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Letting Blake Bortles operate outside of the pocket

Blake Bortles found a lot of his success outside of the pocket last season. In 2015, how much of Greg Olson's new offense rely on Bortles rolling out?

Blake Bortles, as we know, is a big, mobile quarterback. Of course, Bortles’ game will continue to adapt and conform, riding on his newly-industrialized throwing mechanics and a grounded NFL offensive scheme under a brand new offensive coordinator.

But as the second-year QB absorbs further into his role in the young Jaguars offense, he’ll always carry that portable element within his game. No one is going to try and rewrite Blake Bortles' DNA.

And there's no doubt that Bortles’ legs are a tool. New Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson has spoken openly about his desire to create an offense that plays to his QB's strengths. Blake’s confident (downright fearless) ability to sling the ball while running for his life has been on full display since the 2014 preseason.

Blake's natural ability to throw on the run and create with his feet are traits that carried him through college. Last season, these traits helped Bortles create some of the Jags' most exciting plays of the year, even while some other components of Blake's game weren't as pretty. When the pocket broke down - which happened a few times last season - Bortles revealed his natural instinct to step up, through, and out of the pocket. The play below is a prime example.

Bortles holds his ground in the pocket, but his first reads aren't there. Blake sees an out, and, as he did many times last season, acts without hesitation.

Escaping to the outside, Bortles now finds his options clearly laid out in front of him. Blake now has the ability to move the defense with his legs rather than his eyes. There's no overthinking and there are fewer opportunities to make mistakes. This is undoubtably the situation where Bortles plays his best football. In the play above, he tucks the ball and ends up picking up the first down with his feet.

The Jaguars, of course, aren’t going to put a leash on Bortles' mobile tendencies. Last season, many designed QB rollout plays helped Blake move away from the action and create opportunities. Even as local media, coaches, and players continue to hype up Bortles' refined throwing mechanics this offseason, there isn't a doubt in my mind that a large portion of the 2015 offense will rely on getting Blake outside and letting him run free.

The goal last season was to get Blake away from the pressure he was facing on a play-to-play basis. Below you'll find an example of Bortles’ typical pocket in 2014.

A pocket like this will push any QB into making mistakes. Bortles maintains his poise and actually hits Marcedes Lewis here for 17 yards, but you can grasp from the still shot just how tough of a throw this is – especially for a rookie QB.

Below, however, is an example of Bortles rolling out to throw.

Bortles plays at his highest level in situations like this. The defense shadows the QB, the receivers fight for position, and Bortles is able to hit either a WR that is dropped by the defense or a WR fighting back towards the ball. In the play above, the defense shifts and Bortles hits Cecil Shorts for 30+ yards. As the Jaguars offense sputtered last season, plays like these spread the field and helped set a steady pace.

Rollouts typically start with a play-action element. Last season, the Jaguars ran a lot of pistol PA rollouts, as seen below.

All of the action is going to drift to the left. Bortles, of course, will roll out away from the pressure to the right.

The play is moving one way, Bortles is running the other way. It's a simple concept that saved Bortles from overthinking and allowed him to play freely. It's fast, it's fun, and it's how you get the best out of a QB like Blake.

And it's not going anywhere.

In the past, Greg Olson hasn't just applied QB rollouts into his offenses - he has depended on them. Olson has worked with several mobile quarterbacks over the course of his long career, uncovering ways to make the most out of their legs. Josh Freeman and Terrelle Pryor are the best examples, but Olson was also able to squeeze production out of rookie Derek Carr last season by getting him out of the pocket and giving him a more open field to throw into.

Of course, there are many moving parts within an offense that create the ability to roll the QB out effectively. Last season, the Jaguars had limited success moving the ball on offense at all, making it difficult at times to call rollouts and other plays that break up a drive and spread the defense.

This season, the Jaguars are fielding a more complete offense. Versatility is an attribute that hasn't been linked to offenses of Jaguars past, but this year, Greg Olson has a few options to play with.

2 and 3 TE sets should open up the passing attack. Being able to establish a running game before week 7 this season would do wonders for a young QB looking to get off the ground. And, of course, playing effectively behind an O-line with another year of experience will set up opportunities to move Bortles out of the pocket.

If all goes according to plan, the Jags' offense in 2015 won't depend on Bortles' ability to create with his feet. But this skill will be a useful tool and a major component nonetheless. Gifting Bortles a chance to run free and play without thinking gives Bortles an opportunity to be great.