It’s Now or Never for Blake Bortles

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An elite quarterback lifts their team in times of adversity. The Jacksonville Jaguars have waited since 2014 for Blake Bortles to prove he has the drive and ability to ascend to that category. After a 12-8 loss to the Jameis Winston-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers, post-game remarks by new coach Doug Marrone opened up the quarterback competition once again. The wait may be over, and not in a good way for Bortles.

After four series paying off with nothing but punts and a chorus of boos, Bortles watched from the sidelines as veteran Chad Henne completed 8 passes for 44 yards with the first team. By contrast, Jameis Winston completed 21 of 29 passes for 196 yards in leading Tampa Bay to victory. No matter the questions surrounding Winston’s personal conduct before being drafted by the Bucs, he’s progressed consistently through his first two seasons. Bortles failed to do the same in four.

The real show came in the second half as quarterback Brandon Allen scored the Jaguar’s lone touchdown passing for 144 yards. It remains to be seen how Allen, who hasn’t seen consistent action since his days at Arkansas, would perform week after week in a real NFL game. It’s doubtful that Allen would take over the starting spot barring injury from Henne or Bortles.

When the Jaguars took Bortles third in the 2014 draft, it was with the hope that the Jaguars would finally have something more than an at-best competent quarterback, something the team has lacked since the days of Mark Brunell. Unless a team builds the type of monster defense that teams like the Ravens and the Buccaneers constructed in their paths to Super Bowl victory, a trip to the postseason is unlikely. The quarterback needs to be the difference-maker between a win or a loss. This year the Jaguars went out of their way to draft a lineup to both support Bortles and provide him with no excuses for another poor year.

If Chad Henne receives the start in 2017 over Blake Bortles, it’s hard to see a path forward for Bortles as a Jaguar. It’s unlikely that Henne will suddenly blossom into the superstar the Jaguars hoped Bortles would be as Henne has done little to separate his performance from Bortles’. What Henne doesn’t have, which works to his advantage, is the potential of costing the Jaguars $19 million dollars if he gets injured, a risk they face if Bortles gets turned the wrong way on the field.

Bortles once again faces a week of questions about his mettle as a starter and a leader as the Jaguars prepare for the Carolina Panthers in their next preseason game. It may be that Bortles shows off what he needs so that he’s the one facing off against Cam Newton during the first half. Or he could make it clear that it’s time for the Jaguars to look to the future, one without Blake Bortles.

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