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Blake Bortles outshines Chad Henne in preseason debut

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Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley might have a tough decision on his hands if the rookie quarterback continues his accelerated development.

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

It's just one preseason game against backups. That's what most people will and should say about the performance of the No. 3 overall pick in the Jacksonville Jaguars Friday night 16-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There couldn't have been a more perfect storm for Blake Bortles and Chad Henne, however.

"I thought it was alright. It’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight," Bortles said after the game about his performance. "There were some good reads and some bad reads."

Under the new scoreboard lights on a Friday evening, Bortles came out on the field as the crowd exploded in cheers to see their new franchise quarterback hopeful. The Jaguars under Chad Henne had just a single first down by the time Bortles came into the game, but on Bortles second throw of the game he connected with rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns for a 24-yard gain and it was on.

Bortles looked in command on the Jaguars offense, looked decisive in where to go with the football and had a near perfect showing. He finished the night completely 7-of-11 passes for 117 yards, but legitimately had at least three bad drops by the receivers, leaving roughly 50 yards or so on the field.

"I thought he did a nice job. We kind of expected him to go out there," Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said about Bortles performance. "He’s shown some good poise and when you’re going against the second group like he did, we thought with the offensive line, the second group offensive line in practice, so we felt like we could protect him and I thought he did some good things. I know there were some quick things Jedd (Fisch) and I quickly talked about with the quarterbacks, areas of improvement, but just the poise factor, we wanted to see that in him and he did a nice job."

Bortles was accurate with the football, even fitting a pass into a tight window with a pass rusher bearing down on him, completing the pass to the far sideline and taking a shot after the throw. He showed ability to move the pocket, throw on the run, take a shot if needed and distributed the football down the field. The game didn't seem too big for him and he came right in and showed some of the skills that got him picked third overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Jaguars maintain that they have a plan in place for Bortles and he'll start when he's ready, but if he continues to play like he did on Friday night, especially if he gets first team reps at some point like Gus Bradley hinted at, he could be ready sooner than later.