Each week, theScore will go division by division, highlighting which three players’ performances will most impact their team’s season in 2017.
It’s a make-or-break season for Bortles. After a promising 2015 in which he threw 35 touchdown passes, the former third overall draft pick regressed severely in 2016, earning a lowly 78.8 passer rating.
The Jaguars replaced parts of its management after the campaign and the new staff was almost reluctant to provide its support for Bortles before exercising the fifth-year option in his rookie contract.
Bortles spent much of the offseason overhauling his throwing motion and mechanics. It’s a desperate measure, but the Jags are determined to improve on the number of double-digit losses.
Jacksonville has surrounded Bortles with ample offensive talent. The time is now for the quarterback to either boom or be labeled a bust.
Ezekiel Elliott is the new standard-bearer for rookie running backs, but Fournette could just as well set a new benchmark with a splashy rookie season.
The Jaguars barely averaged more than 100 yards per game on the ground in 2016. Heck, Bortles challenged for the team lead in rushing yards and came about 100 yards short of the mark. That should all come to an end with Fournette in tow.
The LSU product was a superstar his three years in college, the highlight being his 22-touchdown sophomore campaign. The Jaguars ranked in the bottom third of the league in total points in 2016. Should the offensive line be strong enough to support its new lead rusher, Fournette should immediately ameliorate the team’s offense and take a heap of pressure off of Bortles and the passing game.
Dante Fowler Jr.
Fowler has declared himself finally 100 percent healthy. The pass-rusher missed his entire rookie season in 2015 with a torn ACL, but appeared in a full complement of games last year. He was only able to produce 32 tackles, however, though he added four sacks.
If the Jags are able to fully unleash the former third overall selection, he could make a substantial difference on a defence that ranked sixth last year.
The Jaguars had 33 sacks as a team in 2016. With a confident Fowler and free-agent addition Calais Campbell rushing the passer with Yannick Ngakoue, that figure is bound to climb.
Also from this series
- 3 players who will have the biggest impact on the Texans’ season
- 3 players who will have the biggest impact on the Colts’ season
- 3 players who will have the biggest impact on the Titans’ season (June 11)
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
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