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View from the O-Zone: So far, so good for Bortles


JACKSONVILLE – The first day of the rest of his career.

Day 1 of training camp is that for every NFL player, but Day 1 of Jaguars 2017 Training Camp Thursday really was that for quarterback Blake Bortles.

No Jaguars player will be more scrutinized in the coming weeks – or this season.

No Jaguars player has more to show in the coming weeks – or this season.

No Jaguars player will face more pressure in the coming weeks – or this season.

The Jaguars' most-scrutinized player – a status Bortles is sure to have for the next month and a half, and then some – was the only Jaguars player to speak at the podium following the first practice of '17 camp. It was a routine media briefing following a relatively routine, non-padded practice.

The highlight?

Maybe when Bortles said this past offseason was the best of his four-year NFL career.

"Yeah, I feel like so," Bortles told the media inside EverBank Field. "I think that might be something that happens every year; you learn or figure things out during the offseason, you take things from the previous offseason, you change things."

Bortles actually changed things big-time this offseason.

He spent two months working with his California-based personal quarterbacks coaches – Adam Dedeaux and Tom House – early in the offseason, then another month shortly before training camp. This was a similar offseason approach to the one he took before his 35-touchdown season in 2015.

He spent far less time in California before a 2016 season marked with inaccuracy and a continuation of the turnover issues that have defined much of his first three seasons.

That stuff with Bortles – the work in California, the interceptions, the need to improve – was the most-talked about offseason issue around the Jaguars.  And Bortles naturally was a topic when Head Coach Doug Marrone met with the media following Thursday's practice.

Marrone said what he wanted to see from Bortles Thursday was if he was at the same point with reads, progressions and footwork as when the offseason program ended in June. "Are we close to where we were at the end of camp where we felt things were going in the right direction?" Marrone said. "Or are we in the beginning like we were when we first started having to build it up?"

Marrone's verdict?

Take a look at images as the Jaguars opened up their 2017 training camp.

"He's done a good job this offseason maintaining the footwork, the mechanics and the progression of what he's been doing," Marrone said. "Now the challenge is going out there and doing it consistently on a daily basis. That's a challenge for him going forward."

So … so far, so good.

Bortles on Thursday had several highlight throws. He connected well early with wide receiver Allen Robinson, and a highlight of Day 1 was his perfect throw down the left sideline for a touchdown to wide receiver Marqise Lee. All in all, it was a fine Day 1.

And yes, he felt what he worked on in California translated to the field Thursday.

"It felt good," he said. "Obviously, still a long way to go, a lot to work on, but I thought for day one, I thought it was a good start."

Bortles was asked if he has a "clear mind" considering the importance of this season for himself, and for the organization.

"I think so," he said. "It's just about going out there, playing football, one – and making plays, making more plays than they make, score more points than they score. I think last year we fought probably a little too much about, 'What are the possibilities, can we do this, can we do that?'

"Obviously, that didn't work out. It didn't go well. So I think to be able to free the mind and just go play football and enjoy it and have fun and make as many big plays as we possibly can, is the goal."

What are Bortles' chances of achieving that goal? What are the Jaguars' chances of achieving their goal of winning now, and dramatically improving on the results of the past few seasons?

The answers to those are intertwined, and they're not going to come on Training Camp Day 1. Nor will they come next week, or in the preseason opener, or in any preseason game after that.

No, these are regular-season questions and that's the only time the answers will matter, so what we have in front of us for the coming few weeks is a lot of waiting and watching. We'll watch Bortles and there will be important things to see.

There will be footwork things, and accuracy things, and leadership things, and body language things. On those fronts things were so far, so good Thursday.

That's good for the Jaguars, and those were good things for Bortles on the first day of '17 camp.  As for just how good …

Well, that we won't know for another month and a half.

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