NFL

Both rookies and vets a work in progress for Jaguars

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TSN.ca Staff
8/29/2014 11:01:21 PM
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Let the grooming begin.

The Jacksonville Jaguars made a loud statement when they selected quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall selection at the 2014 NFL Draft.

The organization went on to send another significant message last week when they named 29-year-old NFL vet Chad Henne as the starter for Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"For our team, Chad's playing well, really well," head coach Gus Bradley said. "I think he's playing really fast right now. He's showed it all during training camp and during the preseason games, so we're really excited about him."

This comes as no surprise for a team that has openly admitted Bortles won't likely compete for the starting job until 2015, but it's no doubt the UCF product is the future under centre.

“We do feel good about where Blake's at, but we feel like this time that he has under Chad, a year to develop, will be really good in the end result,” Bradley said in May.

The Jaguars have the offensive youth, but the team will be relying more on Henne and a supporting cast of vets to carry the team and it's younger contingent through 2014.

Henne, the Wyomissing, Pennsylvania native, has an 18-32 record as a starter and in 15 appearances for the Jags last season he completed 60.6 per cent of his passes and collected 3,241 yards to go with 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

But that's who Henne is. He threw a career-high 3,301 yards, 15 touchdowns and 19 interceptions with the Miami Dolphins in 2010. The team finished 7-9.

"He has a strong arm and can make the throws. He tries to take care of the ball and not create many turnovers so his offence isn't put in a bad situation,” an anonymous NFL quarterback told ESPN.com's NFL Nation blog.

“He's not a quarterback that you're afraid is going to break the game open by throwing for 400 yards and five touchdowns like some of the elite quarterbacks in the league. If they're going to win games with him at quarterback, it'll be because of the players around him making a lot of plays."

Anchoring the Jaguars offence is a pair of veteran receivers, Cecil Shorts III and Marcedes Lewis.

Shorts III led a lackluster receiving corps last season with 777 yards and three touchdowns on 66 catches. If the fifth-year receiver can return to his 2012 form, where he collected 979 yards on just 55 receptions with seven touchdowns, then Henne will have a versatile target.

Shorts III is still finding his stride after a hamstring injury on the first day of training camp, but is ready to hit the field with his teammates.

"I don't really need outside influences to get motivated about playing," he said via Fox Sports Florida. "I just want to be at my best to help the team."

Another veteran providing support in the pass game is nine-year tight end Marcedes Lewis.

Lewis, who has spent his entire career with the Jaguars, is coming off the second-worst campaign of his career.

With just 25 receptions, Lewis managed a mere 359 yards and four touchdowns. However, his 14.4 yards per catch was his second best total since a 16.2 mark in 2009.

“I definitely feel very comfortable with him,” Henne said. “I think he's doing a really good job this spring and this summer by getting open and just his big target (allows me to) put the ball in a vicinity that the defender can't get. He keeps doing good things. We're just going to keep feeding him and make him a playmaker."

It's a work in progress Jaguars of all ages.

NEW MITTS

Shorts III and Lewis will like see most of the touches through the air, but they will be chased for playing time by a group of 22-year-old rookie receivers.

USC product Marqise Lee, a second-round pick (39th) in 2014, is listed as the second wide receiver on the depth chart and is in line for the most playing time among his first-year brethren.

Allen Robinson, another second-round pick (61st) thanks to the San Francisco 49ers, enters the league as Shorts III's backup coming off a record-setting junior season at Penn State where he caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns.

And undrafted rookie Allen Hurns is much further down on the depth chart but leads the NFL with 232 receiving yards in the preseason.

OUT OF THE BACK

Toby Gerhart sits atop the depth chart at running back for the first time in his NFL career. For his first four seasons in the league he was in Minnesota backing up Adrian Peterson.

Now, as the No. 1 option in Jacksonville, Gerhart has the opportunity to reach new heights in his career.

His career highs in carries (109), yards (531) and touchdowns (two) are all but guaranteed to fall in the rear view if the Stanford alum is ready to lead a ground game without living in anyone's shadow.

And Adrian Peterson has a big shadow.

Chad Henne (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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