The Runner Sports

Is It Make Or Break For Blake Bortles?

Blake-Bortles4

Through two preseason games, the amount of speculation and inflation surrounding Blake Bortles could easily sustain my living for this month. All I have to do is hop on the train; there’s enough Kool-Aid there to keep even the thirstiest temperaments hydrated.

Remember that so-called “smart strategy” employed by the Jaguars the second they drafted Blake? You know, the one involving Bortles’ ass on a bench while his brain soaks up Chad Henne’s tasteless nutrition like some first round sponge. The veneration surrounding that strategy has been ditched by the media in favor of the “play him now, he’ll develop as he goes” strategy. Like anyone could have seen this 180-degree turn in stance coming.

And you know what, I don’t disagree with either of those two.

Sit the kid, start the kid – I’m not sure there is an exact science to approaching this puzzle. And you’d think that there would be, you know, with that whole Jaguars learning their lesson after throwing Blaine Gabbert to the wolves thing during Gabby’s dreadful 2011 rookie season. That might just be how Jags offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch interprets the situation, stating earlier this week that the fan base has been through enough with Gabbert and shouldn’t be subjected to another fiasco like that.

But the idea that the Bortles era could turn out anything like Gabbert’s is just a mistaken notion. Bortles is different; he comes with his own set of imperfections and brings all of his mannerisms to a completely different situation. I’ve talked about it previously. I’d like to think that Gus Bradley, and even Fisch, fully comprehend this concept. You see, Fisch and Bradley enjoy smarter football minds than you and I, and they will always implement their best plan for the future of the Jacksonville franchise.

And that just puts us back to where we’ve started – what is best for this franchise? I can guarantee you that at this point in the preseason, Bradley has yet to figure out that answer.

Through training camp and two preseason games, the only thing that has become clear to me is that GM Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley have, up to this point, let this QB scenario play out perfectly. Chad Henne is the starter, and Blake Bortles is the backup. Slowly, Bradley has implemented Bortles into the first team offense, giving Blake time to adjust to the speed of the game and an opportunity to really take on the pressure of handling a starting offense in the upcoming 3rd preseason game against Detroit. It’s a process undergone by all rookies, in fact – playing time with the 1’s to be better acclimated with real game speed. Regardless, it allows Blake Bortles an open door to step through. He will either outperform Chad Henne on Friday and demand a look for the starting job, or sink back into his backup role after the hype train is derailed by a 1st team defense. Either way, Bradley will have to make no decision. Bortles’ performance during the next two weeks will make that choice for him.

At the very least, to win a starting role, Bortles will have to play to the level he has achieved against 2nd and 3rd stringers, but this time against a 1st string defense that demands more respect. Throughout this process, Chad Henne will be Chad Henne. Isn’t that just a beautiful thing? We know what to anticipate from Chad, but Bortles still holds the capability to astonish us even further. Blake has physical tools at his disposal that Chad doesn’t possess, and these tools will have to be on full display against the Lions this Friday.

Most attractive to me about Blake is his arm strength. Chad Henne’s arm strength is actually better than most give him credit for, however, I think Blake is just a different breed. Keep in mind, arm strength is not how hard or far a QB can throw the ball. Arm strength is technique, controlling the velocity and precision of the ball even while moving in lateral directions. Bortles’ knack of placing the ball while on the run shows off his superior arm strength, an area where he holds an undeniable advantage over Henne.

Remember this play? There isn’t much to remember about this play, besides the fact that if Bortles’ didn’t contort his body and slow down the velocity of the throw he would have ended up looking like this.

That is 2nd round pick Derek Carr, making my point for me. It wasn’t all Carrs fault, however, a better placed pass would have yielded a much more desirable result. Plays like this add up over the course of a game, or a season, and making pro decisions with simple dump-offs like these is the area where a prospect like Blake Bortles will outshine almost anyone else from his 2014 QB class.

What most impresses me is that Bortles’ little dump off came right after he zipped a dart down the middle of the field to Allen Hurns. Blake’s awareness and capability to slow his big arm down here doesn’t make him elite, and it doesn’t make him better than Chad check-down Henne. But it shows progress being made; pro-like traits that will only enhance the argument for Blake to start.

Meanwhile, an illustration of Bortles’ ability to throw darts on the run can be found here.

I could analyze this play, beating the idea into your head that screams “Blake is big and has a big arm and makes big throws” but my argument here is much more elementary: Chad Henne couldn’t have made that throw.

This isn’t me declaring a pro-Bortles stance. This is me stating something that should be obvious. There are still plenty of reasons for veteran Chad Henne to start over rookie Blake Bortles this season. It’s just really hard to see those reasons when Blake is already surpassing every expectation that was set for him.

For now, I’m staying out of it. I will not be in favor of starting or sitting Blake. I will wait for the decision, whether the blueprint unfolds according to plan or a whole new plan is conceived.

And I will remain patient, until Bortles outplays Henne on Friday. Then I’ll be right back here, this time chugging Kool-Aid with everyone else.

Author: Cole Hartley

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