35 touchdowns and 4,428 passing yards -- sure as hell sounds elite, but let's not jump the gun.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles shined last season, clearly showing progress in development from his rookie season in 2014. At the end of the year, Bortles set franchise records in touchdown passes and passing yards, and proved to anyone who thought otherwise -- he is the Jaguars franchise QB.
Bortles production in 2015 did not go unnoticed, as he landed himself the 56th spot on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2015, as voted by his peers.
So, with all of this recognition and development in his game, you'd think Bortles doesn't need to do much to fine-tune his game, right?
I hate to be a downer, but no, Bortles still has work to do in order to become an elite QB.
Sure, 35 touchdowns certainly sounds elite. 4,428 passing yards is a Pro Bowl-tier stat. Adding in 310 rushing yards and an extra two rushing touchdowns only make Bortles look better. However, although Bortles stats were fantastic, Bortles shouldn't be considered elite -- yet.
In order for Blake to be an elite QB, the first thing he needs to do is repeat and expand on the positives in his game. Now, I'm not saying Bortles needs to toss 35+ touchdowns in 2016 to be successful, but anything over 25 should be considered a great number.
4,500+ passing yards should definitely be a goal for Bortles, as that isn't as unrealistic as throwing for 35+ touchdowns again.
Bortles only completed 58.6% of his passes last year, and that stat needs to go up to show improvement. Granted, Bortles is a risk taker down the field, which leads to more incompletions, but he needs to be smarter with the ball on short plays and find more check-downs on plays were the down-the-field option isn't the best option.
Oh, and let's not forget the touchdown to interception ratio. Last year, while Bortles threw for 35 touchdowns, he also threw 18 interceptions -- that's one interception for every 1.94 touchdowns. Those numbers needs to change dramatically, and it would be considered a huge progression if Bortles' TD:INT ratio hovered around 2.5:1 next year.
Bortles needs to also eliminate all dumb mistakes from his game. Interceptions like the one he threw directly to Josh Norman in week one against the Panthers last year can't happen from here on out. He needs to not make mistakes such as running over the line of scrimmage and passing the ball, as he did twice in the same game last year, or anything of the sort.
Seriously, things like this can't happen anymore:
I'm not here to crap on Bortles. This isn't supposed to be a negative piece. He is on the right track to becoming an elite QB. He is only steps away from being on a Ben Roethlisberger/Andrew Luck (well, 2014 Andrew Luck) kind of skill level, in my opinion -- he just needs to fine tune his game as he enters his third season.
If Blake can progress in his third season as well as he did in his second season, I have no doubt in my mind that the Pro Bowls will start to stack up, the wins will begin to roll in, and Blake Bortles will certainly be ranked higher than 56th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.