JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are sticking with Blake Bortles — because of his legs.
Coach Doug Marrone selected Bortles as his starting quarterback for the season opener Saturday, a surprising turnabout that said more about the team’s offensive line than its signal callers.
Marrone’s decision came a little more than a week after he opened up the job and pleaded with Bortles and veteran Chad Henne to “go out there and take it.”
Marrone said he “had enough information” to stay with Bortles. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft will make his 46th consecutive start when the Jaguars open Sept. 10 at Houston.
Going back to Bortles was a clear indictment of the team’s shaky offensive line, which has been underwhelming in three preseason games. The Jaguars are planning to start rookie Cam Robinson at left tackle and are undecided at left guard. The right side is far from rock solid, too.
“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.
Henne started Thursday’s exhibition game against the Panthers and had some decent moments, but the 10th-year pro also got sacked three times in the first half.
Bortles delivered his best outing of the preseason, finishing with a touchdown and an interception while keeping several plays alive with his legs.
“You only have a certain amount of time and then it’s time to go,” Bortles said. “I think it’s built into every single play, ‘This is how much time you have,’ and then you have to take off and either get into a scramble drill-type thing or take off and run.”
Bortles looked like a franchise quarterback in his second season, throwing for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns and smashing several team records. Although he racked up a chunk of his statistics late in lopsided games, there was belief that Bortles would only get better.
Instead, he regressed in 2016. He arrived at training camp hoping to turn his career around, but raised eyebrows with a string of interceptions in practice and missed throws in preseason games.
Marrone decided to sit him down, albeit for a little more than a week.
“You can sit there and say, ‘Well, it’s happened once already, it could happen again,’ and worry about that and kind of let that consume your thoughts,” Bortles said. “Or you can say, ‘I’ve had to go through this once and there’s no way I’m going to ever let them do it to me again.
“I’m going to go play as hard as I can. I’m going to do everything I can to help this team win and play as hard as I possibly can so I don’t have to go through that again.”
Bortles surely will be on a short leash to start the season, meaning Henne could get another shot.
“Definitely for him, it’s still proving that he’s a franchise quarterback,” Henne said. “He has to play well and he has to lead this team. The only way to do that is to win games. It’s always about the wins in this league, and we have to win games with him.”
Teammates welcomed Marrone’s decision, mostly because it answered a huge question with the opener looming.
“I really didn’t want to be sitting here trying to figure out who the quarterback was going to be,” veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said.
Bortles has the job — for now. But he still has a ways to go to prove he’s a long-term solution at the all-important position.
Bortles has completed 59 percent of his passes for 11,241 yards, with 69 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. He also has been sacked 140 times and lost 12 fumbles. His most damning statistic: He has 11 victories and 11 interceptions returned for touchdowns.
“I’ve been around Blake since I got here,” receiver Marqise Lee said. “Yeah, he had flaws here and there, but at the end of the day I feel like he can go out there and make it happen.”