Call it defeatist or negative, whatever you will. At this point I've already stopped worrying about wins and losses or what the Jaguars record will be. I didn't think they would make the playoffs regardless, so that might make it a bit easier. I'm more concerned and looking for how players develop through the course of the season, especially rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. That's the most that's gained from this season in my book, is the invaluable experience of playing. Already, Gabbert's shown he will make a mistake, but he's shown the ability to correct that mistake and evolve in a game.
Click the jump, and I'll explain.
On the Jacksonville Jaguars second drive of the game, rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert was sacked on 3rd down by Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson. I've seen a lot of fans attribute the sack to left tackle Eugene Monroe, but it wasn't his fault. The sack was actually on Gabbert, who left the pocket too early. Gabbert dropped back to throw and got antsy. He saw a running lane open up between Monroe and Britton, that in college at Missouri he likely could have exploited for a 10-yard gain and an easy first down. In the NFL however, especially on the defensive line, the players are significantly quicker to react and faster getting to the ball. Gabbert tried to run through the lane and Johnson spun off Monroe for the sack.
If Gabbert had just stepped up in the pocket, Monroe had Johnson blocked, and he could have attempted a pass. Rookie mistake, he'll learn when he watches film.
Or he'll learn on the sideline, file it away in his brain, then not do it again later in the game. Gabbert did exactly that. Later in the game, he was presented with a similar situation and this time instead of breaking for a running lane out of the pocket, he stepped up to avoid the rush and delivered a pass to wide receiver Mike Thomas for a first down. That's exactly what you want to see from a rookie quarterback in their first start.
Not only did Gabbert show he learns from and corrects his mistakes, but he showed the cognisance to correct the mistake in-game. That's big.
It's little things like that I'm watching for now. I really don't care how many the Jaguars win or lose this year, that's really not important in the grand scheme of things. What's important is that Gabbert continues to grow and show the little things like what I just described. Physically Gabbert has everything you look for in a quarterback. His teammates seem to believe in him and he's got the passion on the field fans have asked for from previous quarterbacks. You can tell he wants to be great.
After the Jaguars selected Blaine Gabbert 10th overall in the NFL Draft last April, I contacted Dave Matter. Matter is the Missouri Tigers beat writer for The Columbia Daily Tribune. One thing that he said stuck in my brain and seeing Gabbert play on Sunday made me think about it. I did a "Getting to know Blaine Gabbert" post with some questions I asked Matter. Here's the answer he gave to a question that stuck out and is something that has shown out, at least in my opinion, watching Gabbert in camp, preseason, and his limited game reps.
Me: How is Gabbert known as far as being a hard worker, film study?
Dave Matter: He's intense when it comes to preparation. In interviews he can come off as being nonchalant, but I've watched film with him and had him explain coverages and progressions, and I was impressed with how football savvy and how intense he was when it comes to knowing all there is to know about what's unfolding on the field. He came to Missouri with this reputation as a golden-armed five-star recruit who was a product of the national camp circuit, but I think he resented being cast in that light and that motivated him to become more than just a big body with a big arm. I think being a top-10 pick will give him the same drive, to know Jacksonville's offense inside and out.