In Thursday night’s preseason game, Winston looked like a high-level starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (aside from one ugly play when he threw the ball up for grabs as he was being sacked and it was picked off; luckily for Winston he was ruled down for a sack). Bortles … well, let’s say he did not look like a high-level starter.
The Jacksonville Jaguars went with Bortles as their starter again this season, even though they could have drafted Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson with the fourth pick. They’re not the first team to see a high draft pick at quarterback through right to the bitter end. They took running back Leonard Fournette instead, presumably believing that Bortles could get better with less pressure on him.
That might still happen, but it didn’t look good Thursday night. Almost anytime Bortles threw anything longer than a dump-off it rarely hit the mark. His worst pass came early in the second quarter, when Allen Robinson (who was caught on video by Pewter Report at practice this week complaining with an expletive that Bortles couldn’t keep a pass to him in-bounds) got behind the cornerback and into the void between the corner and safety. Robinson was wide open and Bortles threw it horribly short for an incompletion.
Later, after Bortles threw a terrible pass on an in-breaking route to Robinson, ESPN’s Jon Gruden compared Bortles to a golfer who has lost his swing. It was that bad. Bortles was 8-of-13 for 65 yards when Chad Henne took over at quarterback late in the second quarter. Henne immediately threw two great passes that should have been touchdowns but were dropped by his receivers.
The Jaguars have a very talented defense. Fournette, who was held out Thursday due to a minor injury, will be the focal point of the offense and that should help. But the Jaguars need something from Bortles and there should be a lot of skepticism about his ability to deliver.
The Jaguars picked up Bortles’ fifth-year option for next season, but that’s guaranteed only for injury. Jacksonville could move on after this season, and then start the arduous process of finding a new quarterback to groom. They could even make a change during the season if Bortles doesn’t play better. Henne isn’t great but it’s hard to believe a new Jaguars regime will be too patient if Bortles doesn’t turn it around. It’s hard to believe Bortles could lose his job before Week 1, but he might not have a long leash either.
Thursday was just a preseason game, but Bortles is going to have to play a lot better. If his performance against Tampa Bay continues into the regular season, he might not be long for the job.
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