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Open locker room: Henne ready for regular season

Posted Sep 3, 2014

Senior writer John Oehser takes you inside open locker room Wednesday, focusing on quarterback Chad Henne’s first season-opening week as the Jaguars’ starter.


JACKSONVILLE – Chad Henne has started 50 games at quarterback in his NFL career.

Just two of those have come in a regular-season opener.

Henne will start an NFL regular-season opener for a third time on Sunday – the first time since 2011 and the first time with the Jaguars – but firsts aren’t on foremost Henne’s mind this week, nor is a look back on his six previous NFL seasons.

The regular-season opener has a different feel, Henne said, but he also said he has to approach his first start with this franchise as routinely as possible.

“It’s definitely a big difference,” Henne said Wednesday as the Jaguars prepared to play the defending NFC East Champion Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 regular-season opener at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., Sunday at 1 p.m.

“In Week 1, so everybody’s like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to get up and ready,’ but every game to us is a championship game, so I feel like Week 1 is just like Week 13 or the last game of the season. We definitely want to get off on the right start, play well and get some things accomplished.”

Henne, who started regular-season openers for Miami in 2010 and 2011, started 19 games over the past two seasons while taking over during the season for Blaine Gabbert. He has been the Jaguars’ starter since re-signing with the team in March. The team did not waiver from that stance after selecting Blake Bortles No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft in May, and did not waiver after the rookie registered four impressive performances in four preseason games.

Henne, entering his seventh season, completed 25 of 38 passes for a touchdown with no interceptions in three preseason games, and did not play the preseason finale as the Jaguars rested many front-line players.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch on Wednesday said the reason for starting Henne is simple.

“He certainly has shown the ability to run an efficient offense,” Fisch said. “He was throwing the ball well the second half of last year. … Coming into this preseason, he has been very efficient. He hasn’t turned the ball over once. That’s pretty cool, to have the first two quarterbacks neither one having thrown an interception yet. …

“Most importantly, I’m excited for his knowledge base and the efficiency he’s playing at.”

Henne and Fisch on Wednesday each discussed the youth of the Jaguars’ offense entering the season. It’s an offense that scored one touchdown as a first-team unit in preseason, with Henne throwing a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marqise Lee in a Week 2 loss at Chicago.

Lee is just one of a slew of new players on offense. Of five offensive linemen who will start Sunday, only two – tackle Cameron Bradfield and center Jacques McClendon – started the season finale last season, and neither was projected as the starter entering the preseason. Elsewhere on the line, unrestricted free agent Zane Beadles will make his first start at left guard for the Jaguars, Luke Joeckel will make his second start at left tackle and rookie Brandon Linder will start at right guard.

That’s a lot of new, and it’s matched at the skill positions, where unrestricted free-agent Toby Gerhart will make his first start with the Jaguars – and the seventh of his NFL career at running back – and rookies Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns will be three of the team’s top four receivers.

With Henne, tight end Marcedes Lewis and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III the lone front-line skill players with regular-season experience in the offense.

“For us, it’s a matter that we have to have that balancing act of not asking them to all try to ride off last year, because so many of the guys weren’t here,” Fisch said. “We’d like to be able to go at the speed that Cecil would like to go at or Chad would like to go at, but we also have to keep in mind that we have six new starters or whatever the number is.”

Henne said Wednesday he is as comfortable entering a season as he has been in his NFL career.

“It’s just more that I understand this offense, with the tempo and getting in and out of plays,” Henne said. “We have some weapons on this side of the football that I’m excited about. It’s a good comfort level, but at the same time, it’s still about raising that bar and getting better every week.”

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Kicker Josh Scobee said he will kick in practice Wednesday , kicking all-out for the first time since injuring his quad in Week 3 against Detroit. Scobee said how he feels while kicking in practice Wednesday likely will determine whether he plays Sunday. Scobee hasn’t missed a game since 2007. …

*While Denard Robinson will open the season as the Jaguars’ second-team running back, Henne said he expects Robinson, Jordan Todman and Gerhart to all play extensively Sunday “and let the best guy play.” Robinson rushed 21 times for 94 yards and a touchdown in four preseason games, also catching two passes for 24 yards. “Every opportunity he’s got, he’s made the best of it,” Henne said of Robinson.

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