In 2014, Blake Bortles stole the lion’s share of spotlight in the preseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He also stole our hearts.
BLAKE https://t.co/qXgTi49llu— Cole Hartley (@ColeFartley) June 30, 2015
This season, the scenario is a tad different. Blake Bortles approaches training camp as an undisputed, substantiated starter.
Last season, even if it was relatively nominal, there was an ambiguity that hovered over the quarterback position throughout training camp. Dave Caldwell and the Jaguars waited about three minutes after Bortles was drafted to declare Chad Henne the 2014 starting quarterback, but the overwhelming hype that stalked the third overall pick was enough to sustain the farfetched idea that Blake might steal the job in preseason.
This season, the focus still remains on the quarterback position, but has been displaced far from any sort of camp battle. Blake Bortles is the starter, and the attention now resides within the amount of progress Blake can make in a shiny new offense.
So how much on-field game time does Blake’s second-year situation call for in the preseason?
Perhaps not as much as you might think. Unlike last year when starting practice reps were shared as Bortles was brought up to NFL speed, Blake will absorb all of the starting practice snaps in 2015 training camp. The goal isn’t necessarily to bring Blake along slowly anymore. The objective, above all, is to make it to Week 1 with a healthy, proficient offense.
This offensive proficiency will rest on the shoulders of a new offensive installation. Many people believe that Blake’s understanding of Greg Olson’s new offense hinges on repetitive game scenario preseason reps, but realistically, this just isn’t the case.
Blake’s personal installation into the new offense will unfold naturally during team practices. Training camp practices will bring the offense up to speed, and preseason games will help sort through some conceptual aspects of the new system.
However, the overall goal is arriving at Everbank Field to face the Carolina Panthers during Week 1 in wholesome, organized fashion.
It is this reason that Blake Bortles will play his preseason snaps like any starting NFL quarterback. Don’t expect to see Blake receive a larger chunk of preseason time because of a new system, or because he struggled last season. The second-year quarterback will absorb his opportunities in team practice and prepare to play 16 games of meaningful football during the regular season.
Risk of injury is not necessarily a big restraint on Bortles’ preseason minutes, either, but it will play an natural role in the Jaguars' distribution of minutes among quarterbacks. Players like tight end Julius Thomas will be used sparingly throughout the preseason in similar fashion with the same goal in mind – make it to the regular season.
Much like last season, we will see Blake in preseason action, and each one of us will be analyzing the young QB’s game for flashes of franchise potential and improvement.
Unlike last season, Blake’s preseason action will be mostly assigned to starting personnel groups with a limited allocation of minutes. This is the way it will and should be, new offensive installation or not.
Still, Bortles’ preseason time will be very telling of his progression as the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback. Now that Blake is the established starter, the attention surrounding him only increases -- even if his portion of half-speed preseason minutes diminishes.