The Jaguars let Gabbert off his leash against the Chicago Bears and it was a good move. Yes, the team lost the game but there was some serious development that was apparent. This loss is not on Gabbert’s shoulders, it’s on the receivers.
While blaming the receivers seems to be a consistent theme for us Gabbert apologists, but in the Bears game it is all too true. While the first half showcased Gabbert’s ability to get the ball to whomever he wanted (even with a couple drops and miscommunications), the second half showed that the receivers still need work. Justin Blackmon especially needed work and Cecil Shorts needs to learn how not to fade.
Shorts is rapidly making himself a deep and explosive threat for the Jags. His one handed snag in the first quarter was miraculous. His big plays late in games are starting to garner attention. Given the chance to start, Shorts made an early impression on the tough Bears secondary and beat his man consistently. While he (barely) missed out on one deep ball that he slowed down to locate, he displayed the ability to be a very good receiver. I think he is really starting to develop. While he was very good in the first half, he couldn’t make adjustments to counter better play by the corners in the second half. He had two catches on three targets Sunday, but he could have had so much more if he had gotten open all game.
Justin Blackmon needs to work back to being an effective receiver. Unlike Shorts, Blackmon knows how to get open and is a physical receiver who can make plays on the ball. Unfortunately, he tends to lose out more than he comes out on top. He was targeted eight times this week but only caught three balls. Of the five balls he didn’t catch, a couple were knocked into the air and were prime pickings for the opportunistic Bears defense.
While the receivers are having issues, Gabbert really benefitted from the more open play calling. The checkdowns were far less frequent, the receivers were given the ball a lot more (only one reception was made by a running back), and he got the tight end involved a lot more. The offense, even without Maurice Jones-Drew having a big game, looked like a professional offense. It was good to see the Jags look like they could keep pace and do the things that other teams make look so easy.
With the bye week upon us, I think Gabbert has some good things to dwell on. Maybe he and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski can put together a more aggressive scheme for week seven. The Gabbert we saw on Sunday was one worthy of a top ten draft pick. The Gabbert we saw on Sunday wasn’t perfect, but he looked a heck of a lot better than he has in the past.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims