Henne may be better option for Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Chad Henne will be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback against Oakland on Sunday now that Blaine Gabbert has been ruled out because of a severe cut on his right hand.

Might that be the best thing for the Jaguars’ offense?

Henne sparked the offense in the final six games of the 2012 regular season. Gabbert started the first 10 games of 2012 and suffered a forearm injury after throwing just two passes in the 10th game. In those first nine starts by Gabbert the Jaguars averaged 263.6 yards per game, 185.3 passing yards per game, and 14.1 points per game.

Gabbert’s injury landed him on injured reserve and Henne started the final six games, during which the Jaguars averaged 326.3 yards per game, 233.3 passing yards per game, and 15.3 points per game. The record wasn’t much better -- Gabbert went 1-9 and Henne 1-5 -- but the offense was.

Those are significant increases in yardage and it would seem Henne would be the better option in 2013. However, he didn’t show enough during OTAs, minicamps or training camp to convince new general manager Dave Caldwell or new coach Gus Bradley to name him the starter. Even after Gabbert missed the second half of the preseason with the thumb injury and didn’t start throwing again until the weekend before the opener, Bradley decided to go with Gabbert against Kansas City.

Now he’s got no choice and Sunday may present Bradley with an interesting dilemma. If Henne plays well against the Raiders -- which held Andrew Luck to just 178 yards passing on Sunday -- one week after Gabbert played so poorly ...

"That would be a good thing," Bradley said.

But that would mean a quarterback controversy, especially if Gabbert is cleared to play the following week against Seattle.

"We don’t even think like that," Bradley said. "… We hate to see anybody get injured but because of that competition that we had where the total reps were close to 370 apiece through the whole process there’s one good out of that in that now we have a guy that’s seasoned and has played a lot of football for us. We have a lot of faith in Chad. I know that he’s a guy that we felt strongly about going through the whole process and hopefully we won’t miss a beat."

Maybe a better figure of speech might have been better there, because the offense certainly had no rhythm in the Jaguars’ 28-2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It started with Gabbert, who completed 16 of 35 passes for 121 yards with two interceptions. One of those interceptions came when he threw a screen pass right at linebacker Tamba Hali, who walked into the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown return.

Gabbert had a total QBR of 1.2 -- the range is 1-100, with 50 being average -- and ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote that Gabbert’s yards per attempt of 3.46 was the seventh-lowest in an NFL game (minimum 20 attempts) since 1960.

Granted, the offensive line played poorly (six sacks), the Jaguars were without top receiver Justin Blackmon (four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy), and Gabbert was playing with a hairline fracture in his right thumb after not playing for 22 days. But an angry fan base is tired of hearing excuses for why the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 draft isn’t getting any better.

So they’re getting their wish with Henne -- for this Sunday, at least.

It's unlikely to be a long-term switch because Bradley and Caldwell have to find out if Gabbert can become a franchise quarterback and the only way that can be done is on the field.