The Jacksonville Jaguars would like to see less "Check-down Chad" and more "Heave-it Henne."
Coach Gus Bradley said this week that he's imploring quarterback Chad Henne to "be more explosive-minded, take chances and have no fear."
Henne completed 24 of 43 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns in last week's season-opening loss at Philadelphia. Henne was at his best early in the game, when he connected with rookie Allen Hurns for both scores. Those were among his four passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air.
While that might not seem like Henne's airing it out, the seventh-year pro only threw 29 passes of 20 or more yards in 15 games last season.
"He is challenging himself to do more of that," Bradley said. "Not that he wasn't (in 2013), but I think he clearly understands where we want to go with it. He is taking more chances, and that's what we want."
Henne hooked up with Hurns for a 34-yard touchdown pass on the team's second possession and found him again for a 46-yard gain that got the Jaguars off their 1-yard line later in the first quarter. Henne also tossed two more deep balls on consecutive plays in the third: he overthrew Hurns and had one knocked out of Marqise Lee's hands.
"I thought he was really aggressive," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "We talked to him about that's the way our system is built. We want to throw the ball down the field. We want to use screen game to be able to make them run laterally so we can throw the ball vertically when they're tired.
"With us, in order to run our offense you've got to be able to throw the ball vertically."
Rookie Blake Bortles showed a knack for deep balls in the preseason, completing 32 passes for 521 yards and two touchdowns.
Although the Jaguars have decided to keep Bortles on the bench to start the season, they wanted Henne to play with the same down-the-field mentality.
Henne said it's always been his mindset to take shots vertically, but that clearly wasn't the case during in first two years in Jacksonville or in four seasons in Miami, where he was dubbed "Check-down Chad."
"As much as they call it, I'm going to huck it and chuck it down the field," Henne said. "I've done it in my career before. It's not like I've never done it. If the plays present themselves, and we call those plays, we'll take full advantage of it."
Calling the plays might be easier said than done for the Jaguars (0-1).
After all, they opened the season without receivers Cecil Shorts III (hamstring) and Ace Sanders (suspension) and started two rookies in Hurns and Lee.
The offensive line is equally inexperienced, with third-round draft pick Brandon Linder starting at right guard, journeyman Jacques McClendon having one start at center and second-year pro Luke Joeckel still getting a feel for playing left tackle in the NFL after missing most of his rookie season with a broken right ankle.
"It's more about the plays being called," Henne said. "We took some shots in Philly. If the plays present themselves and we call those plays, I'm not afraid to go out there and take a shot."
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