The Jacksonville Jaguars put in another nice day of practices on Wednesday morning, as the team was once again out in full pads. While in full pads, a few players didn't practice. Eugene Monroe was once again riding a bike on the sideline with his left knee still wrapped, he walked with a bit of a limp but I'm pretty sure that's how he always walks. Will Rackley was out on the field on crutches and in a boot, and we now know he will be out at least 3-4 weeks with at the worst a high ankle sprain.
The other big "story" is of course how Blaine Gabbert looks. It's been something that's a classic example of misinformation and making a mountain out of a molehill. Gabbert looks improved from last season, there hasn't been a single person actually at practice that will deny that. The problem is the degree of improvement depends on what you're actually looking for. I'll expound on that after the jump.
The biggest take away from the day however was the play of wide receiver Laurent Robinson. Robinson took a nasty spill going up for a pass midway through practice slamming the back of his helmet on the small sliver of concrete between the field and the sideline, but after sitting out a few reps got back on the field and began to make some big plays.
- After Laurent Robinson's fall, he was able to shake to cobwebs and began making plays. On one sequence of drills, Robinson and Gabbert connected on four straight passes, including a deep out down the field. This trend continued for the latter half of practice with a few more deep out completions for anywhere from 15 to 25 yards down field.
- Cecil Shorts was moved to the Z-position today and had a nice day of practice. While he had a couple of tough drops, overall he did a nice job running his routes and hauling in passes.
- Andre Branch continues to give the offensive line fits and Wednesday was no different. If the second-round pick and translate to games what he's doing in practice, the Jaguars have themselves a nice draft pick.
- Rashad Jennings and Jalen Parmele make Maurice Jones-Drew's absences forgettable. Both players look excellent making plays out of the backfield, especially Jennings.
- Chad Henne wasn't necessarily "bad" per say, but he's been a mixed bag through training camp and today was a perfect example. In the first set of 11 x 11 drills Henne couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Later on in the two-minute drill, Henne hit Marcedes Lewis in a hole in the zone then connected with Lee Evans on a short slant that Eveans took down to the 11-yard line. Later on in another set of 11 x 11 drills, Henne spiked balls in the dirt and sailed his passes high.
- The injuries on the offensive line will be a major concern if they continue to linger. Monroe is expected to be out the rest of the week, including the Jaguars scrimmage on Friday evening. Rackley is out at least a month with a high ankle sprain, which could wind up being worse once the swelling goes down and an MRI can be done. Having the starting left side of the offensive line down won't help either quarterback.
- While I personally think Marcedes Lewis is having a great training camp so far, his first drop came at an ugly and inopportune time. During redzone drills, Gabbert hit Lewis in stride on a perfect strike but Lewis reached out a hand on the ball like he was getting a rebound and couldn't haul it in. It would have been a nice touchdown for Gabbert to have, as it was a great play and throw, but a lapse in concentration for Lewis let it fall to the ground.
Here's the thing with Blaine Gabbert: Depending on what you're looking for, in regards to improvement, is going to determine what you see. If you're looking for Gabbert to be the polished quarterback ready to lead a team to 10 wins just on his own merit, you're going to be sorely disappointed. He's still missing on some throws and working out some kinks in timing with his deeper passes. He's still got some head scratcher throws that look like they're going to no one, but they're no where near as prevalent as they were in 2011.
For me, I'm looking for improvement on things like footwork, mechanics, and decision making. All of these things are improved and you'll be hard pressed to find someone watching the practices that disagrees. As mentioned he still misses on some throws, but he's hitting on some throws on a more consistent basis than he did in 2011. He's still clearly the No. 1 quarterback on the roster, and barring a total collapse nothing is going to change that. He just looks like a completely different player, as far as how comfortable he looks while playing. It's just practice, but he's hanging in the pocket and completing passes with bodies and arms around him without a hiccup.
The offense has certainly struggled, but they're improved from last season's train wreck.
Has Gabbert been great? Nope.
Has Gabbert been bad? Nope.
Has Gabbert struggled? At times, yes. But... he's better.