Blake Bortles Says You Can't Play QB in NFL Constantly Worrying About Mistakes

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 21:  Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars watches the action from the bench during the game against the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field on October 21, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has been the target of plenty of criticism since being drafted third overall in 2014, but he's not going to waste any time looking over his shoulder. 

Last week, Bortles was benched in favor of backup Cody Kessler during a 20-7 loss to the Houston Texans. As he gets the start against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, he isn't letting the possibility of losing his job affect his mindset on the field.

Bortles said on Friday, per ESPN's Michael DiRocco:

"You've just got to go play. I don't think you can worry about it. You can't play the position and play the game constantly worrying about, 'What happens if I make a mistake?'

"I've always kind of played fearless and not scared to make the mistake. I think that's allowed me to make some plays, but in saying that, I've got to also be smart and obviously take calculated risks and make sure whatever I'm doing is putting us in position to score."

Bortles was able to silence some of his critics a season ago while helping the Jaguars reach the AFC Championship Game. His play in 2017 even earned him a three-year, $54 million extension.

But instead of continuing to progress, the 26-year-old has taken a step back this season.

Jacksonville started the season 2-0 and even exacted a bit of revenge with a 31-20 victory over the New England Patriots in Week 2. Since then, though, the team has lost four of its last five games, including three in a row heading into Sunday's game against the defending Super Bowl champs.

During the skid, Bortles has completed just 54.5 percent of his passes for 640 yards (430 yards came in a game in which Jacksonville fell behind the Kansas City Chiefs 23-0), two touchdowns and five interceptions. He has been held under 177 passing yards four times this season. 

Not only that, but the fifth-year passer already has eight interceptions and two fumbles in 2018.

Bortles threw four touchdowns in the victory over New England. He has five touchdown passes in the six other games combined this season, failing to throw at least one in two games.

It certainly hasn't helped Bortles that star running back Leonard Fournette has been limited to just two games this season due to injury. Fournette has not appeared in a game since Sept. 30. Also, the vaunted defense has not been as dominant as it was last season, allowing 20.9 points per game this year.

Ultimately, though, the quarterback is the one under the microscope. Bortles acknowledged in an interview last week with Michael Silver of NFL.com that he understands he is Jacksonville's "scapegoat." As he mentioned on Friday, it's on him to silence the noise.

"There's been pressure it seems like since I got to Jacksonville, so it's kind of normal," Bortles said, per DiRocco. "I think there's pressure at every position at all times in the NFL. If you're not getting the job done or playing well or being successful, they'll eventually replace you and find somebody else that can."

Now that Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has shown that he isn't afraid to make a change at quarterback, that should have Bortles on high alert. If he continues to struggle and turn the ball over, he could soon wind up back on the sideline.

That's the way of the road in the NFL. Either perform well or get replaced.