Blake Bortles has lived up to the hype in his first two preseason games, but the Jacksonville Jaguars should remain patient with the rookie quarterback.
Based on what he has shown on the field so far, many believe the No. 3 overall pick in the draft should become the team's starter for Week 1. After coming in during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears, he finished 11-of-17 for 160 passing yards.
Numbers aside, he made great throws both in the pocket and on the run and displayed the command of the offense necessary to succeed in the NFL.
Chris Wesseling of NFL.com argued Bortles could be forcing his way into the starting lineup with his impressive performance:
Playing like an evolutionary Ben Roethlisberger, Bortles impressed for the second consecutive week, showing pocket poise, command of the offense, ideal size, mobility and a cannon arm that allows him to make even the toughest NFL throws. His skills are a perfect match for offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch's scheme, which relies heavily on boot-action.
However, Grantland's Bill Barnwell brought people back to earth:
Encouraging to see Bortles looking good in the preseason, but we don’t know anything yet.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) August 15, 2014
The rookie has been competing against opponents' second-team defense and has had a good deal of success. Still, we do not know how he will fare against a quicker pass rush and better defensive backs.
Who should start Week 1 for the Jaguars?
If Jacksonville decides to send Bortles out there for the first week of the season and he struggles, it could kill his confidence and ruin his development going forward. You certainly do not want to have to replace him after a few ineffective weeks.
On the other hand, if Chad Henne starts the year and struggles, the team will have no problem bringing in the rookie to finish out the season.
Of course, Henne has been just as impressive in the preseason. He went 12-of-17 for 130 yards and a touchdown against the Bears first-team defense while helping the Jaguars build up a 13-0 early lead.
When head coach Gus Bradley was asked about giving Bortles first-team reps, he pointed out that Henne had the support of the team, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:
Bradley added some rookies have gotten 1st-team reps. Bortles will too at some point. “But the team has really rallied around Chad (Henne).”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 12, 2014
Henne provides the squad with a veteran presence who can help young players like Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson improve and reach their potential. He also has the ability to help the team win games rather than just give up on the season like many are expecting.
Meanwhile, Bortles remaining out of a legitimate competition has actually helped him, as he explained to Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports:
It’s an unbelievable situation. Day One, they said, ‘We’re going to eliminate the stress and anxiety. You’re the backup quarterback, and you need to try to go out and get better.’
So I think, as the person going through it, you have to have the right mindset about it. The competitor in me wants to be the starter. But you have to understand your role and understand your situation and yet also not get complacent and say, ‘I’m happy to be the backup.'
According to Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union, Bradley will work Bortles in with the first team for the next game:
Gus says Bortles a quarter with 1s at Detroit.— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) August 15, 2014
This will help gain some chemistry with the top players on the team, but he should still sit behind Henne on the depth chart until he is truly ready to shine.
Over the next few weeks and possibly months, Bortles will learn the playbook and develop into the quarterback he is capable of becoming. Until that time, Henne should remain under center during games and do his best to help the Jaguars win.
The transition could take a few weeks or all season, but the key is for the coaching staff to remain patient and not rush the young passer into the lineup before he is ready.
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