The Jacksonville Jaguars used the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to bring in Leonard Fournette, but will the running back help Blake Bortles improve?
On the clock with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, many people suggested that the Jacksonville Jaguars had an obvious choice before them. Sure enough, they went the route of taking that obvious choice. The Jags selected running back Leonard Fournette out of LSU, giving their offense the viable bell cow back it’s long been lacking.
Though he’s been under intense scrutiny, the film, size and most of the testing for Fournette speaks for itself. Running backs with his vision, size, power, quickness and even speed at his build aren’t something that should regularly exist. He’s the rare weapon with the ability to mow over most anyone and also blow by most defenders.
Coupled with the Jaguars second-round addition of offensive tackle Cam Robinson — a proven run blocker from his time at Alabama — Fournette should have a nice rookie season. However, the success of Fournette may actually be secondary in comparison to addressing the elephant in the room: Blake Bortles.
Jacksonville is heading into their fourth season with the UCF product at quarterback. And frankly, the results haven’t even been promising. There was marginal hope after showing some development at the end of his sophomore season. However, Bortles regressed tremendously last season and was quite abysmal when not putting up numbers in fourth quarters of games that were out of reach.
There’s no need to look at stats when it comes to Bortles — partially due to his meaningless padding at the end of games. His issues are quite simple. Bortles came into the draft and was selected with the third-overall pick with the knowledge that he had mechanical flaws. His throwing motion from top-to-bottom is both inconsistent and inefficient. As such, he’s struggled with timing and accuracy throughout his career up to now. Shockingly enough, that’s really hindered his ability to be an effective NFL quarterback.
With the arrival of Tom Coughlin in the front office and a new head coach and Doug Marrone, the clock is seemingly ticking for Bortles. If he doesn’t take a step forward in the 2017 season, he’s going to be searching for a job outside of Jacksonville. And to be clear, it’s going to need to be a massive step given the 2018 quarterback class knocking on the league’s door.
Thus, the addition of Fournette and even Robinson has to be done with the notion of giving Bortles the best chance to succeed. Since coming into the league in 2014, Bortles has never had an effective or consistent running game. By all accounts, the two incoming rookies will help to provide that. Therefore, Bortles can work in play-action and against less dropped-back defenses able to sell out against the pass.
In that way, the arrival of Fournette is indeed going to help Bortles. He’s going to take defensive focus off of the quarterback, which will afford the quarterback every opportunity to succeed — especially with weapons like Allen Robinson on the outside.
Unfortunately, Fournette can’t help Bortles throw the football, which is ultimately the biggest issue. The quarterback has routinely one-hopped throws to his receivers, sailed throws over their heads and so on throughout his career. He’s wildly erratic because so are his mechanics. It’s one thing to have bad habits in that regard. It’s another to not have any level of consistency to work with. Imagine being a coach trying to point out which things to fix with a quarterback. But there’s nothing that’s consistent enough to really work on. It’s an impossible task.
The sad truth for the Jaguars is that we’re about to watch the end of the Blake Bortles era, and it likely won’t go smoothly. Perhaps they have more success than in recent years thanks to a seemingly stout defense that was once again bolstered in free agency. As far as the quarterback goes, though, even Fournette can’t save him.