It’s often said that Blake Bortles is holding this Jacksonville Jaguars team back. Perhaps that is true, as I do believe better quarterback play would solidify this team as a playoff contender. But Bortles remains the guy in Jacksonville. And he has shown flashes of his potential this year against the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.
The real question I want to answer is if Bortles has improved from last year. He may not be there yet, but is he making strides?
The best way I can see to do that is to compare Bortles’ performance this year against the first seven games of last year. I think it’s safe to say that the team around him is better overall than what he had last season, but without Allen Robinson his wide receivers have struggled a bit.
So, let’s have some fun, and just compare a few areas of interest in Blake’s game.
High Level Statistics
2017: 115-196, 58.7 percent completion rate, 1,398 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs, 7.1 yards per attempt, 85.4 quarterback rating
2016: 174-290, 60 percent completion rate, 1,904 yards, 12 TDs, 9 INTs, 6.6 yards per attempt, 80.1 quarterback rating
Two things stick out here. First, the Jaguars (as expected this season) have tried to take the ball out of Bortles’ hands as he has thrown nearly 100 less passes from this time last year. The other thing is that it looks like Bortles has thrown less interceptions, but he is throwing them at the same rate as last season as a whole (about 2.6 percent). Though, it is ever-so-slightly lower through seven games. With that said, he has a higher rating and is averaging more yards per attempt with arguably less-talented receivers.
Left side: 0-14 yards: 59-85, 550 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 87 rating
15 yards or more: 4-17, 109 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 14 rating
Middle: 0-14 yards: 46-76, 485 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INT, 89 rating
15 yards or more: 11-30, 958 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 50 rating
Right: 0-14 yards: 54-81, 494 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 98 rating
15 yards or more: 5-12, 114 yards, 1 TDs, 1 INT, 69 rating
Left side: 0-14 yards: 36-56, 288 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 70 rating
15 yards or more: 4-16, 121 yards, O TDs, O INTs, 59 rating
Middle: 0-14 yards: 31-45, 367 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 92 rating
15 yards or more: 6-10, 161 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 98 rating
Right: 0-14 yards: 36-60, 410 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs, 106 rating
15 yards or more: 2-5, 51 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 65 rating
As most right-handed quarterbacks do, Blake struggles when throwing to his deep left. He has brought his rating up significantly from last season on those throws, however, but it still has not been very good.
Through seven games this year versus seven games last year, Bortles has brought his rating up on deep passes to the left and middle and on shorter passes to the middle and right. His rating on passes to the deep right is slightly down, while passes to the short left side of the field had a big drop this year. Bortles has also been much more efficient on throws to the deep middle in 2017.
Using the Passer Rating Table tool on Sharp Football Stats, let’s see what Bortles has done in the red zone.
2016: 22-42, 52 percent completion rating, 128 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 78.2 rating
Successful play rate: 40 percent
NFL Rank (based on rating): 22nd
2017: 12-24, 50 percent completion rating, 84 yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs, 97.9 rating
Successful play rate: 44 percent
NFL Rank (based on rating): 13th
Successful play rate essentially means the frequency at which a play generates the required amount of yardage based on down and distance to be looked at as “successful.” So, gaining eight yards on first-and-10 and “staying ahead of the chains” would be looked at as successful.
Bortles has always been deadly in the red zone. Last year, he finished with 19 touchdowns to just two picks from 20 yards or less away from pay dirt. Through seven games this year, he’s doing it at an even more efficient rate. He has a higher success rate, a better quarterback rating and is actually averaging slightly more yards per attempt (not that that matters much in the red zone, but a good sign).
He’s on pace to finish with a 16:0 touchdown versus interception ratio here.
Switching gears to Football Outsiders advanced analytics, let’s take a look at some metrics here.
DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average)
Per Football Outsiders, this metric looks at “value, per play, over an average quarterback in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player's performance.”
I’m not able to select independent weeks here, so I am looking at so far in 2017 versus all of 2016 for Football Outsiders metrics. However, I just wanted to make note of these analytics and include them.
2016: -10.0 percent
2017: +3.8 percent
DYAR (Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement)
FO: “This metric gives the value of the quarterback's performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.”
So, Bortles has improved in both DVOA and DYAR through the first (almost) half of the 2017 season compared to the 2016 season. He’s still not doing particularly well, but he’s moved more toward the middle of the pack as opposed to the bottom tier.
Bortles has just kind of been there. He’s had some great games, he had some poor games and he’s had some “meh” games. I think the alarming thing is that he is still throwing interceptions at the same rate as last year, but the less attempts, help. I love what I am seeing in the red zone, though, and I like that his metrics are improving ever-so-slightly.
Based on all of this information, what are your thoughts on Bortles’ 2017 performance? Is it better, worse or the same as you expected it to be? Can the Jaguars make or even win a playoff game with him at the helm?