Jaguars Mailbag: Is it time to consider Bortles returning in 2018? Should Cole start over Hurns?

This week's Jaguars Mailbag features questions about Blake Bortles, Jacksonville's wide receivers and the recent success.

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@MZwats asks: Is it time to start talking about the possibility of Blake Bortles getting that $19 million pay day next year?

Mike Kaye: The Jaguars' front office probably likes what it's seen from Bortles over the last two games. He has been protecting the ball and is moving it with efficiency.

The Jaguars have always publicly shown confidence in Bortles, so you'd have to think a positive performance would weigh even heavier with the folks inside EverBank Field.

Truth be told, Bortles was excellent on Sunday against the Bengals. He missed a pair of throws but led four scoring drives and consistently moved the ball.

I think that if you consider what may be out there next season as far as veteran quarterbacks are concerned, sticking with Bortles may be the best option in the minds of the guys that control the roster.

He is currently on pace for 3,314 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a career-high 59.4 completion percentage. Those are pretty solid numbers for any mid-level quarterback.

Even if they bring Bortles back, they could draft his successor on Day 1 or 2 of the selection process. Bortles will probably be cheaper than Kirk Cousins (who may not hit free agency) and some other potential options out there. He also knows the offense and could be easily benched for a rookie with a strong draft pedigree.

It's not out of the question that Bortles returns for Year 5. However, we need to see how the next eight games play out.

If Bortles regresses or has a few more games like the one he had against the New York Jets, the Jaguars may need to reevaluate the situation.

 

Joe Morgan asks: What are realistic expectations for Dede Westbrook this year?

MK: While there is some thought that Westbrook will immediately set the world ablaze, I'm not convinced he will contribute heavily right away.

At 6-0, 178 pounds, NFL cornerbacks are going to press him on every play to knock him off his routes. I think it will take time for him to get his route-running legs under him.

He will - at best - get eight games to strut his stuff. His rookie counterpart, Keelan Cole, has just 11 receptions during that same sample size. I think it's fair to expect Westbrook to double that production. 

I think 22 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns would be a successful start for the fourth-round pick.

 

Terrance L. Hayes asks: Is Keelan Cole a must-play over Allen Hurns?

MK: Cole still isn't quite at that point yet. While he continues to develop, he is still learning the Jaguars' offense and what he can do in the NFL.

He has 11 catches for 158 yards through eight games. That's not necessarily killer production.

Hurns is a veteran who has proven himself time and time again. While he has disappeared from games at times this season, he still deserves the starts and reps over Cole.

If Cole can keep making plays like his one-handed grab for 28 yards against the Bengals, he may soon supplant Hurns in the lineup.

 

Joe Boehner asks: Was it really all Gus Bradley’s fault? Or was it the lack of accountability from the front office for bad results?

MK: It certainly seems to be pointing toward Bradley as the issue for the Jaguars in previous seasons.

I don't think - in reality - it was all on Bradley, though I do think the overwhelming majority falls at his feet. Bradley's overall mindset just didn't seem to click with players as much as Marrone's approach does.

Bradley had an issue with changing up his scheme to meet players' strengths. The current staff has opened up their game plans to adjust to the talent on the roster.

I think Calais Campbell, Barry Church and A.J. Bouye have brought a lot of experience with them. Campbell and Church - in particular - know how to win and have passed on their experiences and knowledge to their teammates. 

Cam Robinson may be one of the best second-round picks in team history. He has made a lot of the difference on the offensive line this season. First-round running back Leonard Fournette has been sensational when active.

I would also say the second-year growth of Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue and Myles Jack has made a HUGE difference. Then again, they've also been put in better positions to succeed this season.

Marrone has a lot more overall talent on this roster when you consider asset acquisition and development.

Bradley is doing well as a defensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Chargers. I have always thought his mentality fit the coordinator role over the head coaching position. 

Bradley will be in town next week. Marrone can top his predecessor's highest season win total with a victory.

Follow Mike Kaye and ask him your Jaguars Mailbag questions on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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