The Jacksonville Jaguars have benched Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler is now the starter — the 17th different quarterback to start a game under center for this team who has been in search of The Man since their inception.
Steve Beuerlein was the first one to be given a shot, Mark Brunell and David Garrard came close to the mark, and Blake Bortles showed flashes, but none of them were truly franchise quarterbacks in the sense that they were era defining players. They were fine and serviceable, bringing this team to the Super Bowl’s doorstep three times in 23 seasons, but they never quite got over that hump.
Kessler is likely not that guy. I don’t think anyone in Jacksonville has the expectation he’s that guy. That’s not what you expect out of a guy you traded a Day 3 pick for nine months ago. But with five games to go and a big question mark at quarterback this offseason, Kessler can play his way into a bridge role for next season. That’s a best case scenario.
The worst case scenario is that he’s even worse than Bortles and we have to go back to Blake before the season ends.
Personally, my hope and expectation is that Kessler can run this offense competently enough to give the Jaguars confidence to draft a quarterback in the first round. Through the preseason, he didn’t look to have too high a ceiling but he didn’t have too low a floor either — able to extend drives with third down throws, not turn the ball over, and lean on his offensive line and running game. And when he was thrown into a Week 7 matchup against the Houston Texans, he didn’t look that bad, completing 70 percent of his passes. He’s a dink-and-dunk guy, getting just 5.2 yards per attempt and the pass protection failed him as he took four sacks, but the play calling dictated that whomever was under center would be throwing nearly every down.
With a week of preparation, I expect Kessler to improve that yards per attempt number, to cut down on the sacks, and keep his completion percentage above 60 percent. I don’t necessarily expect a win this week — Andrew Luck throwing against a secondary that’s missing Jalen Ramsey will probably be tough to watch — but I do expect Kessler to read the field better and allow the offense to throw the ball when needed.
As far as the rest of the season, I expect Kessler to keep the starting quarterback job into the offseason and (as I said) give the Jaguars reason enough to cut and run with Blake’s disastrous contract. He’ll be a fine enough backup that they won’t need to spend $21 million on one.
What do you think? What are your expectations for Kessler over the final five games? Let us know in the comments below!