For the second time in as many preseason games, Blake Bortles was unimpressive. The fourth-year quarterback was 8-of-13 for 65 yards in a 12-8 home loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday. Bortles played four drives with the first-team offense, and the Jaguars punted each time.
Afterward, Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone said that the starting quarterback position is “up for grabs.”
Thus, Bortles, the third overall pick in 2014, could be playing himself out of a job. The 25-year-old has plenty of strengths, but he has plenty of weaknesses, too.
“Well, I think the one thing that has gotten better with Blake has been the work ethic and the amount of work he puts in,” former Jaguars defensive end and current Jaguars radio analyst Jeff Lageman said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Nobody ever questions (that). He’s durable, he’s dependable, he works hard, he has the ability to make plays when they become off schedule – he has good pocket presence. But there’s always been lingering concerns about the accuracy and his arm. Last year, he had a down year.”
In 2015, Bortles threw for 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. In 2016, he threw for 3,905 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
Jacksonville is 11-37 since drafting Bortles.
“As a quarterback in the National Football League, you just can’t win games when you turn the ball over,” Lageman said. “Very rarely am I critical to the point where I would say on a radio broadcast that I think somebody should be taken out. But last year, there reached a point where Blake Bortles was not performing very well, and I said that maybe he needs to take a step back and let this team put Chad Henne in or somebody else because he’s just not performing right now and he’s costing this team wins. They stuck with him.”
At the time, it seemed like a wise move. Marrone replaced Gus Bradley for the final two games of the season, and Bortles responded with back-to-back 300-yard, interception-free games against the Titans (38-17 win) and Colts (24-20 loss).
“Blake seemed to play better,” Lageman said. “He was efficient. He protected the ball in the last two games, so you had reason to believe a change-up in the dynamic of it would help him out. But we really haven’t seen that consistency and that consistent improvement throughout training camp, and thus, Doug Marrone said he’s looking for someone to lead this football team.”
That means that Chad Henne, who has played in just four games since 2013, could win the job.
“Does it mean that Blake Bortles is not the starter? I don’t interpret it as that,” Lageman said. “I interpret it as there is a minimal amount of time left before the season-opener and we need to find out who gives us the best chance to win, and over the next couple of weeks, it’s open. If Chad’s the guy, then Chad’s going to be the guy. If Blake shows that he can be the guy, then he will be the guy. So I don’t think it’s a benching of Blake Bortles so much as it is a challenge to both of them that somebody’s got to step up and take control of the helm.”
Jacksonville opens the season at Houston on Sept. 10. Kickoff against the Texans is slated for 1 p.m. ET.