I would like to say first and foremost this is not an "I told you so" post. Eight weeks is not enough time to know how a QB will do in the NFL over a (hopefully) long career. In fact, I hope I never have to write one and that Blaine Gabbert goes on to be a very successful NFL QB. With that said, it's time we sit and take a realistic look at how Gabbert has performed to this point.
Statistically, Gabbert is not having a good year (duh). He is 128-264 (48.5% completions) for 1,371 yards, 6 TDs and 6 INTs. His 63.6 rating is good for the worst among NFL quarterbacks. The statistics are pretty damning, but I'm fond of saying that "stats lie" and I'm willing to look past the statistics and let you know what I've seen from Gabbert this year.
My pre-draft opinions on Gabbert are known on the site, but I will make an honest attempt to look at Gabbert's performance without any bias.
Don't worry: It's not all bad.First off, TD passes are a fickle statistic. The difference between a good day for Gabbert and a bad day is Marcedes Lewis dropping or catching a tipped pass in the end zone. (Note: that's not an excuse, and it's unacceptable, but we should recognize that the pass was tipped at the line.) There was at least one more dropped TD pass that I can think of. Blaine could have as many as 8 or 9 TDs through the air.
Of course, the same can be said of interceptions, perhaps more easily. There are always dropped interceptions, and plenty have been dropped this year more than the 6 INTs that are on the stat sheet.
Honestly, though, those stats aren't even remotely important.
What is important are the problems that Gabbert had in college and whether he has addressed them throughout the year. So, what were the concerns coming out of college?
1) A spread QB taking snaps under center. Namely, the center-QB exchange.
2) A QB in a one-read passing system adapting to making 3 or 4 reads in a pro system.
3) Footwork on 3-, 5- and 7-step drops
4) Getting jumpy in the pocket.
5) An in-ideal completion percentage at the college level. (Read: Accuracy)
Some amout of progress has been made on all of these issues, but not all equally. I'll write a little bit about each of Gabbert's perceived pre-draft weaknesses to let you know how I think things are going.
1)Taking snaps from center: I thought this was a silly complaint in the first place. Even if a player isn't used to taking snaps under center, which we know that Gabbert wasn't, it doesn't take long for an NFL QB to get used to it. Gabbert is used to it by now. Problem solved.
2) Making second reads: On this, I'm actually encouraged by what I saw after the bye week. Before then, Gabbert really struggled looking past his first receiver. His one-and-run college tendencies returned at points, and just in general, Gabbert rarely looked for a second option or even a check down receiver.
Since week 10, Gabbert has been better about finding 2nd options in the passing game. Marcedes Lewis has caught 10 passes in the last two weeks and in week 11, Gabbert's best statistical week, Blaine found his backs and check down receivers much better. He has improved, but he's still not where he needs to be to be even an average NFL QB.
3) Footwork: This is still a problem. There are times when Gabbert will step into his throws, keep his head up and his weight forward and really put some nice zip on the ball. It's worth stating that when he does these things, it looks beautiful. He's got rare arm strength. Of course, there are still times when he stays back on his heels or just doesn't get himself set correctly. When his technique breaks down, passes sail on him, like the corner route to Marcedes that he overthrew by about five yards yesterday. Overall, I think his footwork is improving, but it's gone up from "terrible" up to "not terrible." It remains to be seen if he can take it from "not terrible" to "good"
4) Getting Jumpy: Gabbert is still pretty jumpy in the pocket. It's something that has been highlighted in recent weeks by analysts. It came up in the Monday Night game, NFL.com had a video talking about it before the Colts game, and even against the Texans it was mentioned on the CBS broadcast. This problem is a hard one to get over. It requires first being comfortable with steps 1-3 and having a natural sense of where defenders are coming from. Not much improvement has been made, but the line hasn't exactly been keeping Gabbert clean either...
5) Accuracy Issues: Yeah... the accuracy issues haven't gone away, and it's because the previous four problems haven't entirely gone away either. It takes a lot of focus and a quarterback who is very comfortable with his footwork to stand back, read the field and put the ball into the small windows that most NFL QB's get. Gabbert, honestly, isn't there yet. That's why he's struggled so much recently.
After being hit early and often against Houston, Gabbert was pulled in favor of Luke McCown. That doesn't mean that Gabbert is not the Jaguars QB, necessarily. I think he will remain the starter unless he gets injured. He is the QB of the future for this team, but with the way he's struggling, sometimes it's better to just say "Good job, kid. Take a seat and let the backup get sacked for a while. You'll get another shot next week."