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A View from the O-Zone: Bortles' future starts now


JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles' offseason won't start immediately.

But it's going to start soon and the Jaguars' rookie quarterback knows the coming weeks and months are important. Very, very important.

"The offseason coming up will be huge," Bortles said Monday, a day after the Jaguars' 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans in the 2014 regular-season finale. "It's going to be an eventful offseason."

How huge is huge? How about "future-defining?" How about "career-shaping?"

How about "franchise-defining?"

Bortles' offseason is all of those things. As such, it was a major topic on Getaway Day, the day following the final game of the regular season. Bortles spoke to the media Monday, speaking of the need to study, to hone fundamentals, and saying things you like hearing if you're a Jaguars fan.

A while earlier, other players spoke to the media for the final time of the season, too. As they did, they said things you had to like hearing if you're Bortles.

"He's our franchise quarterback," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said, adding, "We know he's going to be the guy who's going to lead this organization. … Everything you want in a quarterback he has."

Defensive tackle Roy Miller talked about young players who will form a core going forward. Telvin Smith, Aaron Colvin and Johnathan Cyprien on defense. Young wide receivers.

And, of course, the young quarterback.

"The sky's the limit for him," Miller said. "If you've seen Blake the last two games, I think the world has been able to look at him and say, 'That's a guy we can hang our hat on.' We feel good about him."

That's what teammates see: leadership, guts and work ethic; a guy they believe can lead the franchise.

At the same time, Bortles' struggles this season were real.

His fundamentals, his accuracy, his pocket decisions … they must improve. The process of making those fixes is critical to his development as a quarterback, and the Jaguars' future.

That brings us back to the things Bortles said Monday that you had to like if you're a Jaguars fan. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell had to like them, too.

He talked first about the need to take some time and get healthy. While he joked he could play Sunday, he played through a foot injury recently and shoulder and ankle issues before that. If toughness matters – and it does – he has that.

Under NFL rules, Bortles can't meet with Jaguars coaches until mid-April. That's not ideal, but he said he won't wait until April to review his season, or to study the offense. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said earlier this month it will be critical for the offense to be second-nature to Bortles by mid-April. Bortles agreed.

"You don't want to take a couple of months off after not paying attention to it or looking at it and forget it," he said. "You want to stay involved in that, continue to learn and really own the offense."

Bortles, too, said he plans to not only work with receivers before April, but to get with Titans quarterback Jordan Palmer – with whom he worked on fundamentals before the draft. He said, too, he plans to reach out to veteran quarterbacks – perhaps Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, with whom he shares an agent – to establish his offseason approach.

Perhaps the most critical topic Bortles covered Monday involved fundamentals. Footwork and technique were an issue before the draft. He worked on the area, and they improved for a while this season. He struggled there as the season continued, and said that was a frustrating aspect to his season – to see things he was doing wrong, but to not have the time to fix them during the season.

That will be a focus this offseason, he said. A major focus.

"It's gotten a lot better," he said. "In college if there were 60 plays in the game, there was a good chance I was throwing the ball 60 different ways. Now, it's more consistent. That was a tribute to everything I did getting ready for the combine with Jordan and everything I've done here with (quarterbacks coach) Frank (Scelfo) and Jedd. We've really worked a lot on it in OTAs and in camp, so it's hard because you see it and there's glimpses of the mechanics I want to have and that I did have while we were doing drills and stuff and some of the old stuff.

"You've just got to try and knock it out and become consistent, and that will definitely help out."

Asked if fans should expect a different player next year, he said, "I think I'd expect more consistency, more things look the same on more occasions than not."

He said that should bring more accuracy, and a lot of other things, but what was most notable wasn't what he said but how he said it. It wasn't as if talking to Roethlisberger or working with the receivers or studying the playbook sooner rather than later had just occurred to him Monday. Bortles knew the issues all season, and knows the work to be done.

So, yeah, the player who spoke Monday looked like a guy ready for a break after a long rookie season. That's understandable, and that's why the offseason won't start immediately. But he also had the look of a guy who understands the urgency of the coming months.

For himself, and for his franchise, what happens during that time hardly could be more critical.

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