In a perfect world Cody Kessler will hold a clipboard and stand on the sidelines all-season long. Insurance is one of those things you hope you never have to use. Blake Bortles has been Mr. dependable and hasn’t missed a start since becoming the Jaguars starting quarterback in 2014.
However in the NFL you’re only one play away from the backup quarterback taking the field. During Thursday night’s preseason opener Kessler led the Jaguars to three scoring drives. It was a debut that impressed Bortles.
“As a quarterback, it is easy to look good in practice when no one can hit you and you kind of find out who you are as a player when you go play against live competition and I thought he was awesome,” said Bortles. “Like you said, he’s had a really good camp. He’s a smart kid and he’s picked up everything extremely quickly and to watch him go out there and run the offense and move the ball the way he did, it was fun to watch.”
Obviously the hope is that Kessler doesn’t have to play other than mop up duty. But if Blake goes down, Kessler’s performance against the Saints quiets some of the fears about the unknown behind Bortles on the depth chart.
Kessler looked very comfortable running Nathaniel Hackett’s offense, completing 14-of-17 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.
During training camp, Kessler has done a good job of limiting risks, protecting the football and taking what the defense gives him. Against New Orleans the former Cleveland Browns starter wasn’t shy about taking a couple of shots down the field.
“Yeah, that’s something I’ve obviously worked heavy on in the offseason and, like I said, I had a couple deep balls with DJ [Chark Jr.] and a couple with Keelan [Cole] and some other guys,” said Kessler. “It’s been nice being able to show that I can push the ball down the field a lot more, but, like I said, still being smart about it, not just throwing it up for grabs. If it’s there, take a shot. If not, check the ball down. The best part about this is with [Offensive Coordinator] Nate [Hackett] and [Quarterbacks Coach] Scott [Milanovich] teaching this offense and the way this offense works makes it a lot easier for me. Just going through your reads, going through progression, knowing what to do with the football helps you play a lot faster.”