Jaguars QB Blake Bortles
It’s time. I’m definitely more of a Bortles fan than most. People are starting to realize the amount of talent Jacksonville has brought in offensively. Entering a third season with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, another year with Julius Thomas, adding Chris Ivory to the backfield with T.J. Yeldon, and bringing in some O-line reinforcements, Bortles may be in store for his best season yet. He has the weight of the offense on his shoulder, but not the world, as the Jags have spent the last 2 offseasons trying to improve the defense. This team has quietly assembled a roster ready to explode, and compete, in the vulnerable AFC South.
Even if they don’t take the leap as a team quite yet, the offense ranked 14th in points and 10th in passing. I don’t see why both couldn’t improve next season. Bortles only threw 11 touchdowns to go with 17 interceptions as a rookie. He tripled those touchdown passes with 35 in year number two, while throwing 18 picks. For a guy that compares to Ben Roethlisberger in stature and pocket presence, Bortles actually scrambles a lot more than Big Ben ever did, with over 50 rushes per season.
Statistically, it may be challenging for Bortles to take a leap from 35 TDs and 4,428 yards. He could make better decisions to live another down rather than throwing an errant interception. I like that he sheds tackles inside the pocket, but the second part of the play is where he has to improve and not let things get away from him. To be real, it is still an issue with guys like Andrew Luck, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz
Believe it or not, Ertz hauled in 30 grabs in the final 3 games of the season. His 75 reception, 853 yard season earned him a big contract through 2021. Splitting snaps at tight end with veteran Brent Celek, who also earned an extension this offseason, Ertz is expected to improve on those career highs with Doug Pederson returning to Philadelphia.
The first-time head coach was around for awhile, then followed Andy Reid to Kansas City, where they made the postseason a couple of times. Last season they were without All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles. Featuring tight end Travis Kelce was a big part of their success. It doesn’t hurt that Ertz was graded the 4th best at his position, according to Pro Football Focus.
New York Jets Offense
It’s about time the Jets stop playing chicken with Ryan Fitzpatrick before Denver snags him away. Fitzpatrick looked pretty good last season. If you say it was due to him being in a contract year, that’s nonsense, because it feels like he’s always in that situation. Bouncing back and forth between starting caliber and a top backup, go figure that a capable QB with a good supporting cast was able to win 10 games. It may not have been enough to make the postseason, but they were right there.
Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker played as well as any tandem in football, now insert Matt Forte in the backfield. Damn, they really are trending upward. 40-water continues to be one of the best all-purpose backs in the game. He reunites with Marshall from their Chicago days. If you liked how Chris Ivory played, New York is going to fall in love with Forte, who will add another dimension as a threat in the passing game. Why is the Jets offense here and not the Jaguars? Well, when it comes to Jacksonville, Bortles is the guy that threw 35 scores and ranked 10th in passing.The defense has been good enough, even when they weren’t as dominant, to be in the playoff hunt. In this case, the Jets have added pieces over the last 3 off-seasons, and they finally seem poised to take the leap into the postseason.