I'm not giving up on Blake Bortles yet. There are many Jacksonville Jaguars fans are ready to move on from the often maligned quarterback, but I tend to think this is the year he puts it all together.
After the team announced they would pick up his fifth-year option, with the understanding that he must we play well or the team may move on, everything points in the right direction for the offense this season.
Jacksonville now has a bell cow running back in Leonard Fournette. The wide receiver corps is still solid with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee. The offensive line could be better with Cam Robinson playing left tackle.
And above everything else, a new head coach with a new philosophy and a different culture on the field and in the locker room will do wonders to help the third pick in the 2014 NFL draft mature.
While Bortles cannot be blamed for everything that went wrong last year with the offense, he does have to take his share of responsibility. Erratic throws, bad reads, and interceptions that were unwarranted contributed to a lackluster season. The fact that it came off a year in 2015 where he threw for 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns accentuates the disappointment.
Can the Jaguars' quarterback be considered a potential breakout star? Surely he can.
Bortles needs to learn the word consistency. Possibly grit as well, since executive vice president Tom Coughlin has preached it this offseason. He sure found consistency in the final two games of the season last year, coincidentally which were the two games that new head coach Doug Marrone auditioned as interim leader of the team. It was the difference between night and day. If Jacksonville can get 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions from No. 5, and anywhere from 7 to 9 wins this season, consider 2017 a major success.
The reason why I'm not giving up on Bortles is simple. He has had three offensive coordinators since he came into the NFL. The plan was for this team to "get better" where there was never a true emphasis on winning and losing. And most of all, this organization did not require him to put in the effort needed be a top-flight quarterbacks in the league.
It may sound like excuses, but in order for him to progress, which will lead to the team progressing, this organization must teach him the discipline of a winner. Bortles doesn't have to be the leader of this team, but he must leave them on the field.
As a local Sports radio talk show host suggested this past Monday, he has to be more Alex Smith then Aaron Rodgers.
If Bortles can put in the mental preparation that is needed this summer, and show that he is a better practice player, the changes will take place on the field. The coaching staff is there to push him. His teammates will encourage him. And most of all, the fan base won't settle for anything less.
In his fourth year, this is the time for Bortles to produce. He either proves that he is the quarterback of the team’s future - one that can take the Jaguars to the playoffs, or next year this organization will start all over again.
For Bortles, it's sink or swim time. The Jacksonville Jaguars can't float in a deep ocean and expect to make the playoffs. And Bortles, no matter how much I believe this will be a breakout year, cannot experience the same difficulties that allowed him to regress last season.