Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert is entering his second season in the NFL, after being the Jaguars first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Gabbert was thrown into the fire last season, starting 14 games, and was burnt quite a bit. Entering his second season with a new coaching staff, Gabbert told the media that the practices themselves aren't much different, but the team is.
"This year we just have a different mindset," Gabbert said after practice on Wednesday. "The team has a different feel; a different level of energy so it has been a blast going out there working and just having fun."
Part of having fun is Gabbert being more comfortable in his role as a leader and doesn't feel like a fish out of water anymore.
"Coming in last year with no offseason; coming into mini-camp I really couldn't assert myself the way I wanted to. I was still learning. I was a fish out of water trying to swim upstream learning the offense in a short amount of time," Gabbert said.
Now that Gabbert can relax and begin to learn the new offense and work, he can focus on things like his drop back and mechanics. A big area the team has been working on with the young quarterback is his drop back and changing the depth of it. "We just eliminated a lot of the deeper drops where I'm not punching it 10 yards and putting a lot of stress on the tackles. A lot of that is just based on our system, Gabbert said. "We're keeping everything in the pocket and just working from there."
Outside of his drop backs and mechanics, the other area Gabbert has really shined is his leadership on the field and taking command. "He's taking charge on the field, from where I'm watching," Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "He'll joke and stuff like that once in a while, but he's strictly business."
"Being a teammate, that's what you want to see from your quarterback."
It's easier to a be a leader as a young guy on a football team too if you know the offense and the plays in the huddle. Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey has been impressed with Gabbert in that regard, picking up and taking control of the offense quickly, especially when he can grasp one that isn't simple. "You know that by when you call the play you step right in the huddle and call the play," Mularkey said. "I haven't been around a lot of quarterbacks the first time you introduce a brand new offense that can walk in the huddle and call the play with the impression that ‘I know it so well that it's going to work' with that kind of mentality. That has been outstanding on his part."
It's still early and in "underwear" practice, but everything coming out of EverBank field seems to indicate Blaine Gabbert is on track for a significant bounce back from his disappointing rookie season.