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Gene Frenette: Even teammates are adding to the buzz over Bortles

Posted: August 16, 2014 - 6:06pm  |  Updated: August 17, 2014 - 9:03am

For longtime Jaguars followers, this is unprecedented. Never has one of their new toys generated this much excitement.

It’s not just fans, but even a large segment of national media are unabashedly rooting for the team to accelerate the Blake Bortles era. They want him inserted as the starter now, or certainly far sooner than the deliberate plan mapped out by coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell.

Nothing against Chad Henne, but NFL junkies tend to prefer a young, promising quarterback over an older competent version. Whether it’s football or technology, that’s the way the world works. The 22-year-old Bortles is the equivalent of PlayStation 4 or an iPhone 5, and comparatively, Henne is a Nintendo Wii/flip phone.

It doesn’t matter that Bortles’ preseason launch has been against second-team defenses and without any real opponent game-planning. Twice under the prime-time lights, he has thrown the football like a poised veteran (from both the pocket and on the run), and people are anxious to see more.

Well, guess what? Armchair quarterbacks aren’t the only ones feeling giddy about Bortles’ future. So are his teammates.

“We had some excitement on the sideline,” kicker Josh Scobee said of Thursday’s preseason game in Chicago. “I remember hitting Marcedes [Lewis, tight end] on the elbow after one pass and saying, ‘Did you just see that?’ Marcedes was excited about it, too.’’

That instance was on a second-and-1, during the Jaguars’ first series of the third quarter. Bortles eyed receiver Mike Brown on the right sideline and pump-faked, then came back left and dropped a perfect 29-yard strike to Kerry Taylor, who barely had a step on Bears cornerback Demontre Hurst.

It’s not like that is Bortles’ lone highlight, nor does he execute everything perfectly. But what we have seen this preseason — a first-round draft pick completing 18 of 28 passes for 277 yards — is compelling evidence that the Central Florida product might be ready to start sooner than the Jaguars’ brass initially projected.

“[Bortles] has made some big-boy throws,” Lewis said. “He’s impressing me every day. A guy as young as he is in his rookie year, he really understands what it takes to be good in this league.”

Just to be clear, players in the Jaguars’ locker room aren’t publicly second-guessing Bradley and Caldwell’s commitment to start Henne and let the quarterback process dictate when Bortles takes over. While praising Bortles, teammates are careful to not stray into the area of pushing for him to start.

“The one thing I’ve learned about Dave [Caldwell] and Gus [Bradley] is they really stick to their message,” said Scobee. “They’ve said all along that Chad is going to be the starter. That’s their decision to make, not ours.”

Still, you can see Scobee’s eyes light up when the conversation turns to Bortles’ future. And you know what’s interesting about that? Scobee, now in his 11th season, is the only Jaguars player who has been around long enough to observe most or the entire development of quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert, David Garrard and Byron Leftwich. He didn’t have the same look of early excitement about that trio.

“In the few months [Bortles] has been here, he’s shown the kind of things off the field that you want to see in a franchise quarterback, how he handles himself with teammates and the media,” Scobee said. “Hopefully, whenever his time is called, he’ll be ready to lead us.”

Rookie tailback Storm Johnson minces no words about his former UCF teammate, adding: “I knew coming here that Blake’s intangibles were great. The day they’re ready to pull the trigger, I think Blake will be ready.”

Maybe the 29-year-old Henne performs well enough to keep the starting job in 2014. The ebb and flow of this quarterback process is the most intriguing element about the Jaguars in a long time. The overwhelming sentiment is Bradley and Caldwell will need serious willpower to delay Bortles’ inevitable ascension.

That’s how it is in the NFL. When a rookie quarterback shows promise, especially on a hope-starved franchise, everyone wants to see the new toy.

 

gene.frenette@jacksonville.com,

(904) 359-4540

Comments (7)

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revivedteal
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revivedteal 08/18/14 - 10:50 pm
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Holy cow where did all the

Holy cow where did all the negative nancies go? ....no more timmy talk from the gator name dudes and even Danny boy is coming around. This kid is the real deal.

Daniel Plainview
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Daniel Plainview 08/17/14 - 08:53 pm
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Yes he is good but let him

Yes he is good but let him learn the system first.

R.G. IngersollFan
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R.G. IngersollFan 08/17/14 - 12:31 pm
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THE ENQUIRER: Solid

THE ENQUIRER: Solid reasoning. Blake will be around a long time. No need to jump the gun on his starting. But I'm betting he'll be our QB by mid-season.

The Enquirer
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The Enquirer 08/17/14 - 11:51 am
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I have no problem with Henne

I have no problem with Henne starting the season. However if he does what his history has been, he'll win one, then lose one or two. At that rate, he will provide another losing season. Fans are tired of that and want a good season for a change. We need a good season to excite fans and get them out to the games. I would give Henne the first 8 games. If we have a winning record, then let him play. If we have a losing record, it will be time to play Bortles. 8 games to take in on the sideline is plenty enough. Then he won't have to hit the rookie wall only playing the last 8 games and maybe a playoff game or two. I'm not expecting a playoff year, but I do expect around a 500 season, with or without Henne playing.

Baphomet
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Baphomet 08/17/14 - 11:04 am
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You know, I played Blake

You know, I played Blake Bortles in Madden 2015 and I agree he should start now. Why? Because Madden 2015, and Div I college football are good proxies for how someone is going to perform in the NFL.

He sure looked great playing against second team defenses running really basic schemes. Please ignore that because inconvenient truths like this really throw cold water on our enthusiasm.

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