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Blake Bortles impresses Gus Bradley, and positions himself for Jaguars starting job

Yes, it was just a preseason opener, but Blake Bortles impressed just about everyone Friday night, including Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley.

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of Michael Sam, Blake Bortles may have had the best night of any rookie in the NFL on Friday. The newly-minted Jacksonville Jaguar spelled Chad Henne, and went 7-for-11 for 117 yards. Henne, who coaches had all but declared the starter for the season opener, went just 4-for-7 for 30 yards in limited snaps.

So is Bortles pushing for immediate playing time?

Hard to say just from watching him, because preseason football is a spoonful of a small sample size from which we tend to draw disproportionately heavy conclusions. Bortles caught the attention of Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, however, and that isn't insignificant.

First-round quarterbacks tend to find the field during their debut seasons (Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers, excepted). The Jaguars were comfortable labeling Bortles the No. 2 quarterback heading into training camp. According to Big Cat Country's Alfie Crow, that in itself is justification enough to expect to see Bortles during the regular season.

The team has also left themselves a gray area to play with on how long Bortles will sit, if he sits at all. When asked, both Bradley and Caldwell have consistently said when he's "ready", which in reality could mean tomorrow or a year from now. It means whatever they want and that's by design. For one, the team doesn't want Bortles to worry about having to "win" or "prove" he's the starting quarterback.

Whether Bortles "wants" to prove he's the starting quarterback, he certainly looked like the stronger player against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (And again, this is part of a meaningless game we're picking over.) The reaction to Bortles' performance was, well, one-sided:

It's a fair distance yet to the regular season, but Bortles took a small (but still noticeable) step toward taking over the reins in Jacksonville.