Gabbert Steps Forward

Aug. 18, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) throws a pass against the New York Jets during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

After being a 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft Blaine Gabbert has so far in his short career learned three new offenses, been called a pretty big bust, and called a coach killer since two Jaguar Head Coaches have been fired since Gabbert took over as starting Quarterback.  On top of that Gabbert has been criticized for not standing in the pocket and taking a hit and being a poor leader. He has also has former coaches who reportedly said that the called him “Blame Gabbert” behind his back because Gabbert would take none of the blame for his mistakes, and another coach has gone as far to say that if he had a choice he would not have started Gabbert.

All of this had led Jags fans to either call for Gabbert to be replaced or to defend him by saying at least he hasn’t fumbled while running into his own lineman.  So things can only get better right?  I think so.

To start when Gabbert was drafted he was considered a “raw” talent which means he was not yet ready to be a NFL starter his rookie year.  As a rookie he needed to stand on the sidelines and watch David Garrard who was the starter at the time before being released prior to week 1 of the 2011 season.  After Garrard was released it was Luke McCown’s team and that was a rough week and a half before Gabbert was thrown into the starting role before he was ready in an attempt for Jack Del Rio to save his head coaching job.  As expected Gabbert was less than stellar and Del Rio ended up getting fired.

During the offseason Mike Mularkey was hired as Head Coach and Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon was drafted 5th overall to give Gabbert someone to throw too other than free-agent signing Laurent Robinson.  However now Gabbert was taking criticism for not standing in the pocket and delivering a strong pass even if he was being hit.

Year two Gabbert’s young career comes and goes with what is to those who watched him play the year before some but not a lot of improvement.  In 2012 he showed improvement raising his QBR 20.3 points and his passer rating 12.0 points according to espn.com statistics.  Gabbert was also noticeably standing in the pocket and delivering the ball despite pressure more often and also fumbled the ball 8 fewer times between 2011-2012 despite event though he played 5 fewer games in 2011.  Gabbert also found Cecil Shorts III for

Dec 23, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (84) lines up for a play during the second half of the game against the New England Patriots at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

some long TD passes during the season.

After the 2012 season Mularkey was fired and replaced by current Head Coach Gus Bradley.  Bradley has come in this season preaching “Competition” at every position, and while most people believe Gabbert was going to be given the starting job regardless of how he and back Chad Henne performed.  I believe he truly won the job this year.

Neither Gabbert nor Henne separated themselves for the other during practice and Henne even against Miami’s 2nd team defense looked like he was winning the battle.  However Bradley started Gabbert once again in the second pre-season game against the Jets and Gabbert stepped up and seemingly leaped forward in the battle against Henne.  Gabbert looked like a new player that night before fracturing his thumb throwing away a pass with a defender in his face.

What was new with Gabbert is he appeared to be in control of the offense putting together a scoring drive in 2 minutes and 50 seconds and capping it off by throwing a TD pass to backup tight end Allen Reisner.  Also despite showing improved number if you go back and look at some of Gabbert’s best plays of 2012 you will see that the ball he threw was often inaccurate and even at times a ‘duck’ only being completed because Shorts III adjusted to make the catch.  Against the Jets though his passes were spot on no receivers had to turn and back pedal waiting for the ball to reach them, the passes were where they need to be.  Finally to tie both things in the offense seemed to be in a good rhythm with Gabbert in even working through what were too many penalties on their second drive of the game.

One game does not make a player in any sport professional or not.  Blaine Gabbert is no exception.  What Gabbert has done though is proved that he should be given one more shot to be an NFL starter.  Not because of money, or how highly he was drafted, but through his progress on the field.  To me this is a step in the right direction for Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

-Mike Milder

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