JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley selected Chad Henne as his starting quarterback in March.
He hasn't wavered since.
Not after the team selected Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in the NFL draft. Not after the rookie showed significant progress during organized team activities and training camp. And not after Bortles played so well in the preseason, turning heads in the locker room, in the stands and around the league.
Bradley has made it clear that Henne will start the season opener, and there's no reason to believe the second-year head coach will change his stance before the Sept. 7 game at Philadelphia.
"We have a lot of faith in Chad," Bradley said. "Chad is doing really well. The efficiency, the command of the offense, the different looks that he's seeing and the adjustment that he makes. It's the whole package."
It's not uncommon for NFL teams to botch quarterback decisions, whether they get muddled inside the building or in the court of public opinion. The Jaguars have done it numerous times in recent years, most notably in 2011 when David Garrard was cut hours after being introduced as the starter at a kickoff luncheon days before the opener.
Bradley doesn't want to make a similar misstep.
"Gus has done a great job, especially with you guys in the media in just staying true to his word," Henne said. "Whatever he's telling you, he's telling us. There are no different stories.
"That's what's great about him. He's upfront and honest and that's why we trust in him and we believe in him and we fight for him out on the field."
Jacksonville eventually will turn things over to Bortles, but there's no timetable for the switch.
Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell have tried to foster a pressure-free environment for Bortles as he makes the transition from a college spread offense to a pro-style system. They insist Bortles will take over "when he's ready."
"We want to see fast progress by him, where things are coming faster to him," Bradley said. "We believe that's happening. He's not there yet, but we think we can continue it."
In the meantime, the veteran Henne will be under center.
"Gus and I have sat down many times and he said I'm the guy," Henne said. "Until they tell me otherwise, I just go out there and prepare like I'm the starter and play well.
"I understand my spot. If we play well and win games, then (I) stay in. If I don't, then things will happen. All I can control is game by game and how I go out there and play."
Aside from Jacksonville's quarterback situation, here are five things to know about the team heading into the 2014 season:
CENTER OF ATTENTION: Jacksonville had few, if any, questions about center the past dozen years. Brad Meester held the position since 2002, anchoring the line, making protection calls and ensuring the ball gets to his quarterback on every play. There's little doubt he will be missed, especially with Mike Brewster failing to nail down the starting spot in camp. The Jaguars have journeyman Jacques McClendon and rookie Luke Bowanko vying for the job. Either way, it could take some time for Jacksonville's revamped line to gel in 2014.
WR WATCH: Cecil Shorts III can't seem to stay healthy. Ace Sanders is suspended the first four games of the season. And rookie Allen Robinson has played sparingly all year. Jacksonville's receivers have been a constant topic during training camp — and not for positive reasons. Fellow rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns have been bright spots, though.
SAD SACKS AGAIN? No NFL team has fewer sacks than Jacksonville over the past five seasons. The Jags have totaled a league-low 151 sacks while changing players, coaches and schemes. They're counting on former Seattle starters Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, as well as youngsters Andre Branch, Ryan Davis and Chris Smith to turn things around in 2014.
EARLY SCHEDULE: For the second consecutive season, the Jaguars play four of their first six games on the road. General manager Dave Caldwell complained to the league about the starting slate, especially since the team feels it has a home-field advantage early in the season because of Florida's sweltering heat and humidity. "I just said, 'You didn't do us any favors two years in a row,'" Caldwell said. "It is what it is. We've got to rise to the occasion."
PARTY CENTRAL: The Jaguars and the city spent $63 million in stadium upgrades, hoping to create a buzz and sell more tickets. So far, it's worked. The world's largest scoreboards (60 feet tall, 362 feet wide with 35.5 million LED bulbs) and a two-story party deck that includes two pools and dozens of cabanas have boosted projected revenue for 2014. Winning would help, too.
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