By: James Johnson
As we all know, August 3 was the official kickoff to the NFL preseason starting off with the Hall of Fame game. The Jacksonville Jaguars however, took the field this past Friday night at Everbank Field against one of their in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With anticipation high, the Jags answered the call taking the victory over the Bucs with a score of 10-16 as their defense showed great improvement from where they were a year ago…But make no mistake about it, the fans number one priority was to see the man that Dave Caldwell pulled the trigger on in the first round of this years draft to be the teams future franchise QB…. And that mans name is Blake Bortles, who had a rather impressive night in his first NFL game. Below we’ll take a look at his highlights of the night and break down the things he did well and the things he’ll need to improve on in the future.
Now before we actually look at any of the plays Bortles was in lets take a look at his stats first. He was put in the the game at roughly 10 minutes into the the 2nd quarter all the way up to the first offensive series in the 3rd quarter which ended with about 4 minutes to spare in that quarter. In a nutshell, that was good for 27 snaps (at least that’s how many I counted). As we all know by now, based on all the highlights on TV he completed 7 of his 11 passes which all totaled up for 117 yards. I could argue that three of his incomplete passes all were catchable as Mike Brown dropped two, and Chad Bumphis dropped one but they are incompletions nonetheless. That said, lets get into some of his highlights on the night.
The first play below is the first attempted pass of Bortles career and his second official play from scrimmage. He displays good mechanics here, steps into the throw, and launches a nice ball (in terms of arm strength) to Kerry Taylor. Problem is he stared Taylor down throughout his dropback, as he has it in his mind to throw it to Taylor coming out of a hitch route. Generally this is a high percentage pass when done correctly being that hitch routes are kind of hard to pick off without interference, and that’s exactly what happened in this case. The defender had to run through Taylor causing a penalty, but he read Bortles’ eyes and the play correctly. Not that it’s anything major, but I would’ve like to see Bortles look away from Taylor despite knowing where he wanted to go with the ball because in today’s league it’s quite possible that a starting caliber corner would’ve made a play off this simply by reading his eyes like Tampa’s defender did here. Yet and still this was a positive play and one that in the end resulted in an automatic first down.
Here is the actual play in live motion.
The next play we’ll take a look at is Bortles’ first completion which occurred two plays later from the one above. I’m sure most of you have seen the highlights of this one, but I wanted to give you all a little more insight on some of the things that happened here. Below is a presnap screencap of the formation and the routes ran. Again, the play isn’t anything too complicated as this is a basic I-Formation with a WR lined up tight. The Bucs aren’t doing anything to complicated either, as it appears to be a cover 2 look (Lovie Smith’s bread and butter defense) once the ball is snapped. The WR lined up tight to the very bottom of the screen as we all know (or at least Jags fans know) is undrafted rookie free agent Allen Hurns, who has been a diamond in the rough for the team since camp. At the top of the screen is 3rd year veteran Mike Brown. Hurns runs what I call a deep inverted hitch (I don’t know the NFL terminology for the route) and sits in the hole of the coverage in the middle of the field, while Brown a inverted post to the outside.
Bortles extends for a rather solid play-action fake to Johnson and in the process the OLB is pretty sold that this is a run. He then goes to blow up his gap and takes on the fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou. The MLB is also sold as he takes multiple false steps forward to the line of scrimmage. A combination of the Jags trying to establish the run and Bortles selling the fake both can be accountable for misplacing the Bucs LBs core here.
After realizing he’s been sucked into the play action fake, the MLB tries to get back into his zone but Hurns is long gone. Again Bortles showcases proper mechanics and steps into this throw after slipping a bit after his dropback.
The ball is then delivered right into Hurns who had the smarts to stop and sit right in front of the safety and behind the LBs that Bortles sucked in with the play action fake. This is also good on Bortles part being that he showcases the ability to throw in between multiple defenders. As a result, the Jags come away with a 24-yard gain delivered right into the heart of the defense. A very simple yet impressive play by the two rookies as they link up and showcase good fundamentals here.
Here is a look at the play in real time.
Once again we get a similar I-Formation set in the next offensive series. The only difference this time is Mike Brown is now at the bottom of the screen as the flanker. He motions in tight pre-snap while Hurns is now the split-end (aka the receiver that has a side of the field to himself ). Hurns runs a skinny post while Brown runs a short hitch. Marcel Jensen is the TE lined up in 3-point stance to the bottom of the screen. He runs a post to the outside.
Unlike in the first play of this breakdown, Bortles does a good job of not keying in on the receiver who he’s going to throw to (Hurns, who is on the opposite side of the formation).
He then opens up his body to the opposite side for a second read of the field and finds the man who caught his first completion in Hurns.
