The Jacksonville Jaguars will be starting rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert all season, barring injury (knocks on wood) of course. We'll get to see the growth and progression of a rookie quarterback during a season. Each week, we'll take a look at the growth of Gabbert and I'll give him a grade. I didn't last week, because there wasn't much to go on given the playcalling and the circumstances. This week however, the Jaguars abliged and gave us ample to look at against the New Orleans Saints, as far as Gabbert is concerned.
What I liked:
- Poise: Gabbert never seemed to get flustered, despite taking some shots on some plays with a total breakdown in coverage. On one particular 3rd down play, it looked like the Jaguars make-shift offensive line literally blocked absolutely no one. Gabbert dropped back and had no shot, with 4-5 Saints closing down on him.
- Escapability: There were a couple instances where Gabbert was flushed from the pocket and flashed his mobility. He's surprisingly fast for a guy of his size. There was one play where Gabbert got flushed out, spun, and wound up picking up the first down for a gain of 12 yards.
- Anticipation: It's clear watching the games that Gabbert anticipates his receivers coming open and gets the ball out often as their coming out of their breaks. That's something we haven't seen on a consistent basis in Jacksonville in about a decade.
- Big Boy Throws: Gabbert made a couple of big boy throws against the Saints that shows some glimpses of the future. His touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller was one of them. Another pass to Marcedes Lewis was another. A deep pass down the sideline to Zach Miller was a damn near perfect throw, but the defensive back made a great play to tip it away. If he hadn't, it would have dropped right in the bucket to Miller.
What I didn't like:
- The Second Half: In the first half of the game, Gabbert was on fire. He had nearly 150 passing yards in the first half and the team trailed 14-10 heading into the 3rd quarter. Gabbert completed just 4 of 18 passes in the second half, including an interception. While he was a victim of drops, he also missed on some key throws.
- Short Arm: On some plays when he has pressure in his face, Gabbert will short arm some throws. He won't step in to it, and just throw the ball all arm. This takes velocity off the ball and often makes it bounce short. I'm sure it's something that will improve over time, but as it stands he does it often enough to bring up.
Overall, I thought Gabbert played just fine for a rookie in his second start. He missed on some throws on critical downs, I.E. overthrowing Marcedes Lewis on 4th down, but he also was victimized on some big plays on 3rd down by drops. You'd like to see more points on the board and him not to become completely ineffective in the second half, but these things should improve over time. The Saints made adjustments at half time to limit his effectiveness and it worked. Gabbert got plenty to go over on film though, thanks to Gregg Williams throwing a plethora of different blitz and coverage looks. I've already seen some people harp on his 56 quarterback rating, but like I've said time and time again: It's the most overrated and misused statistic in football.