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  • The Jaguars are making it work around Blake Bortles thanks to a top rushing attack and elite defense. Could they go all-in by trading for a veteran QB?
By Albert Breer
October 12, 2017

The Jaguars are giving us all a good look at how you can win without much from the quarterback position. Blake Bortles currently ranks 24th in pass attempts, and has averaged just 22 attempts in Jacksonville’s three wins. He’s hit on 60% of his throws in just one of his team’s five games, and opponents are well aware that the key is to put the ball in his hands.

“They’re running the ball well with easy play-action passes off it,” said one defensive coach who faced the Jaguars in September. “They’ll struggle to win if he has to score in the two-minute drill. He still doesn’t read coverage that well, and panics against five-man pressure and tight coverage.”

The lesson: There’s more than one way to support your young quarterback. The Jags are 3-2 and all alone in first place with the Rams coming to town Sunday. And they haven’t poured resources into amping up Bortles’ arsenal; Allen Robinson’s injury only made matters worse there. Instead, they’ve taken all the pressure off of him with their run game and defense.

Jacksonville drafted Leonard Fournette and Cam Robinson this year, and paid Chris Ivory last year, and they now lead the league in rushing. They’ve stocked the defense with high picks and premium free agents, and that’s finally paying off—they posted 10 sacks in their opener against the Texans, and picked Ben Roethlisberger off five times last week in Pittsburgh.

Bortles hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t had to be, and you can easily argue that circumstance is better for a young quarterback than giving him a bunch of weapons and asking him to win every game. And all this really left me with two thoughts to close out this week.

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First, we’ve talked ad nauseum about the robust 2018 veteran quarterback market, and given the above, the Jaguars may wind up being a pretty attractive landing spot for a Drew Brees or a Kirk Cousins or a Jimmy Garoppolo or a Sam Bradford.

Second, I’m not sure the Jaguars should wait. There are two-and-a-half weeks between now and the trade deadline. So why not call the Giants about Manning or the Chargers about Philip Rivers? They currently have around $40 million in cap space to play with, and now seems like the time to strike, since they’ll have young stars to pay in the next few years.

“Obviously, it’s not gonna be Blake Bortles going forward,” said an NFC pro scouting director. “And having [Tom] Coughlin in the building, they won two Super Bowls together, I would absolutely call [the Giants]. To me, that would signify they’re all in for right now. Maybe that’s where they are.”

I’d still mark the possibility of this actually happening as being remote. Sources with both the Giants and Chargers scoffed at the idea. I have serious doubts that Manning would be enthused about leaving New York, even with Coughlin in play. Rivers (who has a no-trade clause) might be more open to the thought—he’s from Alabama, has a vacation home in Destin, Fla., is currently commuting to L.A. from San Diego daily and, unlike Manning, is still chasing his first title.

Chances are it’s not happening. But given where the Jaguars are, and how they’re set up to help whomever their quarterback is, it sure is fun to consider.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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