- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Blake Bortles NFL debut is about more than numbers.
It’s about looking poised, running the offense, moving the ball, and not making mistakes. If Bortles comes out of Friday’s preseason opener between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at EverBank Field with all of those things accomplished, he’ll call it a success.
"Obviously you want to go out and do good and put up good numbers, but I think as far as getting better, executing the game plan, moving the ball, I think that’s all you want to focus on," Bortles said Thursday afternoon. "It’s the first preseason game. It’s the first NFL game I’ll ever play in so I’m excited and I can’t wait to go and get an opportunity to go play, but the sole focus is on getting better and being the best I can be."
Bortles likely won’t see the field until the second quarter. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said the first-team offense, led by starter Chad Henne, will play the entire first quarter and possibly a drive or two into the second, depending on the number of snaps. Bortles and the second-team offense should get the second and third quarters.
"We’re not going to [have Bortles take first-team reps] in this game," Bradley said. "Right now we’re looking at the second quarter and we’ll see how it goes in the third quarter, but we’d like to get him some extended reps."
Bortles has had a solid start to training camp. He showed up with a deeper understanding of the offense than coordinator Jedd Fisch anticipated, and he threw the ball much better than he did during OTAs and minicamp. His footwork has been better and that resulted in fewer off-target and fluttered passes. He has had some bad days, as any rookie quarterback will, but overall Fisch has been pleased with Bortles’ progress.
"[Bortles is] playing faster, understanding our system, understanding his reads," Fisch said. "One of the things that you ask of him is to come in here and not start from Day 1 again."
The last time Bortles didn’t start a game came as a redshirt freshman at Central Florida in 2011 when he shared time with Jeff Godfrey. The No. 3 overall pick said he knows his role and won’t have a problem watching Henne run the offense. When he does get on the field he says he’ll take Henne’s advice and not try to be Superman.
"I think it’s kind of a great thing that Chad says," Bortles said. "Especially as the backup quarterback coming in you obviously want to show what you can do. You want to show them you can move the ball and be successful, but I think what it means in our world is don’t force things. Don’t take shots that aren’t there. Take a checkdown, throw it to your back, move the ball, move the chains, and don’t try and be a hero.
"… I know my role. I know Chad’s the starter and I’m the backup so when they call my number I’ll go in and try to do what Chad was doing."