What’s Next: Cam Newton vs. Blaine Gabbert
By Luke Sims
With the coming contest between the Jags and the Panthers comes people down in Florida buzzing with excitement over the beginning of the Blaine Gabbert era. But before we look at what we can expect from our favorite male version of goldilocks, we have to understand what will be going on this week. I guarantee that throughout the broadcast we’ll hear tons of comparison between pick number one (Cam Newton) and pick number 10 (Our own Blaine Gabbert). So, how can we expect this broadcast to go? How can we expect Gabbert to perform? And, more importantly, can we expect a W in the win column? All these questions will be answered following the jump.
By now we all know about Cam Newton, most yard ever by a rookie a debut, most yards ever by a rookie after two games, first rookie to throw for more than 400 yards in his first two games. The list seems endless, the man is practically printing money out of the Carolinas and he’s rapidly becoming the golden child of the media. Yet his Panthers remain a dismal 0-2 to start the season.
Blaine Gabbert, on the other hand, was supposed to be given a year of grooming. A year to prepare. A year to learn the office. But then came the terrible preseason of David Garrard. He was cut in favor of the always practice-sharp Luke McCown. But after a terrible four interception game agains the Jets last week, McCown has been benched in favor of the rookie. With only two weeks of watching real NFL football from the bend, Gabbert must step into the shoes once held by Byron Leftwich, 1st round pick expected to bring the franchise to the elite level of the NFL.
What we will see on the field Sunday night will be a match-up of two different attempts at bringing a franchise quarterback into the league. Carolina is following what I like to call the David Carr approach while the Jags were hoping to go with an Aaron Rodgers approach. With the breakdown on the Jags’ end we will now see which of the two quarterbacks will become more like David Carr and which will emerge to be more like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, or Peyton Manning. Had the Panthers gone with Jimmy Clausen (quarterback selection last year) and tried to groom Cam Newton behind him, Newton would probably be taking the field this week anyway because of his high potential (And Clausen’s failure to fully grasp the pro level of play).
Undoubtedly, the failure on Jacksonville’s part to properly groom their QB of the future will come up in the broadcast. The benefits of giving Cam Newton the keys to the offense will probably be talked about a great
deal. Expect every mistake Blaine makes to be criticized. Expect his ability to command the offense to be questioned. And at the end of every statement, expect a comparison to Newton. It’s only natural, and it will be exciting to see who was really worth the higher pick.
But what can we actually expect from Gabbert. In his first six throws for the Jags in the regular season, Gabbert completed five for 52 yards. There isn’t anything overly impressive with the numbers, and a lot of them came on a dump off to Jones-Drew. I would expect more of that this coming week out of Dirk Koetter. Rather than risk numerous interceptions, I should imagine the short passing game and lots of running back options to be available to Gabbert. As much as I would love to see Blaine unleashed during this game and have him rack up 300+ yards agains the Panthers, I can’t see him throwing for much more than 200. This will probably be due to design more than ability. By all accounts, Gabbert has poise in the pocket, command of the huddle, and can throw the ball with power and finesse (sometimes). If he comes away with 200 yards, a touchdown, and a pick in the game, I’ll be about as satisfied as I could be. While the temptation to outplay Newton is undoubtedly there, expect the coaches to ignore it and focus on the gameplan.
That gameplan is going to win the game for the Jaguars. As most people know, Maurice Jones-Drew is the conduit through which the offense is run. A friend of mine came up to me two days ago and said, “Luke, Mojo is kind of letting me down right now.” I looked at him rather dumbfounded. Through two games he’s run for 185 yards (4.4 yard average) and a touchdown. With Gabbert starting I think pocket hercules will rack up a decent amount more. If the running backs are used as targets out of the backfield I wouldn’t be shocked to see Drew rack up fifty yards of receiving. In essence, he’ll be putting the team on his shoulders. Gabbert’s start will bring a new era of power and finesse running to Jacksonville. The talent is there, but now with the necessity of protecting and promoting a rookie quarterback, the necessity is there too. Expect the Jaguars to step up. I’m not going to predict a score for this game, but if the Jags keep Gabbert to 20-25 attempts and run over the Panthers with Mojo and Karim, expect the Jags to emerge victorious.
But, man, it’s about time we took some of the load of Maurice Jones-Drew’s shoulders. He can only do so much. Blaine, let’s see what you can do.
– Luke N. Sims