JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles simply had one of the best season of his profession in his fourth 12 months in the NFL. He made marked enchancment in his first full season beneath offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, finishing greater than 60 p.c of his passes for the primary time and slicing down his turnovers.
Was it a turning level for the third general choose in the 2014 draft, a signal that he’s poised to make vital strides in 2018 in his fifth season with the Jaguars (or elsewhere)? Or was it a fluctuation in what has been an up-and-down profession for Bortles?
That’s what Jaguars soccer czar Tom Coughlin, normal supervisor Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone should determine in the subsequent a number of weeks. If they imagine it’s the latter, then it might be time to maneuver on and discover one other quarterback — whether or not which means pursuing Kirk Cousins or different choices, corresponding to Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater.
Bortles has accomplished 59.1 p.c of his passes for 14,928 yards and 90 touchdowns with 64 interceptions and an 80.eight passer score in 62 profession video games. If the Jaguars need proof that a quarterback can enhance considerably after his first 4 seasons, they want solely to have a look at a number of the sport’s present quarterbacks and take into account their numbers by their first 62 video games.
Alex Smith, who will likely be traded to Washington when the 2018 league 12 months begins, is the participant to whom Hackett has in contrast Bortles essentially the most. Smith accomplished 57.9 p.c of his passes, threw 61 landing passes and 55 interceptions and had a 75.2 score in his first 62 video games.
Bortles has extra passing yards and landing passes and a higher quarterback score than Smith did at this level in his profession.
In his 89 video games after that, nonetheless, Smith has thrown 122 landing passes with solely 41 interceptions and accomplished greater than 60 p.c of his passes in every season. He was the NFL’s prime-rated passer in 2017, and his profession passer score is now 87.four.
Part of that is because of the truth that Smith was on some a lot better groups later in his profession than he was at the start. After having 4 offensive coordinators in his first 4 seasons, Smith flourished beneath head coach Andy Reid in Kansas City and benefited from a stout run sport and a good protection.
In different phrases, the group’s whole success didn’t depend on Smith alone. Few quarterbacks can deal with that sort of stress. Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are just about it, however Bortles’ numbers surprisingly examine favorably to these 4 gamers by the primary 62 video games of their careers, as properly.
Bortles has extra passing yards than Brady (13,687), Brees (13,zero62) and Roethlisberger (12,620) did, and their landing numbers are comparable: Brady had 95, adopted by Roethlisberger (91), Bortles (90) and Brees (83).
Rodgers, nonetheless, is the usual-bearer. There are 20 present beginning quarterbacks who’ve performed greater than 62 video games, and Rodgers leads the listing in completion share and passer score by their first 62 video games, and is second in landing passes and has the fewest interceptions.
This doesn’t imply Bortles mechanically will turn out to be one of many league’s prime quarterbacks. But, because the numbers present, his manufacturing by his first 62 video games compares favorably with a number of the league’s prime QBs. With some stability — if he stays, he’ll have the identical offensive coordinator for a second season for simply the second time in his profession — and the acquisition of extra weapons at receiver and tight finish, he’s set as much as make strides as he did in 2017.
That’s what the Jaguars want: an improve.