Jaguars OC: Trust in Bortles key in opening offense

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) walks to the locker room following minicamp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Facility on June 14.Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports (file photo)

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Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett admitted that he’s seen significant differences in quarterback Blake Bortles during the last three seasons.

Hackett told that Bortles was willing to check down to running backs as opposed to force the ball to wide receiver Allen Robinson. The safer approach worked best for Bortles, in the eyes of Hackett.

“We’re in a great situation, because a very good line, and we have very good running backs, which will allow us to run the ball,” Hackett said. “Now it’s going to allow us to be a lot more aggressive, because you can trust that Blake is going to make right decision more consistently.”

Bortles admitted last week that he feels he more comfortable in the offense.

“When we started last year, it was kind of an elementary level, in terms of ‘I’m hearing the play, I’m thinking about the footwork I have to take, the identification, trying to remember what routes guys are running and all that,’ ” Bortles told the Orlando Sentinel.

“Now, I think I’m kind of owning the offense and having a better understanding of it. Obviously, it is a continuous study and a continuous grind to continue to master it and stay on top of it, but I definitely feel more comfortable with it.”

Bortles signed a three-year, $54 million contract in February, one month after helping the upstart team advance to the AFC Championship Game.

The 26-year-old Bortles connected on 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,687 yards and 21 touchdowns with a career-low 13 interceptions during the regular season.

The Jaguars won the AFC South with a 10-6 record and then defeated the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs before losing a 24-20 battle with the New England Patriots that kept them from going to the Super Bowl. Jacksonville had not been to the playoffs since the 2007 season.

Bortles finished the postseason with a 57.6 percent completion percentage for 594 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He added 121 yards rushing on 17 carries.

Going into the 2017 season, Bortles appeared to be fighting for his job. The third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft had struggled, leading the NFL in turnovers with 63 from 2014-16.