News about on field progress about Jacksonville Jaguars players at this point in the offseason is few and far between. The biggest question mark obviously is the progress of quarterback Blake Bortles, who has spent a lot of time in California working with quarterback guru Tom House, like he did prior to the 2015 season, but outside of a short video clip of him throwing the football we don't really know how anything has gone.
We sort of got some information on Bortles' progress thanks to Jaguars VP of football operations Tom Coughlin on Tuesday afternoon when he stopped by Midday Chalk on 1010XL and was asked about the quarterback.
"He's progressing. He's worked very hard in the offseason. He's done a nice job with some of the fundamentals, not all of them are where you'd want them to be," Coughlin said when asked about what Bortles has done so far. "So, he continues to work on that. All of this is a big part of this accuracy thing that we talk about."
Personally, I think Bortles mechanics and throwing motion are an issue, but they're also a bit of a red herring when it comes to his poor play during the 2016 season. Bortles' mechanics being bad weren't the main issue, but they were an issue. Improving Bortles mechanics will help improve his accuracy overall, which is a major issue for the Jaguars offense, though.
"Right now it's routes on air, most of the time everything looks pretty good right there, but there's no bullets flying just yet," Coughlin continued. "That will be part of the progression, to build the confidence, to let him realize as I told him, he's got to steer the rudder."
Essentially, they're hoping that Bortles can manage the game, utilize what they've brought in and not turn the ball over.
"You know we're going to have some weapons there for him and hopefully that's what Leonard (Fournette) can do, (Chris) Ivory and (T.J.) Yeldon can give us that kind of a ground game that we can control the ball that way. Maybe keep our defense on the sideline, but be able to utilize the clock, play the clock a little bit better, all of those factors," Coughlin added.
What Coughlin mentions here isn't much different from the assumption that most fans and media have had about the Jaguars plan with Bortles headed into the 2017 season. It's not necessarily that the Jaguars are "all in" with Bortles so much as it's more likely the team felt their best overall course of action was to add as much around him as possible and see if he can, as Coughlin put it, just "steer the rudder". He doesn't need to be the truck pulling the offense, he can be the trailer, along for the ride and trying not to blow out a tire when the road gets rough.
A lot of fans, including myself, have pointed to the final two games of the 2016 season as an example of what is likely to be asked of Bortles. In the final two games Bortles posted a completion percentage of 68.4 and 64.1 percent, respectively, along with quarterback ratings of 103.5 and 96.2 respectively, two of his three highest rated games on the season. Bortles threw two touchdowns combined, no interceptions and had a yards per attempt over 7.5 in both games and the team went 1-1, losing the final game in the fourth quarter.
Ideally, that's how the team is going to want Bortles to play, but he's going to have to absolutely cut down the turnovers. Even in those two games where Bortles threw no interceptions, he fumbled the ball three times, turning it over twice in the game against the Indianapolis Colts that the Jaguars ultimately lost, squandering a 17-3 halftime lead.
It's going to be a dangerous game playing close to the vest, because if that's the kind of game you're going to be playing, you absolutely cannot turn the ball over. It's like what the Jaguars did under Jack Del Rio with David Garrard for a few seasons. The team ran the ball with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, played solid defense, and just asked Garrard to manage the game and not turn it over. The issues always came though, when the team had to ask the quarterback to do more than just that and when the team turned it over. By trying to minimize potential mistakes, you exacerbate the mistakes that do occur and they're more backbreaking than usual.
More than anything else, Bortles is going to have to steer the rudder away from the icebergs.