JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell knew when he drafted quarterback Blake Bortles that the former Central Florida standout was going to have to make some changes and fix some mechanics issues before he could become a good quarterback.
Though it’s only four practices into Bortles’ second training camp, Caldwell said he sees a marked difference in the player he took with the third overall pick last year.
"From where he’s at now compared to where he came in last year as a rookie, I think it’s night and day," Caldwell said.
He wasn’t just talking about Bortles overhauled throwing motion, either, though that is a big part of the changes. Bortles worked throughout the offseason with throwing coach Tom House and quarterback coach Jordan Palmer and shortened his delivery -- he’s no longer dropping the ball below his waist in his windup -- and lengthened his follow-through.
He also cleaned up some footwork issues, developed a warm-up routine, and learned the proper way to care for his arm to avoid the shoulder issues and fatigue that he experienced at the end of the 2014 season.
Caldwell said he has noticed a difference in Bortles’ demeanor, too.
"From the day he stepped on the practice field last year to the first day of training camp this year his ease of throwing motion, the tightness of his ball, the compactness of his motion, the quicker release, the footwork, the balance -- all those things I think are better," Caldwell said. "And just his overall presence. He’s comfortable now.
"This time last year he was probably still trying to find a place to live."
This is the second time in camp that Bortles, who threw 11 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions as a rookie, has received praise for the way he looks on the field. Coach Gus Bradley said on Saturday that he liked the way Bortles was throwing the ball and his command of the new offense.
Caldwell on Tuesday said he was also impressed with the way Bortles handled his offseason. Bortles spent more than two months in California with House and Palmer between January and April and threw with several Jaguars players on the West Coast as well. After OTAs and minicamp, Bortles stayed in Jacksonville and watched film and threw with players at a local high school.
Caldwell wasn’t surprised, though, because that kind of work ethic is one of the reasons the Jaguars had Bortles rated higher than any other quarterback in 2014.
"When you invest in somebody that high in the draft you better be pretty sure that they have that," Caldwell said. "All our research on Blake on that was always positive. That’s what made the decision a little bit easier knowing that he had some things he needed to work on early on in his career but knowing that he had the mental makeup and the desire and the competitiveness and the intelligence to do that and to be humble through the whole process.
"… I’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He took the bull by the horns and was proactive with it and has done a nice job."