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Can Blake Bortles make the throws we want him to?

Blake Bortles displayed an impressive ability to thrive in several situations during his rookie season. Blake's efficiency from the pocket, however, is still an unknown.

Last Wednesday, I wrote about Blake Bortles’ knack for playing on the move and his utility within designed QB rollout sets. The Jaguars recycled rollouts in their offensive scheme last season to transport Blake away from pressure and into a position to expand the field with his feet.

The last thing the Jaguars would ever want, however, is for playing on the run to become a crutch for their second-year QB to lean on.

Bortles played his best football on the move last season. This is undeniable. When Blake was given an opportunity to play freely, his authority over the defense shifted. Suddenly, Bortles had the ability to move the defense with his legs rather than his eyes. The offense flowed parallel to the rookie QB, and passing lanes developed right in front of him.

I have no doubt that Greg Olson’s new Jaguars offense will embrace the QB rollout in it's several forms this season.

There comes a time in every single game, however, that a team needs their quarterback to stand tall in the pocket and make a throw. To move the chains and visit the redzone, your franchise QB has to be able to complete NFL throws in NFL situations.

This inescapable concept has swathed the debate over Blake Bortles’ franchise player potential since Blake's name was read off 3rd overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The debate hasn’t tapered over time, either. Bortles’ evolution as a pocket passer remains a storyline until is isn’t, changing forms with each offseason report concerning Blake’s upgraded footwork or industrialized mechanics. I think that QB mechanics, frankly, are overrated and over-dignified. But even this opinion oversimplifies the bigger question at hand.

Can Bortles make the throws we want him to?

On several occasions last season, Blake threw a pass that pointed to a happier future – one where there’s no debate over Blake’s ability to make every throw, or questions about why his balls wobble so much in the air. My favorite Bortles play of 2014, in fact, is the perfect depiction of the franchise QB the Jaguars need Blake to be moving forward.

Here’s the play, full speed, in all of it’s glory.

Now let’s break this beauty down.

Notice the routes above. The situation is 3rd and 8. Funny enough, the play prior to this one happened to be a designed QB rollout. Blake Bortles sprinted out right and hit Clay Harbor on 2nd and 11 for a 3-yard pickup. Now, on 3rd down approaching midfield, the Jaguars need Blake to stand tall in the pocket and deliver a pass.

Blake's reads are in the order below:

Blake's first look is Cecil Shorts on a slant route across the field. This was a one-look throw for Blake during much of last season. In this play, however, the corner places himself in position under the route. Allen Robinson on the left-side go route is Bortles' second read, but the Browns' safety climbs overtop and kills this option quickly and quietly. TE Clay Harbor gets followed out to the flat, leaving Bortles with one more option - dropping a dime over a covered Marqise Lee.

And boy, does he ever.

The cornerback is in great position, but Bortles drops the ball right in the bread basket and the Jaguars acquire a fresh set of downs.

My favorite thing about this particular play is that you can see Bortles advancing through each of his reads in the pocket. My second favorite thing about this play is that the O-line provided their QB with the time it takes to run through these reads. Take a look at the endzone angle below:

As Bortles scans the field for an open route, his head bounces from each read to the next. Blake remains calm and collected as the O-line barricades the initial pass rush.

Here's a view of the pocket when Blake steps up to throw:

Pressure finally starts to leak in from the left side as Bortles winds up. Still, Blake plants and delivers a dazzling over-shoulder sideline ball to a covered receiver.

Want to see it in full speed again?

I'll admit, the throw was a bit of a fastball. Blake's delivery wasn't always the most attractive thing on the field last season, and it definitely wasn't on this play. But Blake planted and delivered, and that's about all you can ask for. Everything else falls under those over-dignified mechanics, right?

If Bortles can make more plays in 2015 that resemble my favorite play from 2014, I'm not sure how long those throwing mechanics will continue to be a topic. Likewise, Blake's ability to "throw his receivers open" or "make every throw" will cease to be a narrative if Blake finds a way to put block these plays together on a consistent basis.

Of course, there's a long way to go and quite a while before we have the opportunity to see second-year QB Blake Bortles in action. There's a complete offensive installation taking place and much more progress to be made.

But after rookie season flashes, it's not unreasonable to expect Blake to take a step as a pocket passer in 2015.