Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio responded to a question about quarterback David Garrard starting the opening week against the Tennessee Titans by saying, "Yeah, David's our starter. That's what I said all spring." This of course, led to the declaration of the quarterback competition being over and the questioning if one ever even existed. The reality is, one existed and still exists. David Garrard has still got to hold off rookie Blaine Gabbert and he can slam that door shut with a good outing against the Buffalo Bills.
"I told him the truth: 'We drafted a very talented guy. It's your job to hold him off,'" Del Rio told Garrard after the draft. "That's the nature of the business. I can't pretend it's a certain way or make any promises."
Del Rio continued by saying, "But I told him, 'You should hold him off. It's up to you. You can do that by being at the top of your game.' This league is about competition. The minute you get there, you're challenged to keep your spot."
As I've said the whole time in training camp and preseason, David Garrard has to show the team he's better than Blaine Gabbert. As Del Rio said, it's his job to hold off the young gun. "If I do my job well, I don't have to worry about anything else. If I do that, and they still want me to move on? There are still 31 other teams out there," Garrard told Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY.
Entering the third preseason game, the quarterback competition has been relatively uneventful. Early on in camp Blaine Gabbert shockingly looked like he'd push Garrard for his starting position, then Garrard went down with a back injury and Gabbert got even more work with the first team and started the first pre-season game against the New England Patriots. While Gabbert didn't necessarily shine in the game, he flashed some things that showed why the team traded up to get him and looked surprisingly not lost for a guy who'd been in camp just two weeks.
Fast forward to preseason week 2, when David Garrard was back in action, and both quarterbacks kind of fell flat on their face. Garrard threw a bad interception, then two drives later missed tight end Marcedes Lewis on two throws that should have been easy touchdowns. With a rookie breathing down his neck, those are throws Garrard has got to make as a 10 year veteran. "We have the same system, we have the same quarterback, we have the same players. We should expect to play at a higher level. I expect us to play at a higher level and now would be a good time," Del Rio said earlier this week.
Luckily for Garrard, who left the quarterback door wide open, Blaine Gabbert didn't fare much better. Gabbert missed on his first throw down the seam to receiver Mike Thomas, skipping it short. The rest of the game however, was up and down for Gabbert and he looked exceedingly more uncomfortable and more like a rookie than he did the week previously. He made some nice throws and showed some escapability, but he also sailed some passes and left the pocket entirely too early at times. These of course are all things that should improve with more game time, but he may not be afforded that luxury until sometime in the 2011 season or even in 2012 if his play in the next two weeks doesn't take a drastic uptick.
"I can't ride the roller coaster," Garrard said about his inconsistency, which reared it's ugly head against the Falcons. "It's not always my fault, but that's how it reads in the paper."
As I mentioned before, the competition be it real or otherwise, can be put to bed against the Buffalo Bills. "I know that everybody is trying to anoint him already," Garrard told Bell. "That's what happens when you draft a first-round quarterback."
"Competition brings out the best in everybody. Blaine's pushing the hell out of him. But David's doing a great job of fending him off for now," said runningback Maurice Jones-Drew about the quarterback position.