Senior Bowl 2017: Blake Bortles' 'future is bright'

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MOBILE, Ala. – David Caldwell remains confident in Blake Bortles.

Caldwell, the Jaguars' general manager, also is confident that the Jaguars' new organizational structure – one featuring Tom Coughlin as executive vice president of football operations and Doug Marrone as head coach – will be a positive for the organization.

Caldwell, entering his fifth season in his position, on Wednesday sat down with jaguars.com to discuss those topics and several others while in Mobile, Alabama, for the 2017 Reese's Senior Bowl.

When the subject turned to Bortles, Caldwell – who drafted the quarterback No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft – left no doubt that his belief in the fourth-year veteran remains strong.

"I've said this time and time again: 'I think we can win a lot of games with Blake; I think we can win a Super Bowl with Blake," Caldwell said. "I think he needs to improve and I think we need to improve around him, too, in order for that to happen."

Caldwell added that while Bortles – like many of the NFL's other 31 starting quarterbacks – has deficiencies, he "is still young. He is still growing."

"I think the future is bright for him," Caldwell said. "I have a lot of confidence in him. I know he has the makeup in terms of intelligence, competitiveness, his hard work, his effort, so if he has those things I think the rest of it will come."

Caldwell said he saw evidence of Bortles' mental makeup late this past season. After struggling often in the first 14 games, including a 92-yard performance in a Game 14 loss at Houston, Bortles threw for 626 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the final two games of the season.

"Here's a guy that from a national standpoint got beat up for most of the year – some of it accurate, some of it not very accurate," Caldwell said. "I think for the most part, he just rebounded and some of the throws that he made in the last couple of games … he's not a guy that lacks confidence, I can tell you that much."

Bortles, after a 35-touchdown, 4,428-yard season in 2015, threw for 23 touchdowns and 3,905 yards this past season. After lofty preseason expectations the Jaguars finished 3-13, and Marrone took over as interim head coach in the final two regular-season games.

The Jaguars went 1-1 in those games, with Marrone being hired as permanent head coach on January 9. That was the same day Coughlin, the Jaguars' head coach from 1995-2002, took over EVP football operations.

"So far it has been really good," Caldwell said of the relationship between him, Marrone and Coughlin. "There has been really good communication with Tom and Doug, and Tom and myself – and all three of us. We have the same vision and the same goals, so I think it is going to be a really good thing for the Jacksonville Jaguars and for both Doug and I.

"I don't think it will change my day-to-day operations and how we go about our business. I think for me, it is going to be a great resource for me to have a guy [Coughlin] that is a future Hall of Famer, who has been through every kind of situation and someone to lean on that can offer some guidance, not only for me, but for Doug, too.

"I think he [Coughlin] has a great vision for this organization and I am excited to work with him."

Caldwell on Wednesday also discussed:

*The idea that the Jaguars can turn around last season's record quickly: "I don't think that's too optimistic. Looking back on four years ago when we started this, it was a major, major build and we had to dig the foundation and put up the structure. Now I think it's kind of a re-tooling and kind of fixing some things, some tweaks here and there; it's not a major rebuild. I think we're close. We lost 10 games by less than a touchdown. We win half those games next year, plus a little bit more, and it may put us in the lead for the division."

*The advantage Marrone has as a head coach having been on staff the past two seasons as assistant head coach-offensive/offensive line coach:  "When you sat down and interviewed and [heard] what he thinks may have went wrong, what he thinks we could do better at – he had a head start already. A new coach would have come in for six or seven months and try to figure out what went wrong. Doug already has the idea and he's hit the ground running and is ready to make this a really good, competitive football team." …

*How he can assist Coughlin's transition from coaching to front office: "I think there will be some things from a personnel standpoint that we can work together on and he can give me some insight and I can give him some insight on how we do things."

*The Jaguars' rookie defensive class this past season, which featured cornerback Jalen Ramsey (first round), linebacker Myles Jack (second round) and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (third round): "I think sky is the limit for those guys," Caldwell said. "I've said this before: players usually take their biggest jump from Year One to Year Two and if that holds true for those three guys, I think you can see potential future Pro Bowlers along the Jacksonville Jaguars defense." Ramsey and Ngakoue were both named to the Pro Football Writer's Association's All-Rookie team.

*The Jaguars' likely approach when unrestricted free agency begins in March: "I think we will pick our spots. If there is a spot where we can help our team, where we can get better, where we have a weakness, we're going to be as aggressive as we can be to go get a player. But it's going to be hard because you just can't make up players. Obviously a lot of teams have good cap situations so the good players don't always hit the market, so we've just got to make sure we're buying the right players."

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