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Jaguars still going with Chad Henne

8/23/2014

DETROIT -- It's getting harder and harder to understand the Jacksonville Jaguars' stance that Chad Henne will be the starting quarterback when the season begins on Sept. 7.

It's not that Henne has played poorly during the Jaguars' three preseason games. He has played pretty well, in fact, going 25-for-38 for 230 yards and one touchdown. But rookie Blake Bortles has been so darn good at the same time.

Calm, confident, poised in the pocket, Bortles has recognized defenses and has been getting the offense out of bad plays. He has been scanning the field to find his second and third options.

He's doing everything you want your quarterback to do -- and he's doing it better than Henne. And yet, during his news conference after the Jaguars' 13-12 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Ford Field on Friday night, Gus Bradley said it again: Henne will be the starter against the Philadelphia Eagles to open the season.

It doesn't seem logical after comparing the two quarterbacks' performance against the Lions. Both played with the first-team offense against the Lions' first-team defense. Henne completed 9 of 14 passes for 70 yards and was sacked twice. Bortles completed 10 of 16 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown and was sacked once.

Then look at Bortles' numbers in the preseason: 28-for-44, 435 yards, one touchdown.

But the Jaguars aren't budging.

And that may be part of the reason Bortles has played so well.

"I think from Day 1 Gus and [general manager] Dave [Caldwell] have talked about creating a stress-free and anxiety free environment and that's exactly what it's been," Bortles said. "It's been perfect. It's been the perfect situation to learn and try to progress and get better. I know my role is the backup quarterback and to learn from Chad and ask as many questions as possible."

There are signs that he's ready now, though. Like the way he handled himself when he was inserted into the game late in the first half: 1:43 remaining, no time outs, ball on the Jacksonville 5-yard line. He took the Jaguars down the field and got three points on a Kasey Redfern field goal.

Or the throw he made to running back Jordan Todman. Bortles rolled to his right, didn't see any open receivers in front of him, and threw back across the field to a wide-open Todman on the sideline for a 24-yard gain.

The players see it.

"In the huddle he's just one of those guys you don't necessarily know if he's happy, if he's sad," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "He's just even-keeled and that's something that you develop normally as you get more years in the league and you kind of get a grasp of what's going on around you. He has that right now."

Bortles also has the innate ability to know when to take shots down the field, too.

"I think knowing what your guys are doing and kind of taking calculated risks," he said. "There was a couple throws that weren't too smart but I think you've got to know the situation and when's it's OK to take that chance and when's it's OK to take the checkdown."

Bortles has performed well at each level during the preseason. He looked good in his debut. He looked better in his second game against a better defensive front. On Friday night he did it against the Lions' first-team defense.

He'll get a lot of playing time next week in the final preseason game, and it's a pretty good bet he'll play well then, too.

But the Jaguars hope that's the last time we see Bortles on the field this season.