They don’t want him throwing 20 or more interceptions, but they do want Bortles to take some chances. Be smart about it, but gamble a little bit.
"You’re seeing him do that," Bradley said. "He’ll make some mistakes, but he’ll come back. I think he threw an interception [on Sunday] off a tipped ball and then he came back and completed a pass the next play and went for it again."
Bortles did it several times during the first practice in full pads on Wednesday. He hit receiver Allen Hurns in the seam for a big gain in a two-minute drill despite the fact that cornerback Aaron Colvin had tight coverage. Bortles dropped the ball perfectly over Hurns’ shoulder and just past Colvin’s hand.
Bortles also gambled a bit on a pass to tight end Julius Thomas, who was tightly covered by safety Johnathan Cyprien near the goal line. Bortles released the ball well before Thomas came out of his break but he somehow got his hands up and caught the back part of the ball despite Cyprien hanging all over him.
Those were calculated risks, though. There was no safety behind Hurns so if Bortles missed long, it would have been an incompletion. Having the 6-foot, 217-pound Cyprien covering the 6-5, 260-pound Thomas is a favorable matchup for the offense.
That’s the difference between Bortles now and his rookie season. He’s much smarter about when and where to take risks: First-and-10 near midfield in the second quarter is a much better than third-and-9 late in a close game with the Jaguars already in field-goal range.
"I think it’s more educated [risks] now," Bortles said. "It’s more of ‘OK, this is a matchup, this is a situation, this is what I got.’” Last year, it was like, ‘Let’s chuck it.’
"So it’s definitely more of an educated guess now."
Bortles did a lot of chucking in 2014 and ended up with 17 interceptions, tied with Andy Dalton and Drew Brees for the second-highest total in the NFL (Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers threw 18). With the exception of Dalton, the other three quarterbacks threw at least 28 touchdown passes. Bortles threw just 11.
It’s no coincidence that five of the top 10 quarterbacks with the most career interceptions are also among the top 10 in career touchdown passes: Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Vinny Testaverde and Johnny Unitas. Part of that is longevity, but it’s also because they gambled on some throws. Big rewards often require big risks.
It can be packaged as "fearlessness" or "confidence" -- words that have a much softer edge than "risky" -- but regardless of how it’s described, it’s a trait that Bortles has. It was one the things that the Jaguars liked when they scouted him at Central Florida. As long as he’s taking smart chances, they’re all for it, too.
"I think as a quarterback, you’ve got to have a little bit of that in order to take shots and move the ball downfield," Bortles said. "But you’ve also got to know when to do it and when to be smart with the ball and check it down."