Bortles came on to run the two-minute drill with the first-team offense, showing off his dynamic arm and leading Jacksonville to a field goal. In the third quarter, he hit Allen Hurns on a curl route for a 13-yard touchdown. Hurns ducked around his defender at about the 5-yard line, then spun into the end zone for the score.
Bortles demonstrated what you would hope of a player selected with the No. 3 overall pick. Several of his throws were frozen ropes where only the receivers could catch them, including a third-quarter dart on a post route that hit Hurns for a 24-yard gain in tight coverage.
Bortles' craziest play came when he did something quarterbacks aren't really taught to do, hitting Jordan Todman on a play-action throw that went across the length of the field. That was the kind of instinctive play that Johnny Manziel often flashed coming out of college. That Bortles had the intuition and ability to see that checkdown, which turned into a 24-yard gain, was especially telling. These are the kinds of "make something out of nothing" plays that only the best in the league are able to pull off.
Especially impressive was Bortles' command of the pocket. He was able to side-step a rusher and complete a 10-yard pass to Kerry Taylor on his two-minute drive. The curl to Hurns came against a big blitz. Bortles was sacked once, but it came off play action and Bortles lost his footing—and he still managed to dive close to the line of scrimmage.
Throughout the game, Bortles never looked hurried with the ball. He was measured and decisive.
If you were judging the Jacksonville quarterbacks purely on preseason play—something that this writer would not do—you would have to conclude that Jacksonville should start the season with Bortles at quarterback. Chad Henne has been mostly adequate, but he has been dwarfed by Bortles at every opportunity. However, it sounds like the Jaguars are going against that mode of thought and are going to start Henne when the regular season begins.
The Bortles-Henne controversy boils down to if the Jaguars coaching staff is willing to trust the unknown. Bortles can make throws that Henne can't, and head coach Gus Bradley said after Friday night's game, per Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, "I like that he [Bortles] takes risks and attacks the situation." Bortles has shown better pocket poise than Henne has demonstrated in previous seasons.
|Bortles vs. Henne, Preseason 2014|
|Quarterback||Completions - Attempts||Yards||TD/INT||Sacks|
However, Bortles is prone to making some mistakes—he has a very cocky arm that may lead to some more picks against better defensive backs. His footwork is good on his passes, but he's still very raw in play action out of the snap. Remember, he played in a predominantly shotgun-based offense at Central Florida.
Given how much the Jaguars watched Blaine Gabbert struggle, I don't think you can blame them for deciding that the rookie needs some more polishing. Bortles isn't going to be flawless right off the bat, and promising young quarterbacks have been ruined by poor offensive lines before. Which might explain part of the reason that Gus Bradley decided to name Henne the starter for week 1 tonight.
That said, it's very clear that their quarterback of the future has a bright future in the league. He has shown enough in the preseason to prove that he's ready to play in this league already and if that ends in a lot of interceptions, well, Peyton Manning threw a lot in his rookie season, too. It looks like we won't see Bortles to start the year, but you have to think he'll make an appearance eventually.
Bortles' talent is obvious. The Jaguars could find a way to sneak into the playoffs if he takes over as an immediate hit in a down AFC (and especially AFC South). But we'll see how long we have to wait to see Bortles start a game in Jacksonville.