Once again, Bortles hits Hurns while throwing between 4 defenders (1 of which I forgot to circle) as he did the last time. Also, if you look closely he threw it low. Mark Brunell pointed this out while commentating the game. I however, don’t think it was a low ball by accident as Bortles threw it that way to protect Hurns from getting nailed by the surrounding defenders. All around good stuff from the rookies as the link up again for a gain of 19.
Below is a gif of the play in real time.
Mike Browns Drops
I didn’t catch the game during it’s live showing, however I was looking at my Twitter timeline as the game was being played and one player people felt had a bad game was Mike Brown as he dropped two easy passes from Bortles. Below we’ll take a look at both of those plays and explain what went wrong in both. For the first drop I’d like for you all to first look at it on replay via the gif below.
Upon first glance at this play I thought it was simply a drop that fell on Mike Brown. I still believe it was a catchable ball that should not have been dropped but the closer I looked, the more I felt he wasn’t solely the one to blame on this play as Bortles did something wrong too. Below is a screencap of the play before it was snapped, and basically what we have here is a pistol look with a twins set to the bottom of the screen (Hurns at the very bottom, and Brown in the slot). Kerry Taylor (who I want you all to pay close attention to) is lined up tight at the split-end WR position by himself and runs an inverted post to the middle of the field. Brown runs a post to the outside in the slot, while Hurns runs a short hitch.
Bortles begins this play with a fake to the RB Storm Johnson then rolls out to the right on a bootleg. I missed this somehow the first couple of times I watched the play but notice that Taylor (the WR at the top of the screen) is beginning to break out for daylight.
Bortles again tries to fit the ball between 3 defenders (one not shown behind Brown) to Mike Brown, as we just saw previously, up until now he’s been able to hit the holes in the Bucs defense well, but this time the ball is a bit late. If you go back and watch this play on the Jags mic’d up session you’ll hear him admit he was late on the pass too. That in mind, I feel that in this case where the receiver is in a position to make a tough catch in which he could potentially get nailed for, the ball should at least be thrown on time, and if it’s not… it’s a pass that needs to be avoided. Also worth noting, is the receiver who I told you all to pay attention to earlier in this play in Kerry Taylor who is open in the middle of the field. Though it appears that Mike Brown is the primary option here, it also looks to me that this play is one with an alternative / 2nd read. I’m also aware that the throw to Taylor would be a difficult one where Bortles would have to throw across his body possibly, but I could argue that it would’ve been less difficult than squeezing a late throw in between three defenders. Again, I’ll be the first to say that Brown should have caught this ball being that it hit him square in the hands, but I’ll also vouch that this play could have been a potential turnover being that the ball got to Brown late. In my opinion this throw and drop falls on the both of them. I believe this is the type of throw where you have to likely get it there on time or not attempt it at all and improvise.
A few plays later Brown drops yet another pass off a post to the other sideline. This one however doesn’t really need an explanation. It simply should have been caught in my opinion.
So the last play we’re going to look at above is the last big completion by Bortles to Brown. Once again what you have here is a basic I-Formation with a twins set to the right. In this situation Brown is in the slot is lined up against a LB who he shouldn’t have trouble beating. He does just that as he runs a skinny post behind LB and in front of the safety (aka one of the holes in a cover 2 look). Again, Brown is put in a vulnerable position between three defenders where Bortles has to throw in between them. As I also mentioned the concept isn’t worth the throw being that Brown could likely get tagged… that is, if the throw isn’t on time… This time it is by Bortles as he makes another strike to the middle of the defense making this difficult catch all the more worth it for Brown. The Jags get roughly a 30 yard gain as a result.
Here is that play in real time.
Overall, as most felt, I too was impressed with Bortles’ first showing. Yeah sure, as I pointed out he made some mistakes (and it’s likely more that I missed), but as I also said in my scouting report about him, it doesn’t appear as if he has any flaws that can’t be fixed. As for the big question as to if the team should start him or not week 1, I personally would, but I can see why the Jags wouldn’t want to just yet. Albert Breer from NFL Network put it best by saying that it’s not so much that Henne is better than Bortles, but he believes the coaches want to get him right mechanically before he hit’s the field. Bortles himself admitted himself in an sideline interview during the game that his footwork needs to be cleaned up and he’s starting to realize it. Earlier in this post I also pointed out the statement he made about his timing. Gus Bradley, who was impressed with Bortles’ play on the field seems to also still want to take it slow with his young QB as he pointed out that Bortles forgot one of the play calls Friday. On the flip side Bradley still praised him as he also mentioned that Bortles audibled into another play in which the Jags got a nice gain out of.
One things for sure, and that’s the fact that Bortles will have plenty of opportunities to improve in the next three weeks and gain some ground on Henne. Though it’s been reported he won’t see first team reps just yet heading into the Chicago game, he’ll get more than enough snaps to evaluate going into the regular season.
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