- Covered University of Florida for 13 seasons for ESPN.com and Florida Times-Union
- Graduate of Jacksonville University
- Multiple APSE award winner
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The first time Blake Bortles went through offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s playbook, he wasn’t sure he was going to like it.
However, the more he learned about the system and the more he ran it during workouts and training camp, the more he did. In fact, Bortles likes this offense better than what he ran at UCF and what he ran with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a rookie in 2014.
"I felt the first time going through it, I didn’t really know [if he liked it]," Bortles said. "It’s my third offense in three years and every offense I’ve been a part of I’ve liked stuff and I haven’t liked stuff. I think this one’s definitely been the best.
"I’ve enjoyed learning it. I’ve enjoyed trying to master it, and that’s what I’ll continue to do."
Bortles said he likes the versatility of the offense and the way Olson is able to adapt it to the Jaguars’ personnel. The Jaguars like the talent they have at tight end, led by Julius Thomas. so Olson used a lot of three-tight end formations during OTAs, minicamp and training camp. When Thomas went down with a fractured bone in his right hand in the first preseason game, Olson went to more three-receiver formations in the second preseason game.
"Ollie has been good about accommodating who we are," Bortles said.
The Jaguars' new offense under Greg Olson is growing on second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton
That wasn’t always the case in 2014. The Jaguars repeatedly had said they didn’t want to play Bortles as a rookie because he had some mechanical issues that needed to be fixed, but they were forced into putting him on the field at halftime of the third game because the offense was nonfunctional.
A good plan would have been to become more of
a run-oriented offense and not rely on a young quarterback that the team didn’t really want on the field in the first place, but that’s not what happened. In his 13 starts, Bortles threw 31 or more passes 11 times, including a season-high 46 in his third start.
Bortles averaged 34.8 pass attempts per game. Mix a not-completely-ready QB, few offensive weapons and an offensive line that had trouble pass-blocking and you get 11 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions -- including four that were returned for touchdowns.
Bradley believed coordinator Jedd Fisch was overloading Bortles with too much of the offense at once and would have instead preferred an approach in which Bortles was given measured doses and had the package expanded only as he grew comfortable with the offense. That’s why Bradley fired Fisch days after the 2014 season ended.
Olson’s system is a better fit for what Bradley wants and Olson and Bradley are also in agreement that the Jaguars need to be a physical, run-based offense. That doesn’t mean it’s a simple offense and that Bortles is an ancillary piece. But it is simple in its logic of fitting to the personnel, such as multiple talented tight ends who do different things.
Bortles feels comfortable in it, which is a major factor in whether a quarterback has a successful season. Here's the proof: Bortles has completed 19 of 31 passes for 216 yards in two preseason games. Factor in six dropped passes and Bortles' numbers jump to 25-of-31, which is a completion percentage of 80.6.
"It’s a cool system because there are not a whole lot of plays where it’s like, ‘Oh, I really don’t like that,’" Bortles said. "But there are a couple plays where it’s like, ‘OK, I really like these. I know these in and out vs. every look. These are my gotta-have-it calls, or when we get into trouble, this is my go-to call.’
"So, I do have those, and that’ll hopefully continue to grow that list until you eventually own the whole playbook."