Entering his third year, Blaine Gabbert will have yet another opportunity to prove to a new coaching staff that he can be a serviceable NFL quarterback. Through the ten games Gabbert played during the 2012 season, his completion percentage rose to 58.3 from 50.8. He also took 18 less sacks in 2012 as opposed to his rookie season and was on pace for around 2,700 yards.
While Gabbert did see mild improvement under the Mike Mularkey run offense, his 9-6 touchdown to interception ratio remains concerning, especially after the loss of running back Maurice Jones-Drew. In comparison, Alex Smith of the 49ers saw a similar rise in his level of play from his rookie to sophomore season. In his rookie season, Smith had a completion percentage of 50.9. The following year, much like Gabbert, he saw a bump in production, completing 58.1 percent of his passes. Smith literally threw for one (1) touchdown during his rookie campaign while heaving eleven interceptions. In 2006, however, Smith leveled out, tossing 16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 2,890 yards. Smith should be one of the bigger quarterback names hitting the free agent market this offseason, and is sure to garner interest from at least one team.
In breaking down the most basic quarterback statistics, however, the Jacksonville Jaguars should not be one of them. Smith has yet to produce a season in which he has thrown for more than 20 touchdowns, and it wasn’t until his sixth season that he finally surpassed the 3,000 yard mark. The 28-year-old former number one overall pick in 2005 is only getting older and will likely demand a high price tag. While the Jaguars will have cap space to make some moves in free agency this offseason, needs elsewhere seem greater than claiming an average quarterback for competition. With all of that said, Smith led his team down to the wire of the 2011 NFC Championship game and was a major contributor to the 49ers Super Bowl run this year, regardless of his statistics.
It’s almost as if when you put an athlete in a scheme that he fits with and have a competent coaching staff and front office, said athlete not only improves, but shows everyone why they were such a high draft pick. The Jaguars will have competition at the quarterback position this offseason as they have for the past few years, but fans shouldn’t expect a new face behind center just yet.
This will be Gabbert’s final year to prove that he can lead a team to wins and eventually the playoffs, but it will be an uphill battle. The organization should most certainly protect itself this offseason by scouring the field of quarterback prospects for the 2013 NFL draft.