If you look at Blake Bortles’ game-by-game stats this year, one thing is readily apparent: he got better as the season went along.
Take away Bortles’ four-touchdown game in London in Week 3, and you’ve got a quarterback who threw for just eight touchdowns and eight interceptions through Week 12. Over the last four weeks, however, Bortles has been markedly better. He has nine touchdowns, three interceptions, and three 300-yard games – this after recording just one 300-yard game in his first 11 games of the season.
So yeah, Bortles has improved. But how? How did Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone reach Bortles and get him to play better?
“That’s a great question because it did not look they had fixed him in the preseason,” Jaguars analyst Tony Boselli said on The DA Show. “Everyone forgets he got benched in the third preseason game for Chad Henne. I mean, it was bad.”
Yes, it was. But give Bortles credit. His 11 interceptions are a career-low – and a welcome sight for the Jags. Bortles averaged 17 picks over his first three seasons.
“Give him credit,” Boselli said. “The mental fortitude he had – he did a lot of work in the offseason on his own. Some thought that work was taking some time to be ingrained and he just needed the reps. But give both (offensive coordinator) Nathaniel Hackett and Doug Marrone a lot of credit. Doug, he said, ‘Listen, we’re taking all the pressure off Blake. We’re going to play great defense and run the ball.’ And that’s what they did early. That allowed Blake to kind of work his way into the season.”
Rookie running back Leonard Fournette ran for 596 yards and six touchdowns through his first six NFL games. That allowed Bortles to find his footing – literally.
“Nathaniel Hackett has been on him and has worked tirelessly with the footwork and the fundamentals,” Boselli said. “Blake has been very, very diligent and has put a lot of time in on his own to make sure those fundamentals are good. And I think you’re seeing the payoff.”
The Jags (10-5), who won the AFC South, are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Boselli believes they’re a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
“This is a team that can beat anybody in the playoffs and could end up in Minneapolis,” Boselli said. “It would be a little bit of a surprise, but they’re that talented defensively and the run game can be that good. But it’s also a team that could be done in one week and lose the first game. The margin for winning is pretty small with the way they play.”