Jags get day off, eye possible return of QB Blaine Gabbert

A day after rewarding his players with a day off, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley suggested Blaine Gabbert’s time off could soon be coming to an end.

Bradley made it clear that Chad Henne deserves to remain their starting quarterback. But less than 24 hours after the Jaguars’ 13-6 victory over the Houston Texans, he said Gabbert has been “a different person” in practice and deserves to be involved with the offense in game situations for the first time since injuring his left hamstring Oct. 6 at St. Louis.

“It’s not going to be from Chad throwing one interception or if we had two three-and-outs in a row,” Bradley told reporters Monday. “But it’s just more of a feeling I have that maybe we need to try it and get him in the game.”

Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, fractured his right thumb in August during a preseason game and needed 15 stitches on his right hand to close a laceration sustained in the regular-season opener. Henne has started the past six games, including road victories against a pair of AFC South rivals in the past three weeks.

The Jaguars’ offense posted a season high in time of possession (33:41) in beating the Texans on Sunday, while Henne completed 23 of 32 passes for 239 yards in a turnover-free performance.

“It might have been one of his best games, in my opinion,” Bradley said. “I thought he did a really good job managing the game. He made really good decisions.”

But he was quick to add that four sacks and several knockdowns raised concerns about whether Henne can continue to withstand such a pounding, particularly with the two teams meeting again in little more than a week on national television.

“He did take a lot of hits,” Bradley said. “And for him to stay in the pocket at somewhat critical downs, third-down situations, showed a lot of courage.”

The Jaguars scored a touchdown on their opening possession for the third week in a row, with a 51-yard completion from Henne to rookie wide receiver Ace Sanders helping set up Maurice Jones-Drew run from a yard out on fourth and goal. That ended up being the only touchdown for either team.

Henne has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,124 yards this season. But the Jaguars have only five touchdown passes through 11 games, one of which was a 67-yarder — their longest play from scrimmage of the season — from Gabbert to Justin Blackmon.

“We feel strongly about Chad,” Bradley said. “But if something should happen, we wouldn’t hesitate with Blaine.”

A week after voicing his frustration over his limited involvement in the offense against the Arizona Cardinals, wide receiver Cecil Shorts III caught eight passes from Henne for 71 yards. That gives Shorts 58 receptions for the year, surpassing the total he had in 2012.

And after being told by Bradley that first-year pro Jordan Todman would be used more frequently in the running game, Jones-Drew rushed for a season-high 84 yards on 14 carries. More than half of those yards came on a run which set up the first of Josh Scobee’s two field goals.

“He played fresh throughout the game,” Bradley said of Jones-Drew, who was averaging only 2.9 yards a carry through the Jaguars’ first 10 games.

The defense limited the Texans to 218 total yards and had two sacks. Defensive end Ryan Davis, who was signed from the practice squad days before the loss to the Cardinals, sealed the win with an interception in the closing minutes.

On a team that had very little to cheer about through the first eight weeks of the season, Bradley’s announcement before the Jaguars flew back from Houston about getting Monday off was warmly received. Or at least it was at first.

“They were excited. And then they showed disappointment because I think that’s what they wanted me to see,” Bradley said with a laugh.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.