Who would have thought?
Not me, admittedly. I mean, I started doing college QB scouting reports in August, and have still been doing QB film work throughout the season. I’ll continue to do it, but that’s a topic for another day. I never thought we’d reach a time in our lives where Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles would not only be playing meaningful December football, but playing the best ball of his career during it.
Here we are.
Over the past two weeks, where the Jaguars have outscored the Indianapolis Colts and the Seattle Seahawks by a combined score of 60-34, Blake Bortles has been on fire. His 577 passing yards on a 70.5% completion rating, with four touchdowns and zero turnovers, let alone interceptions, composure and confidence have been a huge part of the Jaguars keys to success in the Week 13-14 stretch.
I’ve put together some film myself, as well as with the help of fellow writer Laurie Fitzpatrick, to go over just how well Bortles has played during the Jaguars two-game win streak — Let’s get to it.
This is very obviously an easy pass to complete and I feel like we shouldn't have to credit a QB for completing it, but one of Bortles’ biggest improvements even over this two week stretch has been his release. Well-timed ball to Westbrook in the flats here for chunk yardage. Westbrook was given plenty of time to turn and run as well, which is another positive note on Bortles’ end.
In this old fashioned, under center offense the Jaguars have been running, Bortles has found rhythm on play-action roll outs. This ball was put right where it needed to be near the sidelines to Marqise Lee, and what made it even more special was how Bortles seamlessly threw it off his back foot without ever setting his feet. He made it look easy.
Placement has been an issue for Bortles throughout his entire career until this stretch. Not only was he getting the ball to his WRs, but in the right places and at the right times. This ball gets to Marqise Lee while he’s in stride (even though he did leave his feet to catch it) where he had plenty of space and time to continue across the field without taking a head-shot from the enclosing safety. Another thing that the average QB wouldn’t necessarily be credited for, but Bortles deserves it at this point.
The quick release... the timing... the placement... everything about this back-corner touchdown pass to Keelan Cole (his first career TD) is beautiful.
Another play action roll-out here, but Bortles looks to ditch his first read in Ben Koyack in the flats and finds Dede Westbrook at the absolute last second before Westbrook’s lane is eliminated. Westbrook is able to grab the well-placed toss and turn up field. These kinds of plays are Bortles’ best chance at moving down the field, because he’s so comfortable making these on-the-run throws.
Unlike other games throughout the year, Bortles really hasn’t made any of those “why would you throw that?” passes in Weeks 13-14. However, this play caught my eye when I was going over the film. If Bortles caught Westbrook separating on his route break near the 25 yard line, this becomes a three touchdown game (31-10) with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. Sure, the team gained yards on the check-down to Fournette, but these are the types of routes Westbrook will always win.
This ball is dropped into a small zone of the field where Keelan Cole nearly had his head blown off by the Cover 3 free safety, but in terms of accuracy, Bortles dropped this 30 air-yard ball right where it needed to be for it to be completed. Anything short is intercepted by the cornerback, anything left is out of bounds and right is intercepted by the free safety, and anything long is incomplete (but perhaps draws a pass interference on the enclosing safety). Dime.
Below is a video from Laurie with multiple plays that I didn’t highlight personally, but still display the steps Bortles’ took against the Colts:
Blake doing his thing last weekend. He can do it without a run game except it does certainly help.. this will only work against the Colts though, we need the PA back. OL and 27 needs to get healthy pic.twitter.com/76gXZ2EsS5— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) December 9, 2017
Now, on to Seattle, where we start with a play action dart on a cross to a tightly covered Marqise Lee. Another throw where we can talk placement: The only player with any chance of catching this ball was Lee, and that he did. The ball was a tight spiral that traveled quickly to it’s target, and once again hit Lee in-stride. Bortles and Lee have truly begun to click on short/mid level throws.
This ball was actually slightly underthrown but miraculously hit Dede Westbrook in the end zone (his first career TD) while he still maintained solid separation from surrounding defenders. Can’t complain.
This GIF was sped up due to the amount of frames it took to record (75 yard plays require a lot of frames). I remember my first reaction to this throw was “That was the best throw of Blake Bortles’ career”, and I believe I still stand by that. The timing and placement to lead Cole, and that this ball dropped perfectly into his hands without ever losing a step of speed, all en-route to “answering” the Seahawks tying the game up on a Russell Wilson touchdown just a kickoff and extra point beforehand — Incredible.
The simple passes into space like these give us a look into Bortles’ new-found composure from the pocket. In the past, Bortles’ has tried to squeeze balls to receivers when they are in positions where an easy hit is possible, thus risking an injury. That’s far from the case here, as Blake masters timing to give his receivers field to work with.
This last highlight is one I’ve seen argued as one of Bortles’ career-best passes as well, and I can understand where that comes from. If you haven’t realized by now, Bortles has learned how to place a football where it needs to be. Again, no one can catch this ball other than Dede Westbrook, and catch the ball he did for a very quick, yet deep, gain if 20 yards.
I’m still a fan of drafting a quarterback early on, and likely even in the first round, regardless of how Bortles finishes this season for the matter of inconsistency over Bortles’ four year career. If Bortles continues to shine, even with this backup plan in house, then the Jaguars are Super Bowl contenders and the pick didn’t matter. If he can’t keep it up, you have another option.
However, credit must be given where it is due. Over the past two weeks, Bortles’ has not only looked like an improved quarterback...
He’s looked like a star.