Quarterback controversy develops in Jacksonville

Other positions also up for grabs

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone addresses the media after Jacksonville loses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12-8 in its second preseason game.
Video by Jon Blauvelt

Halfway through the Jaguars’ preseason action, head coach Doug Marrone says the quarterback job, as well as a handful of other jobs on the team, are up for grabs.

“I’m looking for the best person to lead our offense,” said Marrone following Jacksonville’s deflating 12-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aug. 17. “I’m just going to wait, evaluate it, see who the best person is for the job, as well as some other jobs out there.”

Marrone’s comments were delivered in a tense press conference following an uninspiring performance by the Jaguars that was headlined by underthrown and overthrown passes by quarterback Blake Bortles. The three-year starter finished the night 8 for 13 for 65 yards, leading the Jaguars to only four first downs in the first half and producing zero points. Tampa’s first team offense led by quarterback Jameis Winston, meanwhile, converted on 16 first downs and went into the break with a 12-0 lead.

“I didn’t play well,” said Bortles after the game. “I missed a couple throws. We were very stagnant as an offense.”

To the starting quarterback’s defense, his supporting cast was, well, not very supportive. The offense line appeared confused and disjointed, and the running game consisting of T.J. Yeldon, Chris Ivory and Corey Grant rushed for a total of 1 yard on seven carries while Bortles was in the game.

When backup quarterback Chad Henne entered the game at the end of the first half, he didn’t receive much support either. Shortly after wide receiver Keelan Cole returned a punt 31 yards to Tampa’s 23-yard line, he dropped a well-thrown, sure touchdown pass from Henne. Then, kicker Jason Myers missed a 40-yard field goal. Myers would go on to miss an extra point in the fourth quarter.

Henne went in with the first team offense at the start of the third quarter and drove the Jaguars from their own 12-yard line to Tampa’s 37-yard line. Yet, another drop, this time from Allen Robinson deep down the middle of the field, followed by a sack on third down, stymied the drive. Henne, who is coming into his 10th year in the NFL, finished the game 6 for 10 for 44 yards.

Following the game, Marrone said he spoke with both quarterbacks to discuss the current situation.

“I told them what I’m looking for, and I’m looking for someone that is going to lead this offense,” he said. “I’m not saying that Chad has it or not. It’s right up there for grabs and either person can take it. But it’s up there.”

Bortles accepts that his job is now on the line.

“At any position in the NFL, it’s an open competition every single day,” he said. “If you don’t play well, you’re only going to get so many opportunities until they replace you.”

Marrone didn’t rule out second-year, third string quarterback Brandon Allen from the competition, either. The former Arkansas Razorback played the entire fourth quarter and finished the game 10 for 15 with 144 yards and one passing touchdown, as well as 27 rushing yards on three carries.

“If he’s the best guy, I don’t have an issue with that,” said Marrone, who refused to comment on whether his week one starter could be someone that’s not currently on the roster.

Marrone also said he was disappointed by Myers’ play at kicker. According to NFL Media reporter Ian Rapoport, the Jaguars are bringing in free agent kickers Dan Carpenter and Patrick Murray to work out and potentially compete for the job.

The Jags head coach added that the defense gave up too many yards on the run and didn’t apply the pressure on the quarterback that they had planned. Jacksonville allowed 130 rushing yards and 243 passing yards throughout the game, with the Bucs' first team squad led by Winston, running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Mike Evans moving the ball easily down the field in the first half.

Veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny said they didn’t come out fast enough, and overall just didn’t play a good game.

“We just need to have the understanding that in the NFL, everybody is too good to be able to just come out and not be completely locked in and playing fast,” he said. “We need to understand that and realize that whoever’s on the field needs to be playing at an extremely high level, extremely focused and ready to play.”

Concerning the quarterback controversy, Posluszny said the team will be supportive of whoever is behind center

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “Whoever it is, that’s going to be our guy.”

Tight end Marcedes Lewis said it’s up to veterans like himself and Posluszny to bring the team together and right the ship during this time of adversity.

“We’ve been tested here real early,” said Lewis. “The good thing is it’s still a preseason game. I’m not taking anything away from it, but we have a few more weeks to tighten up.”