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Friday, 6 February 2015

Jacksonville Jaguars: Everything Starts With Blake Bortles

The Jacksonville Jaguars have set a course for the 2015 season with one thing in mind – to make Blake Bortles a better quarterback.

Team owner Shad Khan, general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley all signed off on the hiring of new position coaches and coordinators on the offensive side of the ball with the idea that improving the offense in all aspects of the game can only help the team’s second year star. Even though the newcomers to the staff – offensive coordinator Greg Olson, offensive line/assistant head coach Doug Marrone, quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett and running backs coach Kelly Skipper – have only been on the job a little over a week, the mindset of each of them, along with the returning staff is to keep Blake Bortles in mind with everything the team does in the offseason leading up to the first regular season game.

"At this level of football, you have to start with the quarterback in mind, especially when it’s a young guy," Olson said in a story on by Michael DiRocco. "Knowing the expectations of where this kid was taken and the expectation level and the talent level, if everything we do is not with Blake Bortles’ development in mind, then we’re selling the franchise short and we’re selling the team short.

"First and foremost it’ll start around Blake and again, at this level, that’s normally how it is. You’re going to build it around the quarterback first because it’s a quarterback-driven league."

Olson is going to use the work he did with fellow 2014 rookie quarterback Derrick Carr in Oakland to help Bortles with improving his game. Although the Raiders finished with an identical 3-13 record to the Jaguars, Carr showed he could move and offense even in his rookie year. The Fresno State star threw for 3,200 yards and 21 touchdowns – number the Jaguars want to see and more of from Bortles in 2015.

If the Jaguars wanted to know more about how Olson worked in Oakland the progress that was made over the course of the season with Carr, they had to look no further than the quarterback for a ringing endorsement.

DiRocco points out that Carr recently told the Florida Times-Union that Olson was tremendous in teaching him protections and how to avoid hits. The Jaguars gave up a franchise-record and league-worst 71 sacks and Bortles, who threw for 2,908 yards and 11 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, was sacked 55 times.

"There’s a lot of things that go into that -- it’s not just on the quarterback," Olson said. "But I think any time, in my experiences in coaching that position, the first thing you start with is them understanding protections and understanding that part of the football game. Especially at this level, you have to understand where the free hitters are coming from, how to change protections so that you’re not having free hitters on the quarterback.”

With Marrone working to stabilize the offensive line and Skipper working with a running backs unit that made get another addition or two in free agency or the Draft, the Jaguars will remain one of the younger teams in the league, but that should not be an excuse for lack of success.

Fixing Bortles’ issues with his footwork, cleaning up his throwing motion, giving him a fuller understanding of protections and speeding up his decision-making process will naturally make the offense better. It certainly can’t get much worse. The Jaguars haven’t averaged more than 16 points per game since 2010 and have scored just 15.5 points per game during the past four seasons. They finished 31st in total offense, 21st in rushing and 31st in passing in 2014.


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