JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Blake Bortles is understandably taking some time off after what has been one of the most frustrating seasons of his life.
But not much.
The Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback said he expects to be back in California and working with Adam Dedeaux at 3DQB by mid- January. If everything goes according to plan, he won’t be back in Jacksonville until the end of March.
That’s approximately 10 weeks to work on and fix his footwork, which he says was his biggest mechanical issue throughout the 2016 season. If he gets that right, his windup and release -- which drew the most criticism from fans, analysts, and even his former college offensive coordinator -- will improve along with it.
"Everybody was worried about what was going on up top when the problem was my feet," Bortles said. "So when I was able, when Nathaniel [Hackett] took over [as offensive coordinator], we focused a lot more on that and there wasn’t a whole lot of talk about it anymore.
"It wasn’t that up top got a lot shorter, it was just that everything was more accurate, spinning better, so there was nothing for people to really say when realistically it [where he was holding the ball] was probably half an inch higher. I wasn’t dropping the ball as much and it’s all kind of lower-body related on how to tighten that up. It did get a little bit better but I think there’s definitely still a lot of room to work and improve."
What, exactly, was wrong with Bortles’ lower-body mechanics? It has a lot to do with rhythm and length of his stride and how those things lengthened his windup. Bortles said part of his issue was that he was trying to be a stand-still passer, which has nothing to do with leaving the pocket, and that’s just not something with which he’s comfortable.
"Nate would call it [being] a rhythm passer," Bortles said. "I’m a rhythm passer. Chad [Henne] is a stand-still passer. Like, I can’t stand still in the pocket. Chad, like Tom Brady, they can stand there and [not bounce]. I have to be moving forward or moving, Peyton Manning-like, moving my feet, moving around. I can’t just stand still."
There’s nothing wrong with that, but Bortles got out of sorts when he threw the ball. He wasn’t as compact as he needed to be, and he used a baseball analogy to explain it.
"You go to hit a baseball, you’re not going to swing the bat until your front foot comes down," Bortles said. "It’s the same thing when you go to throw. Your arm’s not going to start coming forward until your foot goes down, so the longer your front stride is the lower the ball goes and the longer it (the delivery) looks.
"So wider base, quicker stride, shorter release."
Bortles had revamped his delivery after his rookie season with Dedeaux and Tom House at 3DQB. He spent nearly two months in California and even got together with receiver Marqise Lee and tight end Julius Thomas to throw while they were on the West Coast.
The changes paid off with what appeared to be a breakout season in 2015: single-season franchise records in passing yards (4,428) and passing touchdowns (35).
However, Bortles only spent six days in California after that season, instead staying in Jacksonville to throw with his receivers, including Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Lee. His mechanics suffered and Bortles completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
Bortles said spending less time out west and staying in Jacksonville to throw with the Jaguars’ receivers was something then-offensive coordinator Greg Olson believed was the best thing to do. Bortles said he now realizes he needs the constant scrutiny he got at 3DQB to make sure he’s mechanically sound.
"There was a difference in beliefs between Olly (Olson) and the guys that I throw with out in California," Bortles said. "They’d had a previous interaction and disagreed on some things so he was a little negative of them, but he was totally supportive of what I wanted to do. But all our wide receivers were here in Jacksonville so he thought it was a good idea -- and to me it seemed like a good idea as well to come in here and throw with those guys.
"The only thing I missed was instead of going and throwing with somebody that’s watching me throw and critiquing and helping every single throw, I threw here by myself the whole time and had nobody watching or telling me what I was doing wrong. And I can’t do that. I need people to help me. I need constant feedback on stuff like that."
That’s why he’s not taking much time off before heading west again. A couple weeks to let his right shoulder and right wrist heal and then he’s jumping on a plane.
"It’ll be, ‘Alright, let’s get to work and figure out how we can [fix things] and let’s work on it all offseason,’" he said.