(Blake Bortles cover photo courtesy of the Jacksonville Jaguars)
Talk of Fame Network
OK, so it’s Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles talking, and he's not exactly a non-partisan observer. But it’s the Blake Bortles who last year set single-season franchise records for touchdown passes, completions and yards passing and who's one of the most promising young passers in the NFL.
So he has credibility, and he deserves to be heard.
And what he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast is that the Jaguars club that is 19- 61 the past five years, never finishing higher than third in its division, is locked and loaded for a move to the top. And we’re not just talking the AFC South.
We’re talking the playoffs, a place Jacksonville hasn’t been since 2007.
“I think (we’re) very close,” said Bortles. “I think we’re right there. One of the big things is finding out how to win games. We were in a ton of games -- all of them, if not for one or two, late in the game and couldn’t pull it out. So finding ways to win (is critical).
“It’s hard to win in the NFL week in and week out. So (it’s all about) finding out ways to overcome adversity and win those tough games ... and make the crucial one or two plays late in games that usually decide them. I think figuring that out, learning how to not lose and learning how to win games (is what will determine what happens).”
In Bortles, Jacksonville has a quarterback who threw a touchdown pass the first 15 games of 2015, a Jaguars’ record, and whose passer rating dipped below 80 in only five games. What’s more, only one quarterback (Tom Brady) had more touchdown passes in 2015. So color that position strong.
In Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson it has two receivers who are so productive each had more than 1,000 yards in catches in 2015 and combined for 24 touchdowns – with Robinson’s 14 tying for the league lead. Robinson also had the league's longest reception of 90 yards. Color that position strong, too.
Now the Jags have added a running game in Chris Ivory, who ranked fifth in the NFL last season with 1,070 yards -- one of only seven backs to break 1,000. With Ivory and T.J. Yeldon in the same backfield, the rushing attack that last year ranked 27th should get a boost, which means … yep, which means the Jags could be ... we said could be ... pushing north.
Of critical importance, of course, is shoring up a defense that allowed more points in 2015 than everyone but New Orleans, and Bortles can help out there – by cutting down on his turnovers. He’s had 35 interceptions his first two seasons, including 18 a year ago.
“Half the interceptions last year were on decision making, and half were on accuracy," he said. "So continuing to harp on the decision-making and knowing the offense schematically (will help). And then, obviously, continuing to work on the physical part of it, making the throws and kind of developing the chemistry with all our wide receivers on having a good feeling of where they're going be so we can be on the same page so we can eliminate those turnovers.”