After re-watching the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. the Chicago Bears with the All-22 coaches film, I came away feeling slightly better about the Jaguars offense than I did leaving EverBank Field on Sunday. Don't get me wrong, they were still terrible all-around, but there are some things that look like they can be salvageable if they fall into place and a lot of them rest on the shoulders of second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Through the first half of the game, the Jaguars offense was able to move the ball down the field on a couple of drives, despite some missed reads by Gabbert. On the plays where Gabbert missed an open receiver, he still picked up yards for the most part, but left a lot on the field. Part of the reason Gabbert is missing these is because he doesn't trust his protection right now and his internal clock is accelerated.
The first play we're going to look at is when the Jaguars were backed up in their own endzone. It's always a dangerous place to pass the ball because with one blown block or mis-snap and you wind up with a safety. The Jaguars lineup with two wide receivers, a tight end and the back field in the I-formation. On the play, the Jaguars have 3 routes down the field and fullback Greg Jones leaking out of the backfield as the outlet pass. Gabbert sees the single high safety and tries to get the ball down the field to Justin Blackmon, who nearly makes a tough catch, but because Gabbert saw the safety and decided where he was going, he missed an easy completion for a big gain to Marcedes Lewis.
Lewis, circled on the play, just runs a simple route down the seam through the Bears zone coverage. If Gabbert waits just a split second and lets Lewis clear Lance Briggs on the play, he has an easy throwing lane to fire the ball down to Lewis for about a 20-yard gain and a first down. While reading the safety and going where Gabbert did was a good play, in the sense of recognizing the matchup and the defense, by not letting the play develop he missed an easy completion.
The next play we're going to look at is early in the game and is something I really hope to see more of out of the Jaguars on offense, because it's a play where Justin Blackmon can do a lot of damage. It's a simple play-action roll out that has Justin Blackmon coming across the field running with the roll out with another receiver on the roll out side heading to the sideline.
On the play you can see Gabbert roll to his right off the play-action and at the top of the play you see Blackmon coming across the middle with him. Gabbert throws to Mike Thomas on the play, who lets the ball bounce off his hands, but missed Blackmon on the second level running open with an ability to turn up field if he leads him with the football. Now, it's possible Gabbert didn't think he had the throwing lane with the Bears defender bearing down on him, but again, this is just another missed opportunity for the Jaguars offense. It's not necessarily a "bad read" because it's a first-down if Thomas holds on to the ball, just a missed chance at more yardage.
The next play we're going to review is another missed chance for tight end Marcedes Lewis and possibly a missed touchdown in the second quarter. The Jaguars are in the redzone and in a four-wide set with Lewis on the right side on the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars leave two quick routes for Gabbert to dump to if necessary and then attack down the field towards the endzone with Cecil Shorts III, Kevin Elliott, and Marcedes Lewis.
Virtually right out of the snap, Gabbert turns and fires to Mike Thomas for a short gain on the play, unnecessarily dumping the ball down and missing a potential scoring play over the middle. Lewis, who's circled in yellow, runs a simple route down the seam of the defense and is left wide open due to the blitzing defensive back and the safety biting down on the Mike Thomas sideline route, even before the ball is thrown. If Gabbert simple just turns back to midfield and throws the ball to Lewis he gets a first down and quite possibly a touchdown that would have put the Jaguars up 7-3. This is another case of Gabbert not trusting his protection to give him enough time to let the play fully develop. He still gets hit on the play and still would have been hit if he goes to Lewis, but it could have rewarded with a new set of downs or a touchdown instead of just three points.
On the final play we'll look at, Gabbert determined he was going to try to get Justin Blackmon deep by throwing over the coverage. The Bears however had their coverage disguised and Gabbert played right into their hand. The Bears ran a variation of the Cover-3 Gabbert thought he saw something taking place that didn't wind up taking place.
On the play, you can see Blackmon begin to run past Tillman, as Tillman's hips are turned to the inside of the field. Gabbert releases the ball when Blackmon is right on Tillman's hip as (at least I assume) Gabbert thinks Tillman is about to turn and run with Blackmon, which would likely make this play either a success or an incompletion at the worst. The problem is, Tillman never turns and keeps his eyes in the backfield on the quarterback. He essentially baited Gabbert to make the throw. The throw looks under thrown, but had Tillman turned to run with Blackmon, it'd have been a back shoulder sideline throw for Blackmon, allowing him to box out Tillman. As you can see though, Tillman easily picks the ball off because he never fully commits to turning.
Some of these mistakes are fixable and comes with film work and experience, but the biggest worry is if Gabbert can reset his internal clock and stop rushing plays. If he can slow things down and let some plays develop in the second half of the season, he could take a big step forward.
Last year Gabbert had his toughness and courage questioned because of his frantic-ness in the pocket, but as I explained all year I was told that was more confusion because the plays didn't look like what they should more than anything else. Now the problem isn't necessarily being frantic in the pocket, but it's rushing his throws.
The big question now is; can you reset someones internal clock?