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View from the O-Zone: Bortles' team again … so soon


JACKSONVILLE – It's his job, his team. Once again. So soon.

For how long? That's the unknown.

If Blake Bortles didn't know the "unknown" part before, he sure does now – and he said so Saturday shortly after regaining his position as the Jaguars' starting quarterback.

"I'm promised the first snap with the first group today at practice," Bortles said early Saturday afternoon. "And after that, who knows?"

So now, the dust settles …

Now, we move forward from a whirlwind 10 days that ended as they began – with Bortles as the Jaguars' starting quarterback over Chad Henne but still needing to prove himself capable of keeping the job and leading this offense consistently.

And what do we know as we move forward? A couple of things:

One, Head Coach Doug Marrone made the decision at least in part because of Bortles' mobility. Marrone on Saturday mentioned Bortles' ability to extend plays as a reason he is starting. Considering the Jaguars' preseason offensive line performance, it's understandable.

Two, this decision was anything but easy. We know this not so much from anything specific Marrone said Saturday but from the facts: Marrone went away from Bortles as the starter after the second preseason game and started Henne in the third. Henne got extensive work with the ones in that game against Carolina Thursday; Bortles worked behind the first-team line much of the second half. Both had moments, but neither played well enough to "seize the position."

So, no … this decision wasn't easy. When you're deciding a starting quarterback this late in the preseason, it's never easy. Or close to ideal.

But the decision had to be made, and Marrone correctly said it needed to be made as quickly as possible. Fifteen days remain until the regular-season opener. That means a few practices next week before Preseason Week 4 against Atlanta and a few more the following week.

The regular season is basically upon us.

"We need the work and we need to get ready for that work," Marrone said.

Now, we know that work will be done with Bortles as the starting quarterback – and we know that Bortles barring injury will be behind center in Houston Week 1.

What can we expect from Bortles now?

Considering Bortles struggled enough in training camp and preseason for Marrone to consider Henne, it's a reach to think Bortles suddenly is going to turn elite.

But that's not to say the Jaguars can't win with him.

Remember Bortles from the last two weeks of last season? More than 600 yards passing, a touchdown, no interceptions? The Jaguars beat playoff -contending Tennessee with that Bortles; they led the Colts in Indianapolis with that Bortles. That was the Bortles the team had to have envisioned when it made the decision to go with him as the starter entering training camp – and if they can get that Bortles during 2017, then yeah … maybe this team can run, play defense, get improved special teams and win a lot more games than it has recently.

That's the hope, and in recent days, he has shown some encouraging signs. The last 10 days weren't great for Bortles. But how he handled them sure wasn't bad.

Bortles since being the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft always has handled himself well with the media, always willing to discuss flaws and his need to improve. In recent days, he has been equally candid about his approach during the toughest week-and-a-half stretch of his NFL career.

Bortles when meeting the media Saturday talked of the need to earn respect of coaches and teammates with every snap. He also talked learning from Henne three years before about handling adversity. It was Henne whom Bortles replaced as the starter in 2014, and Bortles' said Henne's class during that time served as a model for his own approach in recent days.

Bortles said how he handled himself during his first time in a long time as a backup in Thursday was important to him.

"That was the biggest thing, making sure there's not a guy on this team or a coach or a person in the crowd that says, 'Wow, he looks upset that he's not starting,' or 'He looks jealous that Chad is playing,' or 'He looks like he's not rooting for the team,' or one of those things,'' Bortles said.

There are bigger things for Bortles now, of course. Now, it's about moving on from the most adverse situation of his career, and that won't be easy. He talked Saturday of needing need to put what happened behind him, and not worrying about what happened once happening again.

He's right, because you can't play quarterback in the NFL worried about the past, or what's next.

How Bortles handles that could decide the Jaguars' season. Because even if he now knows better than before that there's a lot of unknown about quarterbacking in the NFL, he also knows the job the once held is suddenly his again.

And the Jaguars are his team once again, too. So soon.

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