Blaine Gabbert finished the 2011 season with a 50.8 completion percentage, 5.4 yards per attempt, 40 sacks, and a quarterback rating of 65.4. After a historically awful rookie season, the expectations for Gabbert in 2012 should definitely be tempered.
It was the hair. Blaine never stood a chance.
Pete Prisco and Bucky Brooks are two of the very few national analysts who think Blaine Gabbert has a chance to have a respectable season and show some gradual improvement. Now, if your first choice for Jacksonville Jaguars training camp coverage is ProFootballTalk.com, then you already know that the sky is falling and the Jaguars’ season is over. I hope season ticket holders kept their receipts.
Fortunately, there are some people on the internet who have actually attended training camp. Most reports coming from camp have indicated what should be expected in Gabbert’s second season – incremental improvement every day. As Paul Kuharsky pointed out, Blaine hasn’t made a “big jump” in his performance so far in practice, but quite frankly that’s not a reasonable expectation. A modest start during the first day of practices, followed by gradual improvement throughout the week, culminated in a rather promising performance in Friday night’s scrimmage.
Now that’s the haircut of a successful quarterback.
Obviously football isn’t an exact science, and you can’t expect Blaine to keep improving at such a consistent rate, but what if he does? While acknowledging the insignificance of out-of-context statistics, most reasonable projections for Gabbert’s numbers in 2012 are around 3,000+ yards, 18 TDs, 15 INTs and a ~58% completion percentage.
But with 4 weeks and 4 preseason games left before the regular season and with two key contributors on offense waiting to jump into the fray (MJD and Blackmon), how much more comfortable can Blaine Gabbert get in this offense? What if Gabbert exceeds all these expectations?
In the Bucky Brooks article I linked at the top of this piece, Brooks points out that the Jaguars’ defense has a chance to finish as the NFL’s top-rated unit. How good can the Jaguars be if Blaine doesn’t just rise from the bottom of the quarterback rankings to mediocrity? What if he breaks the top 15?
If Blaine finishes somewhere around his projected numbers, a 7-8 win season is well within reason. But last year we saw a 49ers team march to a 13-3 season because their quarterback had a career year (17 TDs, 5 INTs, 61.3 completion%) and the defense dominated. If Blaine can manage to crack 3,500+ yards, 20+ TDs and a 60% completion percentage, the Jaguars have a chance to challenge Houston for the division title. While the Jaguars have a tough schedule (NFC North and AFC East), the Texans have the same brutal schedule. A ten win team has a chance to capture the division.
Everyone else can keep their expectations at a reasonable level. I think the Jaguars can shock plenty of people this year and finish with 10 wins. Just don’t make me sound stupid in ten weeks or so Blaine.