JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's time for another Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag. Each Saturday morning I'll answer a representative question, hitting a topic that drew the most interest. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco. Please use the hashtag #jagsmail.
— Alex Hayes (@flogrownsports) November 10, 2017
@ESPNdirocco: This is a question that hardly anyone would have asked in September because there seemed to be no chance at all that Blake Bortles would be the Jaguars' quarterback beyond this season. The team was just going to find a way to get through 2017 with him taking snaps and either sign one in free agency or draft one in April.
However, Bortles has played well this season. With the exception of two quarters against Tennessee and his performance against the New York Jets, you could rate each game as "solid" to "very good." He didn't have great stats or a good passer rating against Pittsburgh, but he threw only 14 passes because the Jaguars picked off Ben Roethlisberger five times.
Bortles' last two games have been pretty darn good: 259 yards and a touchdown with a 91.9 rating in the Jaguars' 23-7 victory over Cincinnati and 330 yards and another touchdown with a 124.7 rating in the Jaguars' 27-0 victory over Indianapolis. That was just the third time in his career that he has posted back-to-back games with a rating in the 90s or higher.
Bortles has thrown for 1,657 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions through eight games, which puts him on pace for 3,314 yards, 20 TDs and 10 interceptions. Had you told the Jaguars those would be his 2017 stats before the season began we probably would have seen 71-year-old Tom Coughlin doing backflips on the practice field.
In talking each week with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the one thing he keeps mentioning about Bortles is that he's finally understanding that a 4-yard dumpoff to the back is a good play. Bortles isn't taking chances with throws anymore. If he doesn't have anything he's throwing the ball away or, in the case where a screen pass isn't developing, in the dirt. He's not forcing throws that have little chance of being completed.
If Bortles is to have a future here in Jacksonville -- and I'm starting to believe that he might -- he has to continue to do those kind of things. His numbers don't necessarily matter as long as he's being efficient, not turning the ball over, and understanding when and when not to take chances down the field.
There is still half a season remaining so he has a long way to go to convince Coughlin and coach Doug Marrone that he should be the starter in 2018, but he's certainly much closer to doing than that early-August day in camp when he threw five interceptions.