It's a quarterback controversy without the controversy. At least it is in the eyes of Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, who fueled national speculation that Blake Bortles took another step to winning the starting job in Jacksonville following Friday's announcement that Bortles would get his first action this week with the first-team offense.
Local media know otherwise. Henne is the starting quarterback and will remain such for at least the regular-season opener on Sept. 7 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Most of the media following the Jaguars on a day-to-day basis are not buying into the Bortles-is-the-starter hype that seems to prevail much more so on a national scale.
Bradley has remained consistent with his message that Henne is the team's starting quarterback. Bradley first spewed that thought on the day the Jaguars selected Bortles as the third overall pick of the 2014 college draft. He has not wavered from that position at any time since then. The news that Bortles would get first-unit reps in practice next week and for probably a quarter of the game against Detroit next Friday was simply Bradley following the philosophy he's maintained with other rookies the past two seasons.
"Our whole philosophy is to get our rookies in with the ones," Bradley said. "I believe we need to get that done this week, where we get Blake in with the ones, to see how he handles it.
"We do that with the majority of our guys and I think it's important that we remain consistent, therefore you'll see Blake get some reps with the ones. I'd like to see him get (some time with the ones) in the (next) game too. Maybe it's a quarter with the ones."
Bradley noted that he had done the same with nearly all of the Jaguars rookie players the last two years. He tried to soft-sell the theory that what he was doing was what he's done with others, but the fact that Bortles was such a high draft pick and had turned in back-to-back strong showings in the team's first two preseason games, prompted Friday's announcement.
It set off a rash of postings on social media, citing this as the first step in Bortles' ascent to the starting job. But as long as Henne continues his solid play, there won't be a changing of the guard at this position. Henne is solid with his support from teammates in the locker room. Some were around when the Jaguars made the shocking announcement in 2011 that Blaine Gabbert would be replacing team-favorite David Garrard as the starting quarterback. The move backfired when Gabbert fizzled badly and the Jaguars won only five games that year and cost Jack Del Rio his job late in the season. It got worse the following year when Mike Mularkey was brought in and the team won just two games. A 4-12 mark a year ago concluded Gabbert's stay in Jacksonville as he exited with an 11-37 mark in his three seasons with the Jaguars.
Gabbert was not ready to be thrust into action as a rookie and the Jaguars will make sure that Bortles is not placed in the same predicament. With Henne playing well enough to give the Jaguars solid play at the quarterback spot, there is not a need to rush Bortles into action. Giving him time with the first unit will just make the transition to the backup that much easier should the Jaguars need to make such a move due to an injury. But the team won't make the same mistake they did with Gabbert, another top-10 draft pick, albeit none of the hierarchy that was part of the Gabbert decision is still associated with the Jaguars.
From owner Shad Khan to general manager Dave Caldwell to Bradley, the Jaguars have stood in unison with the same belief - Bortles is the quarterback of the future but the future is not part of the present.
--The uncertainty of the offensive line continues to plague the Jaguars' ability to put together a consistent running game or be a solid unit in pass protection. It was further complicated on Friday when it was learned that starting right tackle Austin Pasztor had suffered a broken hand and would be out at least a month. That likely means journeyman Cameron Bradfield will step in at the position, much like he did a year ago when he started the final 11 games of the season when the Jaguars lost Luke Joeckel to a season-ending fractured right ankle.
The Jaguars are still looking for the right combination at right guard and center among three players - Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and Brandon Linder.
Bradley said all three players played well against Chicago, but singled out Linder for his strong play. He indicated that the rookie from Miami would likely start at one of the two positions. If it's the guard spot, Brewster would be the starting center. If Linder moves to the center spot, McClendon would get the starting call at guard.
--It took just one running play for Toby Gerhart to excite Jaguars fans. Gerhart missed the team's first preseason game when a hip flexor injury cost him 11 days of training camp. And while his production was basically limited to just the first quarter against Chicago, Gerhart showed enough with a burst through the middle that netted 18 yards for the team's longest running play of the game.
