Bortles came off the bench at Miami last Sunday and led Jacksonville (5-10) to the go-ahead score in a 17-7 victory . The fifth-year pro completed 5 of 6 passes for 39 yards and carried four times for 25 yards, including scampers of 14 and 13 yards on a field-goal drive that broke a 7-all tie.
Bortles looked considerably better than Cody Kessler, who was sacked five times and lost a fumble for the third consecutive week. Kessler left the game in the second quarter with a bruised throwing shoulder and later returned before sitting down for good.
Kessler led the Jaguars to two touchdowns in 37 possessions as the starter. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 709 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also was sacked 22 times, including 18 in four starts.
Bortles has completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,611 yards, with 13 TDs and 10 INTs. He has been sacked 28 times and lost four fumbles.
Because of his inconsistency, it seems Bortles will unlikely return to Jacksonville in 2019. The third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft is due to count $21 million against the salary cap next season. The Jags can save $9.5 million by cutting him with a post-June 1 designation, making his cap hit only $11.5 million in dead money.
Jacksonville is expected to select a quarterback early in the draft and sign a veteran to start until the rookie is ready.
But it will be Bortles under center against the Texans, who can clinch the AFC South with a victory.
“I’m excited to see him take advantage of the opportunity,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Who knows what’s going to happen in the future, but this is an opportunity to go out there and show what he can do.”
Although Bortles would welcome another year with the Jaguars — he recently bought a $3.75 million home in Jacksonville — he acknowledges what many around the league and inside the team’s facility believe to be true: that his tenure in Jacksonville is coming to close.
Bortles never developed into a franchise quarterback, but he fooled top decision-maker Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell by playing turnover-free football in the 2017 postseason. That earned him a three-year, $54 million contract in February that ranks high on Coughlin’s list of poor decisions.
Bortles struggled early in the season, especially after losing a number of starters on the offensive side of the ball. He was without his top receiver, his top two tight ends, several offensive linemen and played six games without running back Leonard Fournette. Bortles lost seven consecutive starts before Marrone made the move to Kessler.
Now, he’s back to Bortles — for one more game.
“Through everything he’s kept an even keel, still been a mature guy, still been the same guy around the locker room,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. “For him to come into the game and help us, guide us to a victory, that was huge. Giving him this opportunity to go out there and start Sunday, giving us the best chance to win — nothing against Cody — it’s awesome for a guy like him because, obviously, when things go good he doesn’t get enough credit and when things go bad he gets all the blame.
“I’m just excited for the guy. He’s truly a good dude.”
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