Jaguars to start Blake Bortles in season opener

— -- JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars aren't changing quarterbacks after all.

Coach Doug Marrone has picked fourth-year player Blake Bortles?over? Chad Henne?to be the team's starter for the Sept. 10 season opener at Houston, a surprising turnaround for a player whose career with the team seemed to be in jeopardy a week ago.

"The first thing that I look at is to make sure who's going to give us the best chance to win in the situation that we're in," Marrone said. "I look at everything, not just the quarterback position, of how we want to play and what we want to do. I think Blake has the ability to extend plays for us, which I think is going to be helpful in what we have to get done."

Marrone said the offensive line's poor play over the last two preseason games played a big role in the decision to pick Bortles over Henne.

Bortles is more mobile, having run for 1,088 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards per carry in three seasons. Henne has run for 360 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 3.1 yards per carry in eight seasons.

"It all goes into play. It really does," Marrone said. "That was my point before when I mentioned everything of how we have to play and what we have to do. All that stuff does get factored into the decision."

Marrone had benched Bortles after a lackluster performance in an Aug. 17 loss to Tampa Bay, as the quarterback continued to struggle with turnovers -- he had a five-interception practice.

Bortles and Henne shared practice reps, and Henne started against Carolina last Thursday.

That seemed to indicate that the Jaguars were ready to move on from Bortles, whom they drafted with the third overall pick in 2014. Because the team picked up his fifth-year option, worth $19.053 million in 2018, it seemed likely Bortles would be cut had the Jaguars opted to go with Henne as the full-time starter.

Instead, Bortles will be making his 46th consecutive start, and it will come against a Houston defense that has sacked him 24 times in six games -- all Jaguars' losses. Bortles had six touchdowns and eight interceptions in those six games.

"I think any time you get named the starter it's a cool feeling, obviously, but I think it doesn't change anything," Bortles said Saturday. "Doesn't change the mindset. As of now, I'm promised the first snap with the first group today at practice and, after that, who knows? I think it's a constant effort, as it was a couple weeks ago, to try to perform and win the respect of the coaches and players through every snap and go out on out there and doing and improving that."

"It's their decision to decide who's the starting quarterback and who's going to play Week 1. ... All I could do is focus as much as I possibly could on getting better each and every rep and doing everything I can to help this team win."

Marrone had hoped one of the quarterbacks would seize the starting job in Thursday's preseason game against Carolina, but neither gained separation. Henne completed 8-of-14 passes for 73 yards and was sacked three times in the first half against Carolina's first-team defense, leading the Jaguars to one touchdown and a field goal in five possessions with a lot of conservative throws.

Bortles played nearly the entire second half behind the first-team offensive line, completing 12-of-16 passes for 125 yards while leading the Jaguars to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Panthers' backups. He was intercepted while trying to squeeze a pass into Allen Hurns, and also was intercepted on a two-point conversion pass.

"I really didn't want to be sitting here trying to figure out who the quarterback was going to be," tight end Marcedes Lewis said Saturday. "There's a lot of stuff that we're dealing with already ... you don't want to have to be worried about who's going to start at quarterback. The fact that it's two weeks out and we know who it is, we're going to rally behind [Bortles] and push forward."

His future with the Jaguars is far from secure, as Bortles' biggest issue has been turnovers: He has an NFL-high 63 and the second-most interceptions (51) in the league over the past three seasons. Even more troubling are the 11 pick sixes -- which corresponds to his number of victories as a starter (11-34).

Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars' executive vice president of football operations, made it clear during the offseason that Bortles had to drastically reduce his turnovers.

Bortles does have 69 touchdown passes, but only five of those have come when the Jaguars were leading the game.

Henne, 32, has started 22 games (5-17) in four seasons with the Jaguars and has appeared in seven others. He's thrown 27 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions, but he has taken only one regular-season snap since he was benched in favor of Bortles at halftime of Week 3 in 2014.

Henne has thrown 58 touchdown passes and 63 interceptions in 65 career games. He was a second-round pick by Miami in 2008 and started 31 games for the Dolphins from 2008 to 2011 before signing a free-agent contract with the Jaguars in 2012.

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