Home > NFL > In anticipation of tonight’s game: An analysis of Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert

In anticipation of tonight’s game: An analysis of Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert

There’s really not much to look forward to in tonight’s San Diego-Jacksonville Monday night thriller, but allow me to give you at least one interesting storyline: the quarterbacks.

I really liked Blaine Gabbert coming out of Missouri.  I thought that a number of teams that really could have used a pocket passer, and passed on Gabbert when maybe they would have been wiser to have taken him.  Teams, in their infinite wisdom, passed on Gabbert.

Thing is, Blaine Gabbert hasn’t been good at all this year.  This has prompted “respected” observers to make sweeping value statements, which is irresponsible at best.  Gabbert’s got one fundamental issue, which he shares with fellow recent draft picks Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, and Joe Flacco all struggle to use the NFL pocket.  Flacco’s maturity suggests that pocket awareness can obviously be learned over time, just repeating movements in the pocket.  The idea that a player’s flaws as a rookie will manifest into larger problems later in his career are most obviously asinine.

Still, we can look at Gabbert statistically and compare him to other rookie passers who have struggled recently.  If there’s any takeaway from a list of similar rookie passers, it’s that Gabbert may have been overdrafted by Jacksonville.  David Carr is the only similar recent passer who was a first round draft pick, and he played for an expansion team.  Typically though, here’s the thing to keep in mind: Gabbert plays for maybe the only team in the league for whom he would have passed more than 250 times this year.  Switch Jake Locker and Gabbert and you may be looking at an even worse quarterback situation in Jacksonville, while Gabbert is still sitting behind Matt Hasselbeck.  Same thing if you switch Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick.

Gabbert played the worst game of his pro career last week against Houston, and he’s made some really dreadful decisions to be sure over the course of this year, but I didn’t see a whole lot of evidence on tape to suggest he cannot play at this level.  Gabbert isn’t making the Jacksonville Jaguars any better right now, but the elite defense to get Jacksonville to the playoffs next season appears to be in place, and with Maurice Jones-Drew still in his prime, the Jaguars simply need to put the offense they want around Gabbert, water, and reap the growth desired next year.  I think Jacksonville is in a much more desirable situation than the Tennessee Titans are, personally.  The Colts might have the best (young) quarterback in the division as soon as next year, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Blaine Gabbert enjoy more early career success than Andrew Luck because the Colts might require a total rebuild on both sides of the ball.  The dreadful nature of the Jaguars offense and the upheaval of the coaching staff is giving the illusion that the Jags are further from contention than they really are.

The biggest thing for Gabbert is that he will entire 2012 with a full season of playing experience and will need to rework his pocket mechanics over the offseason.  I did not have high hopes for Gabbert as a player this year, but presuming a full offseason next year and shrewd offensive acquisitions by the Jacksonville Jaguars with an eye on rebuilding their passing game, the transition from bad rookie to competent NFL quarterback should go fairly smoothly.  And I think that people doubting the difficulty of a transition by commenting on the sustainability of such struggles will look typically foolish a year from now.

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