JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Chad Henne has rarely felt completely in control and relaxed in his six-year NFL career.
The Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback has had to fight to get onto the field and then battle to keep his job. He’s had to play while constantly looking over his shoulder. It’s not exactly the ideal environment in which to thrive.
However, Henne said this might be the most comfortable he’s felt in his career as the Jaguars prepare to open the season at Philadelphia on Sunday. He’s in his second year in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s system and, more importantly for his piece of mind, the Jaguars’ unquestioned starter.
"It’s just more that I understand this offense with the tempo and getting in and out of plays and playing at a high level," Henne said. "We have some weapons on this side of the football that I’m excited about to exploit. It’s a good comfort level, but at the same time it’s about raising that bar and becoming better and better each and every week."
It’s easy to see why Henne feels that way. He hasn’t been in this position since 2011, when he went into the season as Miami’s starter. Three years later, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley and GM David Caldwell immediately proclaimed Henne the starter after they signed him to a contract extension in March and haven’t wavered, even though rookie Blake Bortles had an impressive preseason.
Their confidence has certainly helped. Henne completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 230 yards and one touchdown without an interception in three preseason games. Fisch has been impressed with the way Henne has handled the offense.
"I think he’s certainly shown the ability to run an efficient offense," Fisch said. "I think that even leaving off [from] last year I think he was throwing the ball well. Even the last game of the year, I know we didn’t play probably up to standards of what we’d like to play to, but I think he threw for the most amount of yards he threw for all season .
"Then, coming into this preseason, he’s been very efficient, hasn’t turned the ball over once at this point. I think most importantly I’m excited for his knowledge base and the efficiency he’s playing at."
Henne is 5-14 as a starter in his two seasons with the Jaguars, including a 4-9 record in 2013. He was signed to be Blaine Gabbert’s backup in 2012 but started the final six games after Gabbert went on IR with a forearm injury. Gabbert won an open competition last season, but he played poorly and never regained his starting job after he recovered from a hamstring injury suffered in Week 5.
That’s not exactly a stellar resume but Bradley said Henne’s body of work throughout OTAs, minicamp and training camp trumps the progress and upside of Bortles, who had a fantastic preseason (521 yards, 2 TDs).
"We felt like Chad executed and did really well," Bradley said. "If Chad had maybe not performed very well and just was [OK], but we didn’t feel like that was going to be the case. He didn’t show that in OTAs and training camp. He picked up."
Being in the offense for a second year helped. So did the unwavering support he received from Bradley and Caldwell.
"They haven’t told me anything differently and Gus and I have sat down many times and he said I’m the guy," Henne said. "Until they tell me otherwise, I just go out there and prepare like I’m the starter and play well."