Jaguars to start Henne at QB against Titans
How well he performs could determine whether Blaine Gabbert gets one, too.
The Jacksonville Jaguars named Henne their starting quarterback for Sunday's game against Tennessee, the latest change for a team desperate to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Coach Mike Mularkey made the announcement Monday, a day after Henne threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-37 overtime loss at Houston.
Mularkey pinned the decision on Henne's performance — not Gabbert's injury.
"We're trying to find a way to produce and win," said Mularkey, who has made other lineup changes at running back, receiver, left guard and nose tackle in recent weeks. "We're just trying to find ways to see if we can be more productive that's all. It's no different."
Gabbert hurt his right forearm early in the game and had trouble gripping the ball.
Henne replaced him in the first quarter and completed 16 of 33 passes. He connected with Cecil Shorts III on a 67-yard touchdown and later hooked up with Justin Blackmon for an 81-yard score. He also found tight end Marcedes Lewis for two TDs in the red zone.
"He's been a starter in the league. He's had some success at that position," Mularkey said. "He was brought in here in case something happened to Blaine, to step in there and produce, which he did. He prepares like he's a starter every week.
"That's the one thing about him. He has been as much of a help for Blaine's progress as anybody. He prepares every week just like he's going to play every down. He doesn't get all the reps, but he watches a lot of film. He's taught our young guys how to watch film and actually understand what they're watching and what they're looking for. It just showed up on the tape yesterday."
Mularkey said Gabbert is questionable against the Titans (4-6).
If Gabbert can't play, the Jaguars (1-9) will promote John Parker Wilson from the practice squad to serve as Henne's backup.
"Blaine's injury is still up in the air," Mularkey said. "It's still questionable about the strength in that hand. I'd be cautious to say that he has a chance to play this week."
Henne also replaced an injured Gabbert against Indianapolis on Nov. 8 and completed 10 of 16 passes for 121 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. The Jaguars signed Henne to a two-year, $6.75 million contract in March, bringing the former Miami Dolphins starter in to be Gabbert's backup.
Jacksonville traded up to draft Gabbert with the 10th overall pick last year. The former Missouri standout struggled as a rookie and showed signs of progress earlier this year. But he clearly took a step back against the Colts, lacking pocket presence, rushing throws and missing open receivers.
Given that Jacksonville likely will have a high pick in the 2012 draft, it's imperative that the team figure out whether Gabbert is its franchise quarterback.
Gabbert has completed 53.8 percent of his passes in two seasons — 24 starts — for 3,876 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He has been sacked 62 times.
Henne's play against the Texans surely didn't help Gabbert's case.
With Henne in the huddle, first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon had seven receptions for 236 yards after being relatively quiet in the first nine games. Shorts caught three passes for 81 yards. And the 6-foot-6 Lewis, who had been relegated to blocking duties in recent weeks, became a top target near the goal line.
Mularkey expects Gabbert to handle the change well.
"I still think he's progressed," Mularkey said. "Blaine will handle it just like he has. I don't know if you saw it, but on the sidelines the No. 1 guy out on the field every time there was something positive happening was Blaine. He is totally into this thing, and this is no different."
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