JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Chargers have won six straight games against the Jaguars, a dominant run that has seen them more than double their opponent’s point total.
To extend that streak at EverBank Field today (10 a.m., CBS), they’ll have to hold off an offense that’s better than anything Jacksonville has had in the last decade.
Under Doug Marrone, promoted from his interim role early this year, the Jaguars are top 10 in the league in both points (206) and yards (2,939) — rankings they haven’t reached since 2007. That offense, the last one to push Jacksonville into the playoffs, was powered by running back Maurice Jones-Drew and quarterback David Garrard. The former is now an analyst for NFL Network; the latter is hawking health products on Instagram.
Key to the Jaguars’ recent turnaround? Shifting the focus of their backfield.
“As you can see on film,” said Chargers defensive tackle Darius Philon, “it’s not a Jacksonville team that wants the ball in Blake Bortles’ hand.”
Just months ago, many considered Bortles the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. A former No. 3 overall pick, the 25-year-old had just finished his third season with a passer rating of 78.8, almost a 10-point regression from his previous campaign. His 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions looked respectable enough — if you ignored the fact that he padded much of that line in the final five minutes of losing efforts. Somehow, he finished third in the NFL with 625 pass attempts, 15 more than Aaron Rodgers.
Thanks to a rejuvenated running game led by rookie Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville isn’t leaning on Bortles’ arm any more than necessary. He has thrown just 234 passes this fall, the lowest number for any quarterback with at least eight appearances. Over the last two seasons, Bortles threw at least 40 passes in 12 different outings, hitting the half-century mark four times. The Jaguars’ record in those games was 1-11.
Through eight games in 2017, Bortles has topped 35 attempts just once. He opened the season against the Texans by passing 21 times, a single-game career low. He limboed under that mark four weeks later, passing just 14 times against the Steelers.
The Jaguars won both games by three touchdowns. With the league’s best defense giving him a comfortable cushion, Bortles has done enough to keep Jacksonville (5-3) tied atop the AFC South.
“I think their philosophy is — they’re still taking some shots with him — but it’s passes that…