Despite slump, Jaguars sticking with Blake Bortles as starting QB
Coach Doug Marrone made the announcement Monday, one day after benching Bortles early in the third quarter of a 20-7 loss to Houston.
“I spoke to both quarterbacks this afternoon and told them Blake will be our team’s starting quarterback,” Marrone said in a statement. “I believe this gives us the best opportunity to win.”
Bortles fumbled on Jacksonville’s third play in each half, leading to 10 points for the Texans and prompting Marrone to switch to Cody Kessler. Marrone said after the game he would open up the QB job for the second time in as many years. He also benched Bortles in the 2017 preseason, only to give him back the job nine days later.
Marrone took less than 24 hours to go back to Bortles this time, saying he will start Sunday’s game against Philadelphia (3-4) in London.
The Jaguars (3-4) have lost three in a row and four of five, derailing a season that started with Super Bowl aspirations.
Jacksonville seemingly reached a low point Sunday when the locker room erupted in fiery emotion following a third consecutive lopsided loss in which the offense failed to score in the first half. Calais Campbell was seen holding back fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue when the locker room briefly opened to the media. It was the final scene of frustration that also included screaming, shouting and finger pointing.
Campbell, an 11-year veteran and one of six team captains, called a players-only meetings Monday to “talk about some issues.”
“Will it help?” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “Hopefully so. Hopefully guys will speak up and not be silent, hopefully talk about some issues that they feel are bothering them.”
The Jaguars have been mostly inept on both sides of the ball during the losing streak, trailing 23-0 at Kansas City, 24-0 at Dallas and 20-0 at home against the Texans.
The injury-riddled offense can’t do what it’s built to do — run the football — and has a lackluster receiving corps dropping balls at inopportune times. The high-profile defense can’t stop the run and has allowed too many big plays.
“People are strained,” Jackson said. “This is a business about producing, about winning, and we’re not producing or winning right now. This locker room is not going to tear apart for a few losses. Hell, we went 3-13 our first year here.”
The expectations were much higher after advancing to the AFC title game in January, which is why the locker room started to crack and crumble.
“You can’t have little groups or little indecision of what is the right way or the proper way. You have to get everyone in the same boat,” Marrone said, pointing out the team is minus-12 in turnover differential. “We have done this to ourselves, and the only people going to be able to dig us out of it is ourselves. But we all have to have the same vision on how to do it.
“My thing to the team is we can go in all of these different directions, but if these two things do not change, those two things do not change, those directions aren’t going to matter.”
Bortles was the scapegoat Sunday, with Marrone making the move to “put everyone on notice.”
Bortles completed 6 of 12 passes for 61 yards, fumbling twice on third-down scrambles.
Kessler came off the bench and had a short touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon, but he was sacked four times in five drives, plus threw an interception and fumbled.
It’s really not that surprising Marrone stuck with Bortles. The team signed him to a three-year, $54 million contract in February with the belief he was good enough to lead the defensive-minded team back to the playoffs.
Bortles played turnover-free football in the postseason, gaining top executive Tom Coughlin’s confidence and landing the new contract. He’s played with far less efficiency lately, managing two TD passes and eight turnovers in the three straight losses.
NOTES: The Jaguars released veteran running back Jamaal Charles three days after acquiring Carlos Hyde from Cleveland. Hyde is expected to play a significant role against the Eagles. … Marrone said injured RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring) will travel to London.
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