender saw it coming the whole time. Flowers jumped the route and intercepted the ball with ease. Bortles would need to learn not to make a throw like that again. After that costly mistake the Jaguars offense as a whole was unable to get anything going for the rest of the game. Bortles threw a terrible interception to Eric Weddle. Weddle baited the rookie into thinking he had a throwing window that wasn't actually there. The Chargers won the game easily 30-14 and the Jaguars were handed their fourth straight loss to start the season. Bortles, again showed some poor decision making and inconsistent footwork. While he showed the same negative qualities in both games, he was able to show the same mobility and pocket awareness that he displayed in the first game. He also showed the ability to rocket the ball deep down the middle and throw with touch. Bortles first two starts were pretty good as rookies go, but he had much to improve upon. Overall the rookie had a 75% completion percentage, while throwing 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. In a game and a half he was able to throw for 477 yards. Bortles showed promise, but also showed that there were some huge flaws in his game. He would need to improve greatly for the Jaguars to start winning games.
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