JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who has more turnovers than touchdowns this season, is shouldering blame for the team’s 0-2 start.
“I haven’t played well in two games and our offense hasn’t played well in two games,” Bortles said Wednesday. “For anything to change, I’m going to have to play better.”
It begins against Baltimore (2-0) on Sunday, when the Jaguars will try to avoid starting 0-3 for the third time in the last four years.
Bortles has three touchdown passes, three interceptions and a lost fumble. Equally telling are the errant passes and poor decisions — rookie mistakes that he was supposed to eliminate in his third NFL season.
“There’s going to be turnovers. There’s going to be penalties. That’s going to happen,” Bortles said. “We got to eliminate the stupid ones, the pre-snaps, the false starts and then obviously the dumb interceptions and the strip-fumbles. You got to eliminate the stuff that shouldn’t happen. But that stuff is going to happen, and it’s how you handle it and bounce back.”
Bortles has been at his worst early, throwing interceptions in the first quarter of both games that led to deficits. His second pass of the season opener against Green Bay was behind Marqise Lee, tipped and picked off. His third pass last week at San Diego also was behind Lee, tipped and intercepted. Both opponents scored touchdowns following the turnovers.
Bortles bounced back against the Packers and took the lead in the first half. He had a chance to get Jacksonville back in the game against the Chargers, but he fumbled on a third-down play at the San Diego 22.
The Chargers ended up taking a 35-0 lead into the fourth quarter and won 38-14. Bortles completed 31 of 50 passes for 329 yards, with two touchdowns, two interceptions and two sacks.
Coach Gus Bradley said it’s a challenge for Bortles to not indict himself for the offense’s play.
“You feel like it’s on your shoulders and it’s not,” Bradley said. “In all areas, we need to step it up. … Sometimes speed bumps happen during the season. It’s not OK, but if this takes us to better places, at least we can hang our hat on that. That’s what I’m really looking for this week.”
The Jaguars believed they would build off last season’s offensive performance. They ranked 18th in the league in total offense and felt like they had some key pieces — Bortles, receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns and tight end Julius Thomas — to make another big jump in 2016.
But Robinson and Hurns have been mostly non-factors. The offensive line has been shaky again, really struggling to open up running holes, and it could be without left tackle Kelvin Beachum against the Ravens. And Bortles has been far from consistent.
Sure, he’s topped 300 yards passing both weeks. But the Jaguars are now 0-9 when he reaches that benchmark.
The more important record now is trying to stave off 0-3 again.
“You start 0-2 and it’s pretty easy for guys to fold up shop already and become pretty negative,” Bortles said. “I don’t think we have the locker room to do that. I know we have a lot of guys that believe in Gus and believe in his philosophies and culture and have bought in.
“We’re going to continue to go about it the way we always have and believe that when we handle what we need to during the week then we’ll perform the way we should on Sundays.”