Gerhart finished with 19 yards on six carries, due to two runs in which he was stopped for negative yardage when two of the Jaguars offensive lineman were both overpowered on plays that resulted in Gerhart going down behind the line of scrimmage.
"I was excited, maybe a little overexcited," he said at halftime. "It was great to be back out there and put on a Jaguars jersey for the first time. I think I tried to do too much and missed one or two (plays) out there."
--The Jaguars are so uncertain about their play at center that they signed fifth-year center Antoine Caldwell earlier in the week. The third-round pick by Houston in 2009, Caldwell competed in the Jaguars minicamp in May. He played in 39 games for the Texans with 19 starts over a four-year period (2009-12). He later spent some time with Buffalo during the 20013 season.
His signing may prove to be valuable as rookie center Luke Bowanko suffered an ankle sprain in the Chicago game and was to have an MRI done late on Friday to determine the severity of the injury and how long he might be out.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Backup running back spot, Denard Robinson vs. Jordan Todman. With Toby Gerhart on the sidelines for 10 days, it gave coaches a good opportunity to look at Robinson and Todman and who will be the backup for Gerhart during the regular season. Robinson was listed third on the depth chart, behind Todman, but the former Michigan quarterback has now led the team in rushing in each of the two preseason games. He's averaged better than five yards a carry in both and has the team's only rushing touchdown thus far, a 23-yard jaunt against Tampa Bay. Both players also excel in the kick return game so both are likely to make the final roster. But they remain locked in a close battle as to who will get the call if Gerhart should get injured. With Robinson having added some weight during the offseason, they are similar in size, both hovering just under the 200-pound mark. Robinson may be a shade faster and of course adds a multiple dimension with his ability to throw the ball.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--FB Eric Kettani was signed by the Jaguars Wednesday (Aug. 20). Kettani (5-foot-11, 240 pounds) was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the New England Patriots in 2009 and had to leave training camp in July of 2009 for military commitments. He was reinstated to the Patriots' roster in September of 2011 and spent part of the season on the club's practice squad.
--TE Fendi Onobun was waived/injured (knee) by the Jaguars Wednesday (Aug. 20) and was placed on reserve/injured after clearing waivers.
--C Matt Stankiewitch was waived from reserve/injured with an injury settlement by the Jaguars Wednesday (Aug. 20).
--WR Allen Hurns who moved up from third team on the depth chart to starting for the Jaguars against Chicago, strengthened his bid to make the final roster with four catches for 74 yards.
--LB Dekoda Watson, who started training camp on PUP due to a groin injury, has been cleared to begin light practice for the Jaguars. He could see some action in next Friday's game in Detroit.
--WR Cecil Shorts has been out since the first day of training camp when he experienced tightness in his hamstring. Shorts, the team's leading receiver a year ago, was given the green light to start participating in light drills in practice. He isn't likely to see action in Detroit.
--WR Allen Robinson, the team's second-round draft pick out of Penn State, is likely out another week with his hamstring injury. He sustained his injury on July 31 and has been sidelined since then. Robinson said, "It's getting better each and every day so it's coming along."
--WR Ace Sanders, has yet to make an appearance at camp. Sanders announced the day players reported to camp that he had violated the league's substance abuse program. A day later the league imposed a four-game ban on Sanders to start the season. Even though he could be practicing with the team, Sanders has not been at the Jaguars facility since making his announcement, saying he wanted to concentrate fully on getting better.
--FB Bradie Ewing suffered the Jaguars first season-ending injury when it was revealed that he had torn ligaments in his wrist and would be out for the season. Ewing was waived/injured Saturday (Aug. 16) and was placed on reserve/injured after clearing waivers.
--WR Marqise Lee had four catches for 27 yards, including the Jaguars only touchdown of the game, a 6-yard pass from Chad Henne in the first quarter. "I never lost any confidence in my ability. I just had to do a better job of running my routes," said Lee, who was held without a catch in the opener against Tampa Bay.
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- Blaine Gabbert
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