When the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the New England Patriots in their first preseason game of the 2011 NFL season, the team will be without a good portion of their playmakers. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert will be getting the start, but he'll be without Pro-Bowlers Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis. Jones-Drew is still recovering from his knee injury he sustained in the 2010 season and Lewis is being held out because he's only been in practice a week. Not only will the rookie not have the two best players on his offense, he'll also be without starting right tackle Eben Britton, who's still not fully recovered from his injury from last season and is also nursing a sore back. Gabbert won't have rookie receiver Cecil Shorts, either. Shorts has been out of practice since the scrimmage with what general manager Gene Smith classified as a "soft tissue injury". With all that being said, what will Gabbert have to work with in his start?
Well, he'll have himself.
Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert will be getting live bullets with the first team offense a lot sooner than the team had originally planned. While it was planned for Gabbert to get time with the first team, the plan wasn't to do it in the very first pre-season game as the starting quarterback. With David Garrard out with a back injury, Gabbert has been getting reps with the first team offense for almost a week. He should have some timing down with receivers Mike Thomas and Jason Hill, as well as tight end Zach Miller.
The Jaguars have a fantastic opportunity with their rookie quarterback to really test where he's at after a few weeks of practice. In the limited time I've been able to see him in camp, he's looked much further along than one would expect a rookie to be without an offseason contact with the coaching staff aside from getting a playbook. With the work with the first team and Gabbert getting the start, the Jaguars can open it up and see exactly what they've got.
It's a preseason game. Let the kid loose.
If Gabbert throws three really bad interceptions, who cares? He's a rookie, he's in his first live action against another team. No big deal.
If Gabbert throws three long touchdowns, who cares? He's a rookie, and that would just hammer home a bit the Jaguars knew who they were picking and how talented the kid is.
The team would be doing themselves a disservice if they came out and ran the ball for 75% of Gabbert's snaps and then pulled him out after a few series. If the kid isn't getting banged around, why pull him out?
Let him go.