The quarterback competition is officially on in Jacksonville.
Bortles' fall out of favor in Duval has been swift. Following an offseason of optimistic praise from new football tsar Tom Coughlin and coach Doug Marrone, Bortles performed poorly in Jacksonville's first two preseason games. His Week 2 performance on national television, during which he underthrew Allen Robinson twice and heard boos in the first quarter from Jags fans, prompted Marrone to open the starting quarterback job to competition.
"It's this simple: I'm looking for the best person to lead this offense," Marrone said following that game. "The QB position] is right up there for grabs, and [either person can take it."
The other person to which Marrone is referring is Henne, who has carved out a comfortable life for himself over five seasons in Jacksonville. The former Dolphins quarterback went 5-14 in 19 starts for the Jaguars in 2012 and 2013, after which the Jags drafted Bortles in the first round of the 2014 draft. Henne was benched for the rookie after three games in 2014 and has not started a game since.
Through two preseason games this season, Bortles is 11 of 18 for 81 yards with no touchdowns and no picks, while Henne is 11-16 for 183 yards with one TD.
How the Jags will play both signal-callers on Thursday night remains to be seen. Will Henne and Bortles alternate series? Will one quarterback play the first quarter with the starters and one play the second?
Either way, Thursday's otherwise meaningless test against a Panthers squad with quarterback concerns of its own will go a long way toward deciding the fate of Bortles and Jacksonville's season. The remaining preseason game is often used to weed out those fighting to make the cutdown from 90 to 53 two days later; if the Jaguars attempt to play Bortles or Henne then, there will be no substantial data to evaluate. All that is left are four quarters on Thursday, during which Bortles can earn back his starting job or find himself starting the season on the bench or elsewhere.
After not signing another backup quarterback this offseason, and instead throwing its weight and confidence behind Bortles and Henne, who have won a combined 17 games for the Jaguars since 2012, Jacksonville has so far botched what looked to be a promising 2017 campaign. Will this overdue QB competition salvage the season before it begins? Tune in Thursday.