Jacksonville Jaguars second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert led a 13-play, 89 yard touchdown drive in his first action of the 2012 NFL preseason, and showed a lot of good things. He also showed some areas he still needs to work to improve his overall game for the Jaguars to have a "functional" passing offense for the 2012 NFL season, which would be a big step from the previous year.
The two plays that have stuck out for most people are the "chuck-and-duck" play, which I've watched over and over and still can't figure out what else he could have done. It was similar to the play Eli Manning had with Aaron Ross coming at him, in which Manning did the exact same thing. Eli isn't "scared" though, so no one really harps on it.
The real bad play for Gabbert was the sack/fumble that ended his third drive of the game. Not only did Gabbert not keep the football secure, but he was indecisive as the pressure came up the middle of the offensive line and forced him left. The problem with this play was indecisiveness on Gabbert's part, as well as not securing the football.
After the jump, I'll explain.
"Yeah they were in two man, and I should have got out and ran but yeah you really can’t afford to fumble the ball on back-to-back series because those fumbles led to points so we’re going to correct that," Gabbert said after the game about his fumble. "The biggest thing is you have to protect the football, be smart with it and not turn the ball over."
As Gabbert mentions, he should have just bailed from the pocket and picked up some yardage or just got right down and ate the sack, which is likely the best option on the play.
As you can see in the screen grab to the right, Gabbert has a hi-low route option coming across the middle of the field with Rashad Jennings underneath and Laurent Robinson as the "hi" option. In the shot, you see guard Uche Nwaneri getting beat to the inside by defensive tackle Marvin Austin, bringing pressure from the spot you don't want it on a quarterback, right up the middle. On the right side, Cameron Bradfield is also being beat on the play by defensive end Adrian Tracy while left tackle Eugene Monroe is being bull rushed by another defensive end.
In another angle of the shot where you see Gabbert squat in the pocket trying to decide what he should do on the play, you can see Tracy getting the better of Bradfield while Austin is turning Nwaneri inside on the play bringing pressure. There's no real shot for Gabbert to step into a throw or even make a throw here. He begins to move to his left into Monroe being bull rushed by Jason Pierre-Paul.
Point blank: The pocket is collapsing around Gabbert and he needs to decide if he's going to bail out and try to run or not, but the problem is he hesitates on making that decision because he's trying to think about not making a "negative play" which is something head coach Mike Mularkey harped on quite a bit during training camp and the offseason with his quarterbacks. Mularkey told Gabbert especially, if the pocket is collapsing and you see an out to pick up yardage with your legs, do it. Don't think about it, just do it.
"Blaine fumbled," Mularkey said after the game. "Held on to it too long. Hopefully, he will get better at it, he was trying to make a play. He said it himself. He did hold on to the ball too long. I don’t mind if he takes off and runs. Great learning experience."
As I mentioned before, the best option on the play is probably for Gabbert to just take the sack and live to fight another day. The only other options were to try and hit one of the hi/low options, which would have resulted in an awkward cross-body throw or to take the gaping running lane to the right. The problem there however is, Gabbert can't see the running lane open up because he's waiting for the hi/low route combination to fully clear, at least from what my impression on the play is.
Tony Boselli made a great point on the broadcast, that this is a brand new offense for Gabbert as well and it's going to take him a little while to figure out where the running lanes and throwing bubbles are going to open up through the progression of plays, such as the play highlighted above. After watching film on the game, Gabbert will now know on the play there may be a free running lane to the right side that he can bail to rather than trying to slide to the left.
This was the play to criticize Gabbert if you were going to blast him for anything in Friday evening's game. He turned the football over because he was careless, and that's something you just can't do. The play however, had nothing to do with him being timid, or scared, or crumbling under pressure. It was simply a play of indecisiveness, in which Gabbert knew exactly what he did wrong as soon as he got up and went to the sideline.
The only thing that needs to come from it is that he learns and takes a mental note for the future.