The Jacksonville Jaguars lost their 3rd straight game of the 2014 season looking abysmal for most of the season on both sides of the ball. A winless start to the season is what most Jacksonville fans feared, especially after their 0-8 start last year. Besides some spurts, their offense is stagnant and lacks an adequate rushing attack. The offensive line is struggling to gel together in both run block and pass protection. Meanwhile, their investments on the defensive side of the ball have helped improve their run defense and pass rush, but the coverage is still taking time to develop. Another problem is that the defense cannot stay off the field with the offense’s lack of consistency and low time of possession. The defenses are getting worn down in the second half and opposing offenses are exploiting their fatigue. Alas, there is hope for Jaguar’s fans this year. That hope lies with QB Blake Bortles.
Back in July, I predicted the Jacksonville Jaguars would consider starting their 2014 1st round rookie QB Blake Bortles in week 12 against the Indianapolis Colts. With a 3-7 record (through week 10) their chances of reaching the playoffs is bleak at best, meaning they need to be looking toward a building block for the next season; hence enter Blake Bortles. With a bye week in place, he has an extra week to prepare for the Colts. However, my prediction was drastically wrong. The Jaguars have begun the Bortles Era in week 4 of the regular season (a lot sooner than most would have predicted). Down 30-0 against the Indianapolis Colts, the Jaguars opted to go with Bortles at the beginning of the 2nd half. Throughout the 2nd half you saw the different things he brings to the table versus Chad Henne. Henne went 4/7 for 33 yards while getting sacked 3 times. Bortles conversely went 14/24 for 233 yards, 2 TDs, 2 Interceptions, and only 1 sack. His mobility and ability to prolong the play was a positive, but his defensive reads were a negative at the end of the game. On his interceptions, he made 2 mistakes that are easily fixable; the first was a throw into double coverage that could have gone in another direction with a more favorable single coverage matchup. The second interception was a bad throw across his body which was taken back for a TD by Greg Toler. Clearly Blake has things he can improve on, but there is no turning back down to Chad Henne as their QB now.
As anyone would have expected, it was a tough go for the Blake Bortles’ debut on the road against the San Diego Chargers; a game in which they lost 33-14. Phillip Rivers carved up the defense with Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal, & Malcolm Floyd wearing out the defense midway thru the 3rd quarter. The Chargers defense was also very effective, resulting in 3 sacks and 2 interceptions as a direct outcome from constant pressure in Bortles’ face. With no run game and a shaky offensive line, Bortles didn’t stand a chance to really thrive in his first start. There are some positives to take away from this game; Blake Bortles looked good in his debut. He went 29 out of 37 for 253 yards, 1 TD and 2 Interceptions. One interception was on WR Cecil Shorts for not giving enough effort but besides the other interception he played a solid game and showed he wasn’t afraid to throw the ball. Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson continue to look good and effective once they get the ball in their hands and the tight ends seem to be more effective with Bortles in the lineup. The defenses lone high point included Paul Posluszny lead the linebacking core and front 4 in a stout run defense. The Chargers loss of both Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead aided the Jaguars to stifle the rushing attack of the Chargers led by former Indianapolis Colts’ RB Donald Brown.
Looking ahead toward the next 3 weeks, their next opponents are
The losing streak may continue against the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. The running game of Bell and Blount will control the time of possession and defensive guru Dick LeBeau will definitely dial up some pressure for the rookie. However the once proud steel curtain of the Pittsburgh Steelers has proven to have holes and can be vulnerable.
The game against the Tennessee Titans will be an interesting one. The Titans have been reeling lately, and appear to be taking a step in the wrong direction. While the defense has adjusted to the 3-4 scheme well, the Jake Locker led offense has been inconsistent. If the Jaguars find a run game by this time and protect Bortles enough for him to make a read, he could hurt the Titans on rollouts and short/medium routes downfield.
The home game against Cleveland will be the game of the 2014 top rookie QBs in Bortles and Johnny Manziel. While it is doubtful Manziel starts this game, the headlines of this game will be centered around Bortles vs. Manziel. This game may be a fun game to look into free sports betting picks with all the intrigue. Just as the Titans game goes, the key for the Jaguars to win games will be to control the clock and score TDs once they’re in the redzone and not settle for field goals. The Browns defense is middle of the pack and will provide the Jaguars with ample opportunities to score but the Jaguars offense must capitalize.
The next 3 games will be very telling into how the entire Jaguars team responds to Blake Bortles inserted into the starting lineup. The Jacksonville Jaguars have seen something in Bortles, handed him over the keys and are letting him drive the Jaguar (pun intended). Now the Jaguars must do everything they can to speed up the maturation process and protect their franchise. The Jacksonville Jaguars Future is now.