Outside of the Branden Albert story, the other big news from the weekend of rookie mini-camp in talking to Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone was that Blake Bortles looked much improved. The team is in Phase 2 of the offseason workout program, which means they're on the football field doing some things, such as throwing the football, but it's not really practice practice just yet. Those will occur in a few weeks in organized team activities and mandatory workouts.
"I think improved, there's no doubt about it," Marrone said when asked if he could see improvement from the quarterback during Phase 2 workouts. "There are certain things that I think you guys are able to go see there, as far as his elbow and his arm, it's much improved. I think there are a lot of things we're still working on, along with everyone else at this stage. We're trying to build it up so when we get into the OTAs - it's like anything else, he will, as anybody else will, benefit more if we're throwing 100 footballs to 150; if we throw 150, he'll be better."
I don't mean to throw a wet blanket on the news that Bortles looks improved right now, but the fact of the matter is if the news was anything else it would be concerning. The fact that Bortles looks improved at this point is good news indeed, but it should also be expected news and should mean he is on track. He spent much of the offseason back in California learning with Tom House again, like he did prior to the 2015 season, and according to those who have seen it his mechanics look that much better.
As Marrone mentioned, repetition is going to be key for Bortles rebuilding his throwing mechanics so it gets drilled into his muscle memory. It's likely he's going to regress some when he's in the pocket with pressure on in a game situation where he can actually be hit, but the more he throws now the more it will be natural to him in the future and Marrone knows that.
"If we throw 200, he'll be better. If we throw 250, he'll be better. You see what I'm saying," Marrone continued. "What we're doing now is trying to build him up and build the arm strength and all the other things, along with all of our quarterbacks to get there. The more he throws, the better we'll be."
Marrone indicated that Bortles is already throwing more compared to past offseason programs, which is a good sign.
"In a full cycle for a full year, it will probably be close to 1,025 or 980," Marrone said when asked if Bortles was going to throw more than usual. "Those are the two numbers that are going through my mind right now. That's when we looked at it and self-scouted. More throws in a full cycle. So to answer your question, in all of the phases, there's more, yes."
Many have wondered why the Jaguars haven't signed a fourth quarterback even for a camp arm at this point, but now it's pretty clear why they haven't. Through their self-scouting the came to the conclusion that part of why Bortles mechanics regressed as they did was simply he didn't throw enough. He didn't drill that motion into his body and mind enough to where it was second nature.
This is something Bortles is likely going to have to work on every offseason of his NFL career, but having a head coach who can actually recognize the issue and be proactive about it can go a long way, especially if it pays off come September.
So while the news that Bortles looks improved is good on the surface, when you get down to it, it's expected. The real good news is that the Jaguars identified an issue, changed and addressed it. That's something we haven't seen from the Jaguars in oh... a decade?