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Jaguars vs. Saints: Blake Bortles shines in Week 1 preseason opener

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars “lost” to the New Orleans Saints in the preseason opener. I say “lost” in quotation marks because, like I said, it’s the preseason opener. Winning and losing in these games isn’t measured by the final score, but rather individual matchups, certain situations, and (largely) how the starters played against each other in their limited snaps.

Using those metrics, I think the Jaguars offense won — and no one was brighter than Blake Bortles on the opening drive when he carved up the Saints defense, going 6-for-9 (nice), including three third down conversions, and tacking on a beautifully called play action bootleg run to the right for a touchdown.

Just watching the game in real time, Bortles and the offense looked good. Going play by play there’s a lot to be encouraged about.

Let’s get to it.

Play #1: 1st and 10 at JAX 21

This is the play that the Jaguars ran to open games on offense in 2017Leonard Fournette up the middle for a short to medium gain. With Andrew Norwell held out as a precaution, the script doesn’t change. This team is going to run up the middle and they’re going to do it often no matter who is in at offensive line.

Play #2: 2nd and 2 at JAX 29

Here we have Blake Bortles’ first throw of the night and it’s an interesting formation — not one we see a lot on opening drives for the Jaguars.

Empty backfield, backup tight end James O’Shaughnessey is split out wide to the left, and it’s an easy gain with the defender giving O’Shaughnessey a ton of space.

But look at the next GIF. It’s a small, subtle thing — and I don’t know if this was designed or not — but Bortles looks off O’Shaughnessey and then throws to him two seconds later.

I’m tempted to say this is designed because Bortles starts his wind up at the exact moment he starts looking in O’Shaughnessey’s direction. If O’Shaughnessey were merely Bortles’ second or third read, you’d see a delay. This looks intentional and it’s a testament to how much more comfortable Bortles looks at this point in the preseason than he did last year.

Play #3: 1st and 10 at JAX 34

*cue Yakety Sax music*

It’s the preseason. These things happen. Both Bortles and Fournette have some miscommunication but it still goes for six yards. I’m almost glad this happened because if they hadn’t run into each other, Fournette might have taken it to the house — there are zero defenders on that side and Fournette can move when given open field. As it stands, we’re in for 12 more plays because of this gaffe.

Play #4: 2nd and 4 at JAX 40

Bortles’ second pass of the game is a deep shot to Dede Westbrook down the left sideline. As you’ll see later in the drive, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has some very specific tricks up his sleeve when it comes to using Westbrook — fly routes down the sideline being one of them.

Play #5: 3rd and 4 at JAX 40

This play right here is why Marqise Lee was given an extension. He will be invaluable this season when it comes to short third down conversions where you need a quick route and a stretch of the ball across the marker.

Play #6: 1st and 10 at JAX 45

I have no idea how Fournette even found three yards on this play, but it’s a testament to his ability to stay on his feet and drive through defenders — not to mention the offensive line’s penchant for playing through the whistle.

Play #7: 2nd and 7 at JAX 48

This is the first of three Donte Moncrief plays on this drive alone where he’s asked to start at the hash and run a route that gets him closer to the sideline. If he can continue to have good awareness of where the first down marker is and settle into a rhythm with these sorts of catches, it will go a long way towards setting up short second and third down attempts.

Play #8: 3rd and 1 at NO 46

It’s third and short in the middle of the field. You give Fournette the ball and rely on your fullback Tommy Bohanon to seal the edge enough to grab a few extra yards.

Play #9: 1st and 10 at NO 43

The second of two Moncrief passes this drive. Bortles is looking Moncrief the whole way and it’s an easy nine yards. Sets up a second-and-inches where Hackett has the entire playbook at his disposal.

Play #10: 2nd and 1 at NO 34

The second time the play is designed to go Westbrook’s way and I love, love, love this play design. Lee’s downfield blocking is not to go unnoticed here either.

Play #11: 1st and 10 at NO 22

If Bortles is just a hair quicker with the pass, I think this is Moncrief’s third catch of the drive. As it stands, I think Moncrief still has to be more aggressive and haul this in.

Play #12: 2nd and 10 at NO 22

Another lob down the right sideline, this time to Lee. This is a big vote of confidence from Hackett in his offense — it’s either touchdown or third-and-long.

Play #13: 3rd and 10 at NO 22

The play of the night for Bortles. Westbrook has his third and final play designed to go his way and it’s (again) different from the rest — a route over the middle out of the slot. He’s got tons of space and Bortles gets it to him despite getting drilled by a Saints lineman (and knowing he’s going to get drilled).

What a pass.

Play #14: 1st and GOAL at NO 6

This is a one cut and go run play but the offensive line can’t open the hole big enough to get Fournette in. He gets close, but a little bit more push and he gets it in for six.

Again, love the play design — three receivers to the right effectively taking five defenders out of the play. That gives the Jaguars six blockers on six defenders. Should have been a touchdown, but alas.

Play #15: 2nd and GOAL at NO 2

First, great drive design by Hackett — the Jaguars are notorious for running it up the middle with Fournette in these situations. Granted, Bortles is sometimes given the run-pass bootleg option off the playaction this close to the goal line, but this is a team built to run until the other team stops them in this situation. With a run the down before this, the defense was thinking run and caught off guard when Bortles faked the handoff.

After Rashad Greene went into motion, the Saints defense is confused on how to cover Lee and Greene — which Bortles exploits easily and perfectly by just running it into the near corner of the end zone.

Lastly, can we talk about Fournette raising his hands and pumping up the crowd. On the broadcast, Fred Taylor commented it was Fournette saying he wanted the ball and then on replay saying he was trying to fake out the defense.

From everything I’ve seen of Fournette off the field, I don’t think it was either. I genuinely think that at this moment he was excited his offense had driven down the field and was celebrating what he knew would be an easy touchdown for his quarterback.

His quarterback.

Our quarterback.