Wednesday: Blake Bortles to start Sunday

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JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles is starting again.

Bortles, replaced by Cody Kessler as the Jaguars’ quarterback in late November, will start in the 2018 regular-season finale against the Houston Texans Sunday. Bortles replaced Kessler in the third quarter of a victory over Miami this past Sunday.

“We’re going to start Blake,” Marrone said Wednesday as the Jaguars (5-10) prepared to play the Texans (10-5) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.

Marrone said he spoke to both players about the decision, and that Bortles’ escapability in the pocket played a role.

“We just feel like his mobility will give us a better chance,” Marrone said.

Bortles, the starter in 72 Jaguars consecutive games from 2004-2018, completed five of six passes for 59 yards in a 17-7 victory over Miami this past Sunday. He rushed four times for 25 yards against the Dolphins, and he has thrown for 2,611 yards and 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions this season in 11 starts.

“He’s always been a professional,” Marrone said of Bortles, who entered the Miami game with the score tied 7-7 and led the Jaguars immediately to a go-ahead field goal. “He’s handled it well. He’s always done what we’ve asked him to do and has done it with great vigor.”

Kessler, who started Weeks 12-16, has thrown for 709 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions this season. He threw for one touchdown with two interceptions in four games as a starter.

The Jaguars have struggled to protect the quarterback in recent weeks, with the offensive line starting just one player against the Dolphins who started Week 1: right guard A.J. Cann. The Jaguars allowed six sacks to the Dolphins and allowed 19 in Kessler’s four starts.

The Jaguars also were called for six holding penalties Sunday.

Kessler left Sunday’s game briefly with a shoulder injury before Bortles replaced him for the rest of the game in the third quarter.

“He’s sore, but he’s a tough kid,” Marrone said.

Jaguars players on Wednesday supported the decision to start Bortles.

“I’ve been a huge Blake supporter since the beginning,” safety Tashaun Gipson said. “Through everything, he has kept an even keel. He’s been a mature guy and still been the same kind of guy around the locker room. For him to come into the game and guide us to a victory, that was huge.

“Even more so, giving him the chance go out there and start Sunday and giving us the best chance to win – nothing against Cody – but it’s awesome for a guy like (Bortles) him.”

Also on Wednesday:

Wide receiver WR DJ Chark Jr. (quadriceps) is expected to practice Wednesday; Chark has missed the last five games with the injury. … Jaguars not expected to practice Wednesday: kicker Josh Lambo (right groin), cornerback A.J. Bouye (toe), running back Leonard Fournette (ankle/foot) and right tackle Josh Wells (concussion). Lambo has missed the last two games with Kai Forbath kicking in his place while Bouye and Wells sustained injuries in a victory over Miami Sunday. Fournette played against Miami after practicing with a foot injury last week. …

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