Blake Bortles said he started games slow in 2015 and he said he believes taking what the defense was giving him and completing more passes in his first few series would help a young offense convert more third downs and stay on the field longer.
And the Jaguars need all the help they can get in extending drives. They were near the bottom of the league when it came to third down conversions drives last season, going just 72-for-205. That's good for just 35.1% and better than only six teams in the league. And it showed in their lack of possession... just 27:31 per game, fifth-worst in the NFL.
A big reason why was an imbalance on offense. Bortles was asked to throw on 146 of those 205 third downs, a 71.2% burden that only Ryan Tannehill (79.5%), Drew Brees (77.5%), Eli Manning (75.5%), Matt Ryan (74.4%), Philip Rivers (74.4%), Derek Carr (74.0%), Jameis Winston (73.7%), Kirk Cousins (73.6%), and Matt Stafford (71.4%) shouldered more of.
In short, Bortles' volume in 2015 was just too much. His 37.9 passing attempts per game was good for sixth-highest in the league while the Jaguars' 22.1 rushing attempts per game was second-lowest in the league.
When asked about his completion percentage on Monday, Bortles said he thinks that starting games faster and smarter -- specifically completing more passes in his first few throws -- can help. That makes sense... complete more passes, get in better positions for third downs, convert those third downs, and extend drives.
"Me specifically, it became normal to start slow every game, like start 1 for 10 or 2 for 7 or whatever it was," Bortles said. "So I think coming out, taking what the defense gives you within our game plan and what we’re trying to do and kind of plan for completions."
But when you look at Bortles' first 10 passes of each game last year, completing passes wasn't the most glaring problem.
Bortles' first 10 passes per game in 2015
|vs. CAR||5||10||54||0||7:54||3-3||Q2 - 13:02|
|vs. MIA||8||10||123||1||11:17||10-3||Q1 - 0:02|
|at NE||5||10||56||0||10:41||3-10||Q2 - 13:00|
|at IND||8||10||126||1||9:56||13-10||Q2 - 4:54|
|at TB||7||10||87||1||11:17||14-20||Q2 - 1:35|
|vs HOU||5||10||64||0||6:48||0-7||Q2 - 11:36|
|vs BUF||5||10||79||1||9:15||27-3||Q2 - 8:25|
|at NYJ||5||10||63||0||10:42||3-14||Q2 - 5:17|
|at BAL||5||10||40||1||9:42||7-7||Q2 - 10:17|
|vs TEN||6||10||57||0||7:22||3-6||Q2 - 10:13|
|vs SD||7||10||102||0||6:12||3-0||Q1 - 6:33|
|at TEN||5||10||60||1||7:38||6-14||Q2 - 8:40|
|vs IND||4||10||39||0||8:41||3-6||Q2 - 9:19|
|vs ATL||6||10||72||0||8:42||0-7||Q2 - 14:14|
|at NO||5||10||33||0||8:44||0-24||Q2 - 2:50|
|at HOU||4||10||58||0||11:15||3-17||Q2 - 5:29|
In all, Bortles threw under 50% just twice last season through his first 10 passes -- in a blowout win against the Indianapolis Colts and in a blowout loss against the Houston Texans. So what's the problem?
The problem is that Bortles did to a fault what he said he needs to do in 2016. He only took what the defense was giving him, averaging just 6.95 yards per attempt in the first 10 throws of games.
And look at the time of possession. During Bortles' first 10 passes, the Jaguars offense was out-possessed in every game except against the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, and Atlanta Falcons.
What's actually needed by Bortles isn't more completions, it's more yards. But Bortles isn't really even the issue here. Sure, he went 90-for-160 in his first 10 passes last year, a subpar 56.2% completion percentage.
When you're down by at least one, two, or even three scores after just your first 10 attempts (as Bortles was in 10 of his games last year) you're not worrying about finding a groove on attempts 11 through 20. You're trying to get your team back in the game.
And as I said before, the running game needs to pick up some of this slack. The fact that they were called on for just 59 third down conversions last year (about 3.5 per game, or less than once a quarter) tells me offensive coordinator trusted his running backs and offensive line about as far as he could throw them.
Bortles is a franchise quarterback. He's going to put the burden of winning on his shoulders. But he needs help. Let's hope Chris Ivory, Kelvin Beachum, and Mackenzy Bernadeau are enough.