Los Angeles Rams 90-Man Roster Preview: Quarterback Blake Bortles

by Jake Ellenbogen
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Earlier this week we previewed the 2016 Los Angeles Rams first overall pick Jared Goff, and now we are onto a former No. 3 overall pick in his own right  – Blake Bortles.

Bortles isn’t about to start any quarterback controversy, but if things go south on the Rams season, it might mean seeing more of number five. A former starter in Jacksonville, Bortles gives the Rams an immediate upgrade from Sean Mannion at the No. 2 quarterback slot.

2018 Season

Bortles joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014 as a No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. His career since then has had many twists and turns with few highs and many lows.

It seems like it wasn’t that long ago Bortles threw 35 touchdown passes in a season; except it wasn’t that long ago – it was only 2015. The now 27-year old signal-caller may or may not have been dealt a bad deck of cards in Jacksonville, but the 3-9 record is what ended any possible chance he had left.

Bortles threw for 13 touchdowns to a whopping 11 interceptions with 2,718 yards in 12 starts before getting benched in favor of Cody Kessler. It wasn’t all Bortles though, the team itself went 5-11 following a season in which they went to the AFC Championship game and got edged by the New England Patriots.

The former Jaguars quarterback was sacked 31 times as the team experimented at left tackle, starting rookie Cam Robinson. Although many blame Bortles for the Jaguars misfortunes, it’s worth mentioning that he wasn’t much different from the year prior and the Jaguars just took a huge step back in all phases of their game.

The season prior – the same season in which Bortles led Jacksonville to the AFC title game – saw Bortles throw 21 touchdowns to 13 interceptions with 3, 687 yards. Sure, it was better than 2018, but it wasn’t a complete-180 no matter how you portray it. It’s one of those bizarre instances where the coaching staff was left practically untouched for two and a half years and yet for whatever reason everyone regressed.

It’s one of the strangest stories that Bortles and company never saw coming. After all, this is the same team that signed Bortles to a 3-year $54 million extension. After one bad season where everything went wrong, the Jaguars released him in favor of Nick Foles who has never succeeded anywhere outside of Philadelphia.

Bortles isn’t some great quarterback, because he does have his faults –  mainly lack of improvisational skills and accuracy. However, the Bortles saga in Jacksonville is bizarre and now he’s on to his next chapter.

Roster Battle

This will be interesting if the Rams keep three quarterbacks, but unfortunately for John Wolford and Brandon Allen, Bortles is a lock to be Jared Goff’s backup. However, stranger things have happened. With Bortles’ low cap-hit, the Rams aren’t tied to him by any means.

It’s worth mentioning that Wolford is the last quarterback to play in a meaningful football game. His time in the AAF could help him out. For now, Bortles is the odds on favorite to backup Goff, and he’s likely going to get the majority of snaps in the preseason to show it.

Three Plays On Tape

This first play I wanted to bring up to show less of how bad Bortles is and more about how unlucky he is. This is just a one-in-a-thousand chance play that happens. Perhaps Bortles could have done more on this play, but he sees pressure up the middle and has to get rid of the ball. He looks over to his security blanket who is covered, so Bortles tries to throw it at his feet and the ball tips up and lands in the defender’s arms. Again, he probably could have done more, but that doesn’t happen. We’ve seen Goff do this plenty of times and get away with it.

Bortles gets the ball out of the shotgun here and immediately feels pressure in his face, however, he stands tall in the pocket, doesn’t fall back, and delivers a perfectly placed deep ball to the speedy wide receiver Dede Westbrook. The only problem is, Westbrook drops it. There isn’t much you can really do about that. For every lousy throw Bortles makes, he has his fair share of drops from his receivers too.

Last, but not least, Bortles rifles this ball into a tight window and in between two defenders. He takes the ball out of the shotgun formation, stands tall in the pocket, and fires the ball, knowing full well his pocket is collapsing and he’s going to get hit. The result is about a 30-yard completion to Dede Westbrook who lays out to make the grab.

A couple of things to point out here. First off, Bortles’ trust in Westbrook in on full display on this play. He’s basically saying to Westbrook by throwing this ball that he believes he has the speed to breakaway at the last second and to get to the ball.

Second, when Bortles released this ball, not only was Westbrook covered well by Kendall Fuller but there was also the safety closing in. That either means Bortles’ decision-making was spotty on this play, or he has that much confidence to throw this ball the way he did. Both are possible, but he stood tall, delivered a strike in between two defenders and the result was a big play.

This is a big thing to watch because if the Rams lost Goff during the season and Bortles had to come in; he is at least someone Sean McVay could trust to keep a defense honest.

Bortles gets plenty of grief, and deservedly so, but he makes plenty of good plays as well. That’s why he has this opportunity to backup Goff for one year and potentially find a starting job in the future as he resets himself.

This is a quarterback that might not be able to win a Super Bowl, but a team wouldn’t be extremely limited with him at the helm because he can make throws like these. He’s no Jared Goff as he lacks consistency, but this gives you some confidence if something season-shattering happened.

That’s the reason Bortles is here. He’s here as a competent backup quarterback you can run your offense through, knowing full well this same guy was starting for an NFL team over the last five years.

Biggest Question

If Goff goes down, can Bortles do enough to keep the Rams on their track to play in the Super Bowl? It seems unfair, but the Rams only goal following their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss is to get back and win it. If Bortles can’t be that guy for the Rams, then the Rams have a problem.

In the NFL, if you don’t have a starter/backup combination that can’t win games or get into the playoffs with some help, the right guys aren’t on the roster. Bortles comes not only with starting experience, but playoff experience as well.

2019 Outlook and Role 

As mentioned, Bortles’ role is to backup Goff and potentially mentor him as well. Goff is better than Bortles ever was at any point in his football career, but having a seasoned veteran in the room that has Bortles’ experience is undoubtedly a benefit. Bortles can still offer a lot of help for Goff.

Obviously, as a Rams fan, you don’t want to see Bortles playing outside of the preseason and blowouts, but if he does have to play, he’s going to have to be able to lead this team. He’s the best backup quarterback the Rams have had since Austin Davis back in 2014 and maybe since Marc Bulger.

Chances of Making Final Roster

Blake Bortles is a Los Angeles Ram at the start of the season unless he gets injured. Bortles is likely going to start every game in the preseason. The contract for a backup quarterback with Bortles’ experience at one-year, $1M is way too valuable to cut.

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