Chad Henne has been in and out of the starting lineup before – just about every year he’s been in the league actually.
So this is nothing new.
Henne will make his 38th career start when the Jacksonville Jaguars play at Oakland on Sunday. Henne is filling in for Blaine Gabbert, who is sidelined at least this week because of a laceration on the back of his throwing hand. It will be Henne’s seventh start in Jacksonville’s last eight regular-season games.
”You never expect anything like that,” Henne said. ”But anything can happen in this league and you always have to be prepared and prepare like you’re the starter and get your opportunity.”
Henne’s latest chance comes amid some concerns for Jacksonville’s offense.
Not only is he taking over a unit that managed a league-low 178 yards and no points in the season opener, but he could be without several offensive teammates.
Receiver Justin Blackmon is suspended the first four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is considered a long shot to play because of a nagging injury to his left calf.
If that wasn’t bad enough, receivers Cecil Shorts III (groin) and Mike Brown (back) were limited in practice Wednesday. Guard Uche Nwaneri (back) and Will Rackley (knee) also were on the sideline, with Nwaneri limited and Rackley sitting out all of practice.
Even healthy, the Jaguars struggled to find any offensive rhythm in a 28-2 loss to Kansas City.
The Jaguars allowed six sacks, dropped five passes and moved the chains just five times in 19 tries on third down. Jacksonville set a franchise record with 11 punts and didn’t cross the 50-yard line until midway through the fourth quarter.
”Really for us, I think for everybody, it’s just kind of calm down,” running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. ”You could see we were doing things that we haven’t done all throughout training camp. Just relax. I think you’ll see more execution in the second half in this next game. You’ll see younger guys just getting more comfortable.
”It was a lot of guys’ first time being in an NFL game, so it is a little different, and we actually did it against a very good team, so we’ll see how things go.”
It’d be tough for things to go worse with Henne at the helm.
The former Miami Dolphins starter gave Jacksonville a spark last year, coming off the bench at Houston in November and throwing for 354 yards and four touchdowns.
He wasn’t nearly effective while starting the final six games of the season in place of Gabbert, but he was good enough for former coach Mike Mularkey to name him the starter heading into 2013. Of course, Mularkey didn’t make it through January before getting fired.
So Henne ended up behind Gabbert again.
Henne did start the final two exhibition games and finished the preseason with 279 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions and was sacked five times.
”It’s definitely beneficial getting the reps with the 1s,” Henne said. ”Those last two preseason games will help me out getting some more timing, and even this week going over the whole game plan and getting all the reps with the 1s will all be beneficial for Sunday.”
It’s doubtful Henne will keep the starting job once Gabbert is healthy. When Bradley named Gabbert the starter last month, he stressed patience and the desire the give the third-year quarterback time to show what he can do.
But Bradley wants Henne to approach this like it’s his job to lose – again.
”I really want him to go out there and capture this and be at his best,” Bradley said. ”That’s our conversation today. I said don’t wait until Sunday to compete; that’s too late. … The short passes, the long passes you throw, don’t go through the motions now. Really put your mind into it like it’s Sunday.”