The Jacksonville Jaguars have benched their starters in their Week 3 preseason matchup against the Detroit Lions, and with the starting offense off the field, it's time to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on the fact that...
THIS OFFENSE LOOKS SO MUCH BETTER THAN LAST YEAR.
Let's just get this out of the way right now: Jacksonville converted 83.3% of their third downs tonight. There's not a single game last year where the third down conversion rate was even close to that.
And when you look at the time of possession, for the 36:28 that Bortles was out there, the Jaguars held the ball for 24:12 of it, as compared to the Lions, who had it for just 12:16. Now, some of that was due to the explosive offense that the Lions have, and mistakes in our secondary, but much of that is due to the fact that Bortles & Co. converted all but two of their third downs.
On the first drive of the game, the offense, led by Blake Bortles who went 6-for-8 for 72 yards, sustained a 15-play, 82-yard drive that lasted just under eight minutes and ended in a wide open touchdown for Allen Hurns.
Allen Hurns was only a little wide open on that Blake Bortles touchdown. https://t.co/o6rrDIay7c— Big Cat Country (@BigCatCountry) August 29, 2015
On the second drive, rookie running back T.J. Yeldon scored his first NFL touchdown, but it was again Bortles who led the charge -- going 2-for-3 for 25 yards.
T.J. YELDON TOUCHDOWN! http://t.co/a5FKb7UEPO— Big Cat Country (@BigCatCountry) August 29, 2015
The third drive would have ended with a field goal, but because it's the preseason they went for it on fourth down and didn't convert. Bortles again commanded the offense with 7-for-10 passing for 75 yards.
The fourth drive (and final drive of the first half) started with just 35 seconds on the clock and only allowed Bortles four passes -- but he still completed three of them for 41 yards.
After halftime, on Bortles' last drive of his night, the second-year passer was no different. The running game was a little better, so he only went 2-for-4 for 32 yards. He wisely threw a third down attempt away (of which he notoriously did not do that last year) and the Jaguars came away with a field goal and a 17-13 lead before he was benched for backup Chad Henne. Funny enough, that throwaway was one of my favorite plays of the game. Bortles would have tried to force something into the end zone last year, potentially giving away the ball. This time he threw it into the stands and kept the points.
All in all, Bortles finished his night 20-for-29, 245 passing yards, 38 rushing yards, one passing touchdown, and having led a Jaguars offense that went 10-for-12 on third downs.
The other pieces were good too. The offensive line protected well, despite some very ugly pressures. The receivers didn't make the kinds of mistakes (and drops) that plagued them through the first two games. The running backs didn't do much, but then again, the game plan was very obviously about Bortles and the passing game.
But despite other players doing well around him, it was obvious this was Bortles' offense. He didn't just play well. He elevated the players around him. A good quarterback covers a multitude of mistakes, so we didn't notice a lackluster running game, or an offensive line that let a few pressures come their way.
Be encouraged, Jaguars fans. Blake Bortles looked every bit the part of a franchise quarterback tonight.