Blake Bortles to get first-team reps

ByMichael DiRocco ESPN logo
Friday, August 15, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars will give rookie quarterback Blake Bortles some reps with the first-team offense in the next week, both in practice and in the team's preseason game at Detroit on Aug. 22.

But they won't give him the starting job.

Coach Gus Bradley said Friday that the team isn't wavering in its stance that veteran Chad Henne will start in Week 1, even though Bortles -- the third overall pick in this year's draft -- has been impressive in the Jaguars' first two preseason games and regardless of what he does against the Lions.

"I think it's just the body of work, the experience [that Henne has]," Bradley said. "You can grow with Blake, too, and let him go through these experiences and do well, but the team is really responding to both of them really well. But I just think that with where Chad is at right now and where our team is at, I think that's the best thing for us right now.

"There's going to be some time that we have to take a look at this and see the direction we're going [at quarterback], but right now that's not even a question in our mind."

Bortles has completed 18 of 28 passes for 277 yards in the first two preseason games. He went 7-of-11 in his debut against Tampa Bay, and three of his four incompletions were drops. He was 11-of-17 for 160 yards in the Jaguars' 20-19 loss to Chicago on Thursday night, although 45 yards came on a meaningless play at the end of the first half.

He has looked poised and confident and has completed some tough throws, but all of his work has come with the second-team offense against second-team defenses. Bradley said Bortles hasn't faced any exotic coverages and has faced more than a four-man rush only once in two games, which is why he wants to see Bortles work with the first team.

It could be several possessions or an entire quarter. Bradley said he'll make that determination closer to next Friday's game.

The Jaguars have made it a point to get other rookies first-team reps as well, which is a philosophy that Bradley brought with him from Seattle, where he was the defensive coordinator from 2009 to 2012. Bortles, however, hasn't had any in training camp.

"Our whole philosophy is to get our rookies in with the 1s and I believe we've got to get that done this week, where we get Blake with the 1s this week to see just how he handles it," Bradley said.

Henne also played well against the Bears, completing 12 of 17 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown while leading the first-team offense to 166 yards and 13 points in four possessions. That's in stark contrast to its performance in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay, when the Jaguars managed just 4 net yards in four possessions and Henne completed 4 of 7 passes for 30 yards.

"I feel like Chad has made strides," Bradley said. "I think we feel so strongly about Chad right now."

Neither Bortles nor Henne was available to the media on Friday.

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