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Marrone on Bortles: "He has the ability to extend plays"


JACKSONVILLE – It was time to decide, so Doug Marrone did.

The Jaguars' head coach early Saturday announced Blake Bortles will start at quarterback against the Houston Texans in Week 1 of the 2017 regular season.

He spoke to the media shortly thereafter, and said much of the reason he chose the fourth-year veteran over longtime backup Chad Henne was simple.

"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 we're in," Marrone said. "I look at everything with the quarterback position – how we want to play, and what we want to do."

Marrone quickly mentioned mobility as a reason for choosing Bortles.

"He has the ability to extend plays for us, which I think is going to be helpful," Marrone said.

Marrone, in his first season as the Jaguars' head coach, spoke to the media for about 10 minutes Saturday morning. Bortles was scheduled to speak around 11:30 a.m., with the team practicing later Saturday afternoon.

"I just think I had enough information," Marrone said. "We have to get ready. The ability to keep going on was going to stop the process of the team."

Marrone said he spoke with Henne and Bortles Saturday morning as well as many other players, and made clear that "nothing really is status quo."

"You've got to go out there and perform at every position, not just the quarterback position," Marrone said. "If someone's not playing well, not doing a good enough job, we're going to do that. I've always believed competition brings out the best in people. It should. That goes for all of the positions."

Marrone was asked how much the Jaguars' struggles on the offensive line during preseason influenced the decision.

"It all goes into play," Marrone said. "All that stuff does get factored into the decision."

Marrone also was asked "how long a leash" he will give Bortles.

"The same leash I would give with any other player on the team," he said. "We have set goals with what we want to get done, what we want to establish – day to day, week to week, game to game. Those things have to be met. If those things are not met, then obviously you have to make a decision and get someone in there that gives you a better chance to win. That's not going to change."

Asked where Bortles is in terms of accuracy and decision-making, Marrone said:

"Good enough for me to stand here and say he gives us the best chance to win."

Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, has started the last 45 regular-season games for the Jaguars. That dates to Week 4 of his rookie season. He also started the first two preseason games this season before Marrone told he and Henne following a Preseason Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay the position was "up for grabs."

Henne, a 10-year veteran who started 22 games for the Jaguars from 2012-2014 before backing up Bortles since the latter became the starter, started the Jaguars' Preseason Week 3 loss to Carolina this past Thursday.

Henne played five first-half series with the starters Thursday, completing eight of 14 passes for 73 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions. Bortles played five second-half series with the first-team offensive line and many reserve skill players, completing 12 of 16 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown with an interception.

"I was happy with the way both quarterbacks went about it," Marrone said. "They're teammates, one. They're supporting of each other. I thought that was good to see. You always want to see that. They were trying to help each other get better, because the most important thing is at the end of the day we get better as a team and we win."

Marrone in addition to Bortles' mobility also noted Bortles' improved sideline communication Thursday against Carolina.

Marrone said he hasn't ruled out playing Bortles Thursday in the Jaguars' preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Marrone said he plans "a couple of tough practices" this week leading to the Falcons game, after which he will decide who plays and how much against Atlanta.

"I'm going to wait and see how the week goes, where we are," Marrone said.

Marrone on Saturday also said he is comfortable "right now" starting rookie Cam Robinson at left tackle Week 1, adding that Robinson responded well Thursday after getting beat for a sack early against Carolina. Of the left guard position, Marrone said "we're trying to figure it out."

Patrick Omameh started at left guard in the first two weeks of the preseason and Luke Bowanko started there Thursday.

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