Jaguars’ Super Bowl hopes looking up but still rest with Bortles

The best word to describe Blake Bortles is inconsistent.

Bortles can be both good and bad in the same series, quarter and game.

Yet the Jacksonville Jaguars passer was consistent in one stat in his final two preseason games — quarterback rating.

Bortles had a rating of just 64.4 in both games against the Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons. How rare is it for a QB to have the same shaky rating two games in a row? The Jaguars are looking for him to do better in the regular season. His career rating is 80.8, and he was at 84.7 last year.

Bortles also had three picks in the last two games that dragged his rating down (and make him the only NFL quarterback with three interceptions this month), but it is still the exhibition season.

Yet Bortles also led a touchdown drive against both teams, just as he did in the opener against the New Orleans Saints in his lone series to fit his inconsistent narrative.

The showing against the Falcons was the one-year anniversary of his benching in the third preseason game for Chad Henne.

When Henne failed to take advantage of the opportunity, Bortles got the starting job almost by default — then surprised everyone by helping the Jaguars get to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl.

Yet there were some bumpy moments along the way, like the three-interception game against the San Francisco 49ers and the shaky showing in the playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, although the defense pulled out the victory that day.

He even threw two interceptions in the final two minutes against the Los Angeles Chargers but still got the victory with help from the defense.

And the loss to New England in the AFC title game was a microcosm of his season.

He got off to a good start, but his delay-of-game penalty killed a Jaguars drive late in the first half and gave the Patriots time to score a touchdown before halftime.

The Jaguars got the ball back with 55 seconds left and two timeouts before halftime, time to try to drive for at least a field goal.

But coach Doug Marrone pulled the plug and told Bortles to take a knee. Doug Pederson, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning coach, said he would have never done that in his new book, “Fearless.’’

The message was that Marrone didn’t want to risk an interception. And in the fourth period the Jaguars had the ball four times on first down with the lead and got stuffed all four times while trying to run on first down. And they got just one first down on those four drives with Bortles throwing on second and third downs.

But the Jaguars still signed him to a three-year, $54 million team friendly deal, even though he could have done better by signing the fifth-year option and betting on himself to get a long-term deal next year or the franchise tag.

Bortles got rave reviews in training camp and the preseason, but then he reverted to his inconsistent ways the last two games.

The main problem may be that even Bortles has said he is a not a “natural thrower of the football.’’

He has gotten a lot of training over the years to correct his mistakes but seems to revert at times. And then sometimes he is the victim of tipped passes, like the first one against the Falcons.

He also lost wide receiver Marquis Lee for the season, but the Jaguars passing game tends to feature screens or short passes.

Still, the Jaguars are betting their Super Bowl bid on him. There is no Plan B.

The Tom CoughlinDave Caldwell-Marrone management trio has been in place the last two years and has made no attempt to find a quarterback of the future or even a short-term replacement. They will go into the season with Cody Kessler as the backup, but he only plays if Bortles is hurt and Bortles has proved durable.

But Bortles still did show improvement last year, and the Jaguars are counting on him to continue to improve even though he enters the upcoming season facing the same questions of whether he is the long-term answer that he faced in the past.

He is so entrenched in the job that at Marrone’s Monday press conference after the Atlanta game, he wasn’t asked a single question about Bortles.

The rest of the team is in place with a strong defense, a rugged running game with a new two-back alignment and excellent special teams.

Now the rest is up to Bortles.

For better or worse, he will be their quarterback in 2018.

The Jaguars can only hope it is for the better overall as they wonder whether the good Bortles or the bad Bortles will show up each week.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: