There is little doubt about who the biggest story is as the Jaguars get their OTA’s underway on Tuesday. Blake Bortles. The Jaguars have made a clear bet that Bortles will be able to, at a minimum, steer the ship through the 2017 season. What does that look like as they enter the heart of the offseason?
There will be reports and tweets and questions about Bortles during and following every practice of the offseason, and there should be. The mechanical issues in Bortles’ throwing motion have been discussed and dissected by people who understand what he is doing right and wrong much better than I can. Head coach Doug Marrone was asked about Blake’s mechanics a couple of weeks ago after the Jaguars rookie mini-camp and he said, “I think improved, there’s no doubt about it. There are certain things that I think you guys are able to go see there, as far as his elbow and his arm, it’s much improved. I think there are a lot of things we’re still working on, along with everyone else at this stage. We’re trying to build it up so when we get into the OTAs – it’s like anything else, he will, as anybody else will, benefit more if we’re throwing 100 footballs to 150; if we throw 150, he’ll be better. If we throw 200, he’ll be better. If we throw 250, he’ll be better. What we’re doing now is trying to build him up and build the arm strength and all the other things, along with all of our quarterbacks to get there. The more he throws, the better we’ll be.”
I fully expect Blake’s mechanics to look better as the OTA’s get underway. The story would be if they don’t. If that is the case then the noise regarding the way that Tom Coughlin and company have chose to approach the quarterback situation this offseason goes from a “Wait and see” whisper to a “What are they doing?” yell.
The results of his mechanics have been clear. The Jaguars haven’t been winning and Bortles has been an inaccurate thrower. He has never completed more than 58.9% of his passes in a season through the first three years of his career. Last season Bortles 58.9 completion percentage was good enough for 28th in the league, just behind Brock Osweiler at 59%. In case it isn’t clear yet, that is bad.
That, I believe, is the heart of the issue. How much more accurate a passer will Blake Bortles be in 2017 than he was in 2016? That entails much more than just his completion percentage.
A more accurate passer is a less intercepted passer. Blake has thrown 51 interceptions in 46 games. 11 of those interceptions have been returned for touchdowns which is the most through a player’s first three seasons in NFL history.
A more accurate passer not only completes more passes, but completes those passes for more yards. The idea here is pretty simple. If you hit a receiver in stride they have a better opportunity to maintain their momentum and gain more yards after the catch. That is more preferable to, let’s say, forcing a receiver to stop their route and adjust to the football by contorting in mid air or punting a ball into the air off of their foot.
I expect that the stories about Blake’s “new” mechanics will be positive over the course of the next three months, but we all know the truth before we read a word of it. None of it matters until Blake shows that he can uphold those mechanics with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney stampeding towards him on September 10.