Blake Bortles making Jaguars QB decision tough

Blake Bortles was popping on Thursday.
Blake Bortles was popping on Thursday. (USATSI)

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It was against the second- and third-team defenders for the Chicago Bears , but there was no question Blake Bortles looked the part of a viable NFL quarterback on Thursday night in Chicago.

Lots of other dudes have stepped onto the field for preseason and looked good too, so it's no guarantee Bortles is the answer in Jacksonville. But there were a couple moments where the No. 3 overall pick absolutely popped.

In the first half, Bortles faked play action, rolled out to his right and managed to set his feet and align his body while on the run and whip an absolute 20-yard laser to Mike Brown for a big pickup and a first down.

That's a big boy throw right there.

Then in the third quarter, Bortles exhibited a very impressive combo of mental agility and actual athleticism, dropping back on 2nd and 1, running through his progressions, looking off the safety and dropping a dime to Kerry Taylor .

Again: he didn't do what he did against the Bears starting defense. But Bortles showed Thursday precisely why there's so much chatter about him not needing the 2014 season to sit.

No one questions his raw physical ability -- Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico compared him to Ben Roethlisberger at least 20 times before the teams broke for halftime -- and Bortles displayed an ability to make all/most of the throws against Chicago.

The biggest concern with Bortles was lobbing him into the fire as a rookie, but he appears to be handling it just fine, with the added bonus of not generating unnecessary hype.

Bortles, who finished 11 for 17 Thursday, didn't force the Jacksonville Jaguars hand. But he's putting some serious pressure on them to expedite their plans for when he's going to become the starting quarterback.

Only on the field though. Asked at the end of the game when he felt he should start for the Jaguars, Bortles took the smart road, often less traveled. 

"Whenever they call my name," a grinning Bortles said.

More observations from Jaguars-Bears:

-- Chad Henne wasn't bad either! He went against the one's and managed to go 12 for 17 for 130 yards and a touchdown. This all comes back to a ceiling thing, just like Johnny Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer. You know what Henne is; the reason he only has so much upside is precisely why he's back in Jacksonville again this year. That's a good thing and a bad thing. And it's not good for Henne if Bortles is playing well. 

-- Toby Gerhart is one of my fantasy football favorites this season. Not because the dude is super fast (although he is really damn strong) but because the Jaguars are going to FEED HIM. And there's a Michael Turner factor here: capable runner with several years of experience backing up a legendary runner. If Gerhart can stay healthy he's going to pile up yards and end up being one of the league's leading rushers. (Seriously: 16 games, 75 yards a game and he's at 1,200.)

-- Luke Joeckel went one-on-one with Jared Allen early in the game and handled him pretty well. At one point he straight tossed the veteran onto the ground. 

If Joeckel can develop into a franchise left tackle this season the Jaguars are suddenly staring at a really nice left side of the line with him and Zane Beadles . Also: the Kansas City Chiefs might've made a mistake.

-- Didn't think the Bears starters were nearly as impressive at the line of scrimmage on Thursday night against Jacksonville's offensive line as they were against the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Jacksonville basically moved the ball at will after Chicago managed to stymie Philly's powerful offense pretty well in Week 1. 

-- Jimmy Clausen finished the game 11/15 for 94 yards and a pick. Just 6.3 yards per attempt, but the dude actually looked mildly competent at various points in the game. Marc Trestman's reputation as a quarterback whisperer is going to grow somehow.

-- Bortles got most of the attention from Thursday night but if you want to point to a reason the Jaguars will make a leap into the playoff hunt either this year or next (more likely) it's the defense. Dave Caldwell's doing a fine job acquiring talent to fit Gus Bradley's scheme and Bradley's doing a fine job coaching that talent up. It felt like Dwayne Gratz (2013, second round) was constantly having his name mentioned and Telvin Smith (5th round, 2014) tipped a pass that was intercepted by Josh Evans (6th round, 2013). 

-- This throw would be unimpressive except the ref was heaving a PENALTY FLAG.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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