“Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” This is a powerful quote from the recent worldwide phenomenon The Hunger Games. Hope is something that all NFL teams possess at this point in the season. No team should be afraid of what the season holds because every team is undefeated and has the same chance to make it to the Super Bowl. Hope is also an emotion that could be used to describe the feeling of a few NFL fan bases. This hope resides in the fact that these teams have recently acquired a new playmaker that will potentially around their favorite team’s fortunes.
In Cleveland, Browns fans are hoping that Jonny Manziel will step up and lead them to the playoffs. In Houston, Texans fans are hoping that Superman Jadeveon Clowney will wreak havoc in opposing backfields for years to come. Finally, we have the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jacksonville is one of the most obscure franchises in the NFL. The Jaguars are the only professional sports team in the city and have only been a franchise for twenty seasons. In fact, Jacksonville is the fourth smallest NFL city based on population in the surrounding metropolitan area. They have never appeared in the Super Bowl and, quite frankly, have been the worst franchise in the league over the past few seasons. However, similar to the other franchises mentioned above, the Jaguars have hope. Hope’s name is Blake Bortles.
Jacksonville selected Bortles with the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He grew up two hours south of Jacksonville in the town of Oviedo, Florida and played college football for the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. Ever since draft day, Jaguars fans have been hoping that Bortles is the answer to the numerous qustions marks surrounding the Jaguars’ offense.
Jaguars’ general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley have maintained from draft night that Bortles will not be rushed into the starting role. Jacksonville re-signed veteran QB Chad Henne in the offseason, and the coaching staff is adamant that he will be the Week 1 starter. However, after his performance last night against the Detroit Lions, Bortles is proving that he deserves a chance to lead this franchise into the future.
Bortles completed 10 of 17 passes for 158 yards and 1 TD in four series with the first team offense. His first possession may have been his most impressive, too. Bortles came into the game with just over one minute left in the 1st half and quickly drove the Jaguars down the field for a FG. He showed poise in the pocket, a quick release, and a remarkable grasp of the offense. While Henne was effective in his four series, but the entire team knows what Henne brings to the table. He is decent QB, but he owns an 18-32 career win/loss record. Bortles, on the other hand, owns a career record of 0-0. That’s where the difference lies. Bortles still has that mystery factor surrounding him that causes everyone to have hope in his abilities.
Bortles is not ready to be the starter in Week 1. Even a die-hard Jaguars fan (don’t laugh, this is actually possible) like myself should recognize this. Jacksonville begins the season on the road against the two teams that have won the NFC East the previous two seasons (Philadelphia and Washington). Bortles would get thrown to the wolves in these two games and his confidence would possibily be shaken up.
Jacksonville is not going to win very many football games this season. This is another fact that all Jaguars fans should understand. If Henne begins the season with multiple losses, this is not the worst thing. Bortles could then be brought in to fix the problems on offense. If he succeeds, he will be heralded as the savior. If he struggles, no one will fault him because Henne was unable to win either. This puts Bortles in a great position and keeps the hope in Bortles alive in Jacksonville.
Bortles has shown all the makings of a future NFL Pro Bowl QB. He is big, strong, and surprisingly mobile. He has a great head on his shoulders and understands that starting Week 1 is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to be prepared to succeed when he is given the chance. I predict that Bortles gets the call in Week 3 at home against the division rival Indianapolis Colts or in Week 7 at home against the Cleveland Browns. If he progresses quickly play him against the Colts. If he needs more time, play him later against the Browns.
Either way, Blake Bortles offers Jacksonville fans something that they have not had in a long time: HOPE.
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