The Jacksonville Jaguars will move closer to the completion of training camp with the annual team scrimmage in EverBank Field on Friday evening, with the big focus for fans being on second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert struggled and often looked completely lost in games during the 2011 NFL season, leaving some fans and national media wondering if he could even amount to being a serviceable player.
Fast forward to Jaguars training camp 2012 with a brand new coaching staff and philosophy, and through the first week of practice new head coach Mike Mularkey likes the progression he's seen from Gabbert.
"I think Blaine showed some things today in the pocket especially in the last drill where we had pretty good pressure in the two minute, standing in the pocket, making some of the throws," Mularkey said after practice on Thursday. "I think he’s gotten better each day. He’s taking a gradual step each day."
"He takes coaching because I say it and it may be the next play, the next series, or maybe the next day I see him come back and try to do what we’re telling him to do. So he is making every effort to get better," said Mularkey.
Gabbert hasn't been lights out by any stretch in training camp, but on Thursday he was the most consistent he's been that I can recall and had his best day of camp this year. Not many of Gabbert's passes were off, outside of an interception by Rashean Mathis, where Mathis did his standard dare the quarterback to throw and then undercut the route for a pick-6 move. You know, the one he's gotten Ben Roethlisberger with so many times?
On Wednesday morning in practice, Gabbert was able to pick up a rhythm with wide receiver Laurent Robinson, connecting on three consecutive passes in the two-minute drill, including a long 20-yard gain down the field. Through the sequence, Gabbert targeted Robinson in four of his five passes, and it wasn't due to him staring him down.
On Thursday morning, without Robinson who was being tested for a concussion, Gabbert was still in rhythm and accurate hooking up with tight end Marcedes Lewis in place of Robinson.
In the pocket, despite the inability to be hit, Gabbert looks significantly more comfortable throwing the football with bodies around him. He's not near as jumpy in the pocket like he was last season in camp and rarely bails out of the pocket unless it's absolutely necessary or no one is open.
Mularkey has even encouraged Gabbert to pick up yardage with his feet if no one is open or the defensive coverage leaves him a wide open running lane.
"I'm not going to discourage running. He is a good athlete, he is fast. It is a threat. He can dictate coverages. People know that he can be a danger running the football," Mularkey said of Gabbert. "When you're running the ball you have a chance to protect yourself. You can see where your threat is coming from compared to where you're sitting in the pocket. You're told with your coach is don't see the rush, see the coverages, see the routes, don't see anything else. That's where you're exposed to hits where you can't protected yourself. I don't have any issues. If he wants to take off and run and has to run I think he can be a threat for us. I really do."