Score one for tough love.
The Jacksonville Jaguars demoted Blake Bortles from clear-cut starter for a nine-day competition with Chad Henne. Bortles has been handed the starting job back, and coach Doug Marrone believes he's seeing an improved quarterback since the benching.
"I think he's doing a nice job," Marrone said Monday, via Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. "I really do. For me, personally, it's the best I've seen him."
The Jaguars have had three practices since Marrone re-returned to Bortles as his starter. According to the coach, Bortles seems more relaxed and his footwork has improved upon where it was before the competition opened.
"I've seen him build upon his last performance," Marrone said. "I'm hoping to see that that carries over because he's actually done quite well."
It wouldn't be the first time a player got his act together after facing the very real threat of losing his job. The praise could also stem from Marrone merely attempting to publicly justify going back to the quarterback he has harshly criticized over the past month. (Hey, if steady denigration didn't work, maybe directing sunshine Blake's direction might work!)
"I feel like I'm just playing," Bortles said Saturday after the announcement that he would start the season opener. "I feel comfortable. I feel confident with the system. I feel comfortable in it. I feel comfortable with the guys that I'm playing with.
"You take each individual play as its own entity and you go out there and go through it and play it and do as best as you possibly can and then move on, good or bad, move on from it and do the same thing with the next one."
Bortles' supposed improvement over the course of three practices means very little if it all unravels come Week 1. But it's better than the QB getting the starting gig back and chucking five interceptions in practice, I guess.