The Jacksonville Jaguars kicked off their first preseason game against the New England Patriots. Rookie Blaine Gabbert got his first taste of real (well, sorta) NFL action. I thought Gabbert played fairly well in his six series, all things considered. He's only been in 11 practices with the Jaguars, which means he's only worked with the coaching staff and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for that amount of time. By all accounts however, Gabbert has been a junkie picking everyone's brain on the offense, and I think a bit of that showed out in the game. While his statline of 9 of 16 for 85 yards doesn't scream at you, watching the game he actually performed better than that.
On the first play of the game, Koetter called a play action fake that let Gabbert hit receiver Jason Hill on an 8 yard gain. It's a smart play to kind of get the butterflies out for a new QB, because it's usually a fairly easy pitch and catch. The next play however, wasn't an easy one and I think was a shot of what's to come in the future with Gabbert. Gabbert dropped back with a play action fake to Deji Karim, who ran a little route out of the backfield. Guard Will Rackley was pushed back into Gabbert by Kyle Love and forced Gabbert to get rid of the ball. In a throw that was all arm, because Gabbert couldn't really drive the ball he threaded it between safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Dane Fletcher to Jason Hill to pick up the first down.
Back up runningback Rashad Jennings showed some good burst and power on some plays, dragging Patrick Chung a few yards at one point. The Patriots defense didn't care that it was preseason and had no problem blitzing Gabbert. Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher forced Gabbert to miss on a rushed pass to Mike Thomas in the middle of the field. Fletcher got past center Brad Meester and got Gabbert to sail the football. A few plays later on third down however, Gabbert converted the third down with pressure in his face to tight end Zach Miller. The very next play Gabbert was sacked by Jermaine Cunningham, who went right past Miller on the block and forced Gabbert to get on the move. Gabbert had the kind of "Oh no!" reaction and froze for a second before trying to run away and getting sacked. This sack was partially on Gabbert, as he could have gotten rid of the football, but I'm not going to get on him for that on his first NFL drive. The drive ended with Gabbert just overshooting Jason Hill for what would have been a first down.
After a quick fumble, the Jaguars got the ball right back to their rookie quarterback. Gabbert missed high on his first throw of this drive to Karim who ran a route out of the backfield. It looked like a miscommunication. Gabbert either thought Karim was running a different route and had the play wrong, or Karim ran the wrong route. Either way, it was a timing throw where someone was off. This drive ended with a very, very bad and uncharacteristic drop by receiver Mike Thomas. The Patriots blitzed from the right side and it was picked up. Gabbert looked to his left and throw to Mike Thomas heading towards the sideline for what would have been an easy first down, but Thomas just simply dropped the football. Gabbert let his emotion show after the play, upset with the incompletion.
Gabbert ended his work for the night nearly being picked off by Patrick Chung, Chung flat out dropped the ball.
Overall, Gabbert in fact looked like a rookie which was to be expected. He did however, look like he'd been in camp a lot longer than only 11 days to me. He showed poise at times, and panicked really only one time on the first drive. He was sacked a total of three times, but I think he's partially on the hook for one of them. That know-how to just get rid of the ball will come with time. While he was a victim of some really bad drops, that's part of the game. Four in 15 passes isn't normal, but these receivers are also adjusting to a new quarterback. Not to take a shot at David Garrard, but they're also adjusting to a quarterback who gets the football out quickly and seems to anticipate receivers coming open rather than typically throwing to a guy who is open, which has long been something lacking in Garrard's game.
There's some concerns on the interior of the offensive line and if Eben Britton doesn't heal up and get back to the level he played during his rookie season. I'm not sure if Will Rackley is ready to start yet and Jason Spitz just got whipped a few times. I didn't think Guy Whimper would be horrible at right tackle, but I can be wrong... he was.
I'll have more on the defense and second half offense/defense later and/or tomorrow.