Jacksonville Jaguars fans were hoping for a clear winner of the quarterback competition. Instead, each player reminded us of their specific strengths and flaws.
Following the Jaguars week two preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, head coach Doug Marrone opened up the starting quarterback competition. This seems like it was due to struggles from current starter Blake Bortles and strong practices from backup Chad Henne.
After an offseason where it was all but assumed Bortles would trot out with the starters when the season opens at Tennessee, the outcome is suddenly uncertain.
Chad Henne started at quarterback
This time last week, most fans and observers were all but granting the starting job come week one of the regular season to veteran Chad Henne. Then he played in a game. In case anyone forgot what a team led by the former starter turned backup looked like, we got a quick refresher.
Chad the good:
Chad has a quick release. He completes short to intermediate routes with ease and seems to have a good sense of where everyone on the field is at any given time.
Henne is great at identifying the open receivers and completing the high percentage passes. Early on in the game, Jaguar receivers were swamped deep in the secondary. Henne made the reads quickly and delivered accurate balls to running backs. Even though these plays didn’t result in much net yardage, these balls at least have a chance in the hands of a dangerous runner. This is certainly preferable to lobbing air balls into crowded secondaries.
Chad the underwhelming:
The hallmark of Henne’s tenure with the Jaguars is his stubborn unwillingness to take a risk with the ball. He completes high percentage passes with regularity but we rarely see the football sail down the field. The offensive line was no help, but the Jaguars didn’t log an attempt to a wide receiver until the two-minute warning was staring the team in the face.
Henne made two excellent throws down the field in his two quarters of play. One fell just outside the grasp of Keelan Cole and the other was a nice completion to Allen Robinson. Still, these efforts looked like too little too late and were the sort of desperation throws you get from Henne only in two-minute situations.
Chad the “that’s so Jaguars:”
Chad Henne’s most Jaguar moment came when he attempted a pass down the field. The ball hit AJ Cann in the back of the head. This forced Henne to step up and spike the ball into the ground like a volleyball. Enough said.
Blake Bortles played, too.
The number one concern with Blake’s play since the moment he stepped on the field was consistency. Bortles did nothing to alleviate those worries against the Carolina Panthers. Although there were some eye-popping plays made by the fourth year veteran, there were an equal number of head scratchers.
Blake the magnificent:
On each of the two touchdown drives the Jaguars piloted with Bortles at the helm he made some NFL caliber plays to get them there. Leading up to the initial touchdown, Blake completed an absolute beauty to Shane Wynn. It was a true “wow” moment for the beleaguered quarterback. The touchdown pass itself was a wonderful fade into the end zone that hearkened back to some of the quarterback’s best moments from 2015.
On the second drive, Blake showed exactly why it’s been so hard for Jaguars fans and the front office to give up on him completely. Facing pressure, Bortles rolled out and kept his eyes on his receivers. He turned what would have been a sure sack into a very nice dump off to Ben Koyack.The tight end then ran the ball close to the pylons to set up a touchdown run.
Blake the baffling:
A glance at the stat line will show that Blake threw an interception. While certainly not ideal, that was hardly Bortles’s worst throw of the night.
Immediately following a couple of solid passes, Bortles attempted a throw to running back Cory Grant. The quarterback did not set his feet. Even though this completion is usually routine, the ball sailed out of his receiver’s reach. Worse still, with the extra air time the ball took on its way to the running back the defender closed in fast. Even if Grant could come down with the ball after bringing his momentum to a complete stop, the defender would have laid him out instantly. This could easily have led to a turnover.
These are the throws that should be easy for every NFL quarterback to make. The fact that these throws are still not automatic for the passer is a cause for concern. Even if you work your game plan to a quarterback’s strengths, how can a coach work around an inability to check the ball down?
Blake the “that’s so Jaguars:”
This has to be the interception. While Blake didn’t throw a perfect ball by any means, it was catchable at best. At worst, it probably shouldn’t have been an interception. It was one of those plays we saw all too often in 2016. When we see the ball, it’s
close to a Jaguar – Allen Hurns in this case – after some bodies collide when we see the ball again, the opposing team has it.
The trend continues of a snake bitten quarterback. Whatever can go wrong seemingly does.
Which quarterback should start week one?
This opinion will be controversial. Even after the tumultuous off-season, the Jaguars should still roll out Blake Bortles come week one. We know what we have in Chad Henne. Coaches cannot instill a willingness to take the kind of risks that lead to winning quarterbacking.
Frankly, it’s unlikely that Bortles can turn the corner into an NFL caliber starting quarterback. However, when he’s playing loose and relaxed he can make plays with his athleticism and football instincts at an all-pro level. You can’t let that potential sit on the bench while you watch Chad Henne check down on third and long.