The Jacksonville Jaguars, and particularly QB Blaine Gabbert, have stumbled through much of the 2012 season, but suddenly hope has come from a most unlikely source: Chad Henne.
Henne has spent the majority of the season watching Gabbert struggle under center. Gabbert has failed to show many signs of development in his sophomore season and is averaging a meager 166 yards passing per contest.
Jacksonville's offense has been sluggish at best, scoring 20 points or more only three times prior to Sunday's meeting with the Houston Texans.
Henne stepped in valiantly for the injured Gabbert. Little was expected of the former Miami Dolphin, but Henne completed 16-of-33 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns.
Whenever the Texans' high-powered offense would put points on the board, the Jaguars would answer. Henne developed an immediate chemistry with first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon, leading to 236 yards receiving and a TD for the WR.
So, was all of this some sort of stroke of luck, or was Gabbert holding back a potentially potent offense?
The answer may fall somewhere in the middle. Henne had seen action prior to Sunday, including going 10-of-16 for 161 yards and one touchdown performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10.
The fact of the matter is that the offense plays better with Henne in the lineup. He has the ability to throw the deep ball in ways the Gabbert has clearly proven unable of achieving. Henne is a five-year veteran that knows the Jaguars offense and is not afraid to take chances.
However, to expect 37 points a week is unrealistic. Yes, Jacksonville's breakout game came against one of the NFL's top defenses, but one solid week is not enough to signal a turn towards elite status.
This was the prototypical trap game for the Texans—a gimmie contest sandwiched between big meetings with the Bears and Lions. Is that an excuse for their poor defensive performance? Absolutely not, but it is a reason to temper expectations with Jacksonville moving forward.
Henne should definitely continue to see the field, though. He finds ways to involve every player possible. There was even a Marcedes Lewis sighting against the Texans. The forgotten tight end still has elite ability, he just needs a QB like Henne that is willing to give him an opportunity to make plays.
This was most evidenced on a touchdown pass in the red zone:
There was a tight window across the middle of the endzone for Lewis to run to and Henne trusted his big TE to go up and get the ball. It was the type of play that does not happen with Gabbert under center because he is too timid in the pocket and quick to check the ball down.
Henne is not a perfect QB, but he is a clear improvement on the under developed Gabbert. It will be interesting to see if the offense can continue to flourish with Henne at No. 1 on the depth chart.