A lot has been made of Gabbert's tendencies in the pocket and his overall toughness but I don't believe all the criticism is warranted. I was really excited when the Jags traded up to get Gabbert but now I realize that was mostly because of the pre-draft hype and me thinking we didn't have a chance at getting, what was then considered a Top 5 prospect. With my recent discovery of how important the tape really is when scouting a player, I decided to look for some games of Gabbert in college. I was only able to find two, one of which Alfie recently posted in an article and another against, then #1 overall Oklahoma Sooners. The video of the game against Oklahoma is much longer, at nearly 18 minutes and has much better quality making it easier to closely watch Gabbert. There is a lot of things about Gabbert's game that can be gleaned from this video but I want to highlight specific ones about the title of this post; Gabbert in the pocket. He plays out of Shotgun the entire time but there are plays where a pocket is formed from which he has to operate and does so surprisingly well. Here's the video.
Oklahoma D vs Missouri O 2010 (via JoshMTD)
The plays that I found to be most telling about Gabbert's pocket presence are at:
2:39 ~ 2:50 - This is the first play where somewhat of a pocket is formed. He doesn't see anything and decides to run for a few yards.
3:04 ~ 3:15 - The defensive lines gets pressure, forming a pocket. Gabbert stands in there but makes a terrible throw.
3:16 ~ 3:27 - A faked option, allowing the defensive end a free lane to Blaine but a guard pulls and blocks the end, forming a pocket for Blaine to step into. He steps up but throws a pass too high for his target.
3:28 ~ 3:39 - A pass attempt with most of his receivers lined up to the right. An ideal NFL pocket isn't formed but the ends both get pressure. Blaine scans the field and shows a good internal clock by quickly dumping it off to his checkdown who picks up a couple of yards.
4:45 ~ 4:55 - A pass attempt where the penetration comes from the defensive tackle, forcing a throw under pressure. Dumps it off to a receiver running a slant for about 7 yards.
5:19 ~ 5:30 - A play where the offensive line doesn't allow pressure but a pocket is formed. Gabbert doesn't show any signs of panic and makes a nice throw over the middle for a nice gain.
6:32 ~ 6:46 - An ideal pocket is formed this play, as Gabbert drops back a few steps, equating to an NFL, 7 step drop. Gabbert steps up into the pocket, with confidence and makes another nice throw over the middle.
7:33 ~ 7:48 - The first play where Gabbert shows happy feet but finds a way to make good of it. He starts to panic but then side steps away from the pressure, looks up the field for a target and then decides to scramble. Gets quite a few yards but the play is negated by a holding penalty.
9:24 ~ 9:34 - Pressure comes up the middle. Blaine stands in there but makes a throw too low for the receiver. More of a throw away than a pass attempt.
9:58 ~ 10:10 - No pressure but Blaine steps up and makes a good throw over the middle to the open receiver.
11:30 ~ 11:43 - Doesn't drop back this play but it ends up being a deep throw so it takes longer to develop. Stands in there with no signs of panic and makes a nice throw to an open receiver for a big gain.
11:53 ~ 12:08 - A faked option where a blitzer from up the middle gets quick pressure. Blaine scrambles to the right, getting away from the defender but throws a near pick.
12:09 ~ 12:24 - A well designed five man blitz by the defense that gets quick pressure. Gabbert stands strong in pocket and makes a nice throw over the middle with a defender bearing down on him.
12:58 ~ 13:10 - Another ideal pocket is formed. He takes two or three steps around in the pocket while looking for a target and then decides to scramble, picking up a few yards.
So by my count, there are 14 plays where Gabbert has to either make a throw from a pocket or has to make a throw under pressure. From what I could tell, he only panics too early in one of the plays. I also don't remember seeing him duck in the pocket before making a throw, although it's possible he did and I missed it. I seen nothing to think that he is lacking in courage but I did see his bad mechanics, good athletcism and scrambling ability.
I excluded his pass attempts where I didn't think a pocket formed, which left out some nice throws by him. In this game, Gabbert went for 30/42 for 308 yards, a 7.3 avg and 1 TD to 0 interceptions. Not an outstanding performance but very solid and something closer to what I'd like for him to start producing for us.
If this video is an accurate indication of his ability in the pocket, then I think he's going to be fine going forward.Added: As Alfie noted in his recent SB Nation article about Blaine and his toughness, confusion played a part in his struggles last season. As the confusion of this new scheme starts to fade, coupled with more weapons and improved pass protection, confidence should be gained. I think as Blaine begins to understand the new offense, with the same comfort level as the scheme he ran in college, we'll start to see a Blaine with the same pocket composure as the one displayed in this video.