Blake Bortles and the Jaguars as a whole had one of their better performances of the last decade on Sunday. The offense moved the ball, put up points, and drove down the field in a couple of critical spots. Here I'll take a look at every throw from Blake Bortles and break down his performance.
To start the game the Jaguars received the ball and started on their own 25 after a touchback. The Jaguars came out running and did so effectively setting up a third and two, despite opening the drive with a false start. Here we saw Bortles first passing attempt. He went through several progressions before finding an open Allen Robinson sprinting for the sideline 17 yards down field. He delivered an accurate pass. Despite having the pocket collapsing around him Bortles was able to deliver the ball quickly and accurately. This was a perfect example of some of his offseason work paying off. Following the 1st down (and Allen Robinson's season ending injury) the Jaguars came out throwing again. Blake Bortles again came off his first read to find an open man downfield. This time he found Allen Hurns streaking toward the sideline. Bortles delivered an accurate pass, but his footwork broke down a bit on this throw. Instead of using his feet to plant and deliver a strike Bortles chose to throw with his arm. It worked flawlessly for a 20 yard gain, but we've seen this type of throw get Bortles in trouble in the past. Bortles third pass came on the next play. A designed PA roll out, Bortles immediately faced pressure from JJ Watt, but was able to avoid the All-Pro defensive lineman and accurately find Leonard Fournette for a 6 yard gain. This was an impressive play that might have seen a much different result in the past. On the next play Bortles had his first incompletion of the game. On a short touch pass to Marcedes Lewis Bortles put a little bit of extra air under the pass, but the ball fell to the ground after hitting Marcedes Lewis right in the hand. This should have been a completion. His final throw of the drive, and his second incompletion, came on 3rd and 4. Bortles was again looking for Marcedes Lewis - this time just past the first down marker. There was tight coverage on the play that resulted in a pass breakup by rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham. This one was on Bortles - the ball was slightly behind Marcedes and had it been placed in front of him the play likely would have resulted in a first down.
Blake Bortles' first drive was impressive, to say the least. Against one of the best defenses in football he completed several passes downfield and was accurate on all but one pass. His footwork was sloppy on his longest completion of the drive, but he made good decisions with the football and looked very comfortable in the pocket.
On the Jaguars second drive Blake only got to attempt one pass. On 3rd and 5 Bortles dropped back and quickly fired the ball incomplete to the right side, essentially throwing the ball away over the head of Chris Ivory. Bortles, instead of trying to force a pass downfield, smartly threw the ball out of harms way. The only open man on the play was rookie receiver Keelan Cole, but he was several yards short of the first down and likely would have been gobbled up immediately. Despite only attempting one pass, this too was a positive drive for Blake Bortles. He showed the "game manager" mentality that he has lacked in the past.
On the Jaguars following drive the team started out with the aerial attack. Bortles went through several progressions and finally found Leonard Fournette on a check down for a gain of 12. What was impressive about this play was the poise in the pocket and the hesitation to allow Fournette to create more separation before delivering an accurate pass. Later on in the same drive Bortles delivered a perfect ball to James O'Shaughnessy for a 1st down on 2nd and 4. This was as an easy read and an accurate pass from BB5. On the final play of the drive, on 3rd and 7, Bortles threw one of his only "forced passes" of the day. He tried to fit the ball in a tight spot in the end zone and it's a ball that could have been intercepted. This is one Blake would like to get back.
With just over 13 minutes left in the first half the Jaguars took over on their own 25. This was another one pass drive for Bortles. On 3rd and short Bortles elected to go deep to Marqise Lee who was in one on one coverage with Kareem Jackson. It was a decent offensive play, but a better defensive play. If Bortles put more air under the pass it might have made it easier for Lee to go up and get instead of having to work through his defender to get inside. Bortles would like this one back too. It wasn't a terrible play, but it didn't get the job done.
The next drive, again, was a one pass drive. Bortles took another shot to Marqise Lee on 3rd down after two straight running plays. Lee was tripped up during his route and never had a chance at the pass. This one fell incomplete, but it was hardly Blake's fault.
The Jaguars finally got something going again on the next drive. On the first play Bortles hit Leonard Fournette for an impressive six yard gain. On his next pass, after an eternity in the pocket, he delivered an accurate strike down the middle of the field to Arrelious Benn for a first down. This ball was placed in tight coverage, but was thrown so accurately it didn't much matter. The Jaguars finished the drive with a Leonard Fournette TD run. On this drive Bortles did a fine job managing the offense and letting the run game do most of the heavy lifting.
Bortles' next drive was his most impressive of the afternoon and one of the more impressive drives in his entire career. It came after the Texans scored a TD on the first drive of Deshaun Watson's NFL career. In games past the Jaguars have struggled to recapture momentum after it's been stolen from them. Here, the Jaguars were able to counter the Texans impressive drive. The drive, however, got off to a slow start. Allen Hurns dropped an accurate pass from Bortles on a slant. On 3rd and 3 Bortles took a shot to Marqise Lee and delivered a nice pass. The Texans defender was forced to interfere and thus gave the Jaguars a fresh set of downs. On Bortles next pass of the drive Allen Hurns redeemed himself by going deep across the middle and coming down with an impressive catch in tight coverage. Bortles delivered it where only Hurns could get it - another solid pass. Later on Bortles kept the drive going with his feet. On a read option he kept it and picked up 15 yards, putting the Jaguars in the red zone. Bortles then completed an accurate throw on the run to Allen Hurns that put the Jaguars at the goal line. He capped off the impressive drive with a 1 yard TD pass to Tommy Bohanan on a play action roll out.
The Jaguars didn't pass the ball much after this point in the game. But Bortles did have a few more impressive plays. On the Jaguars next third down attempt Bortles found a wide open Chris Ivory on a check down that netted the team 11 yards and kept the drive going. His next two passes were incompletions. One was a play where Bortles arm was hit on the release - thankfully for the Jaguars the ball fluttered harmlessly to the ground. The next was a pass breakup on Keelan Cole, who could have caught the pass - Bortles likely should have put a little more air under it and led Cole further to the sideline, but no harm, no foul.
Blake's final pass of the game was an incompletion to Marqise Lee on third down. The ball was thrown perfectly, but was dropped by Lee.
Final Thoughts: Bortles will find plenty to improve upon after reviewing the tape on this one: his footwork got sloppy a couple of times, a couple of times he just made inaccurate throws, and a couple of throws were forced and could have resulted in interceptions. But this was easily one of his better games as a pro. He was, for the most part, accurate with the football and smart on third downs. He rarely forced it into places that will get him in trouble. Bortles ended the game 11-21. He could have easily finished around 15-21 (71%), but for several egregious drops by receivers. This will be a great game for Blake Bortles to build upon and learn from heading into the rest of the 2017 season.
Are you happy with what you saw from Blake in week one? Let us know in the comments!
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