JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Blake Bortles’ first day of taking snaps with the first-team offense against the first-team defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t provide much of a body of work on which to judge the progress of the first-round pick from UCF.
Coach Gus Bradley said Bortles took only three reps Monday in place of Chad Henne in 11-on-11 drills where both first units were involved. But one of those three illustrated how different things will be for the Jags’ No. 3 overall pick compared to the action he saw during his first two preseason games against Tampa Bay and Chicago.
Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, who made the Pro Bowl last season for the first time in his career, dropped back in coverage and broke up the last of Bortles’ two passes. It was a switch from how things went against the Buccaneers and the Bears, where most of the few incompletions Bortles had were on catchable balls or plays where he spiked the ball to stop the clock.
Bradley plans to play Bortles for at least a quarter Friday night at Detroit while the Lions will probably still have their defensive starters on the field.
"As I was sitting back there, I thought it was really good for him to go against the ones like that, to get a feel for the speed, to get a feel for the rush," Bradley said.
Bortles also worked with the Jaguars’ probable starting receivers and running backs for a handful of snaps in a 7-on-7 setup. Bradley doesn’t plan to increase the rookie’s workload Tuesday, saying Bortles will run only "seven, eight reps, something like that."
The next-to-last preseason game tends to be when teams use their starters nearly as much as they would during regular-season play. Henne will start against the Lions, and Bradley doesn’t anticipate a scenario in which the starter for most of the 2013 season would be brought back in after Bortles is through.
Asked whether this was the right time for Bortles to be treated like something other than a second-stringer, Henne replied, "Absolutely. He definitely needs that opportunity. You never know what’s going to happen in the season, whether I go down or I’m not playing well and he needs to step in. It’s a good test."
Henne and Bortles combined to go 23 of 34 for 290 yards with no interceptions against the Bears in a little more than three quarters of work.
"That’s what you want," said tight end Marcedes Lewis, who caught a pass from Henne on the opening drive and two more on the Jaguars’ second possession. "Both guys are pushing each other in practice. Blake is asking questions. Chad is helping him answer all the questions. You want to be in a position like that where both guys are competing and getting better every day."
"It’s good competition," center Mike Brewster said. "It helps raise everyone’s game and makes you want to play that much better. They’re both doing a great job. Working with both of them has been awesome. I hope they both go out and play great."
But the offense has managed just one touchdown under either Henne or Bortles, and that came after the Jaguars got superb field position by recovering a fumbled kickoff return by the Bears. The Jaguars had the same number of field goals attempted as touchdowns scored last season (25), and they’ve already needed to call upon veteran kicker Josh Scobee and free agent Kasey Redfern a combined five times.
As was the case before the Jaguars drafted Bortles in May, Henne said Bradley talked to him about the possibility of Bortles getting some work with the starters before the end of the preseason.
"He wanted to make sure I was fine with it, and I said, ‘Absolutely,’" Henne said. "Blake needs to see what it’s like with the ones and feel that tempo and just get some good time with the offensive line."
"Chad is the ultimate team player, a great guy on and off the field," Lewis said. "And if there’s anybody that would be good to learn from, it’s Chad. Chad has kind of taken Blake under his wing, and those guys are helping each other get better."
Bortles, who had a 22-5 record in college as a starter, has a passer rating of 96.9 through two preseason games. And some of his completions, such as a 29-yarder down the sideline to wide receiver Kerry Taylor in the third quarter against the Bears, would have been things of beauty regardless of the level of competition.
"He’s a mature guy," Lewis said. "He gets it. We’re fortunate to have him doing as well as he has to this point."