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Blaine Gabbert Improves Even With Receiver Injuries

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert had arguably his best day as pro in the 41-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gabbert ended the day going 19 of 33 with 217 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Early on, Gabbert struggled as the team went down 14-0 and it looked like another woeful day for the Jaguars offense. After a touchdown by the Jaguars special teams, the Jaguars offense showed some life. Gabbert hit on his first two passes of the drive, then hit tight end Marcedes Lewis deep down the field for a 62-yard gain. It was the type of play Jaguars fans have been yearning to see from Gabbert.

On the play, Gabbert stepped up into the pocket, set his feet, stepped into his throw and delivered a perfect strike to Lewis down the seam of the field. One play later, running back Maurice Jones-Drew punched the ball in to tie the game. Later on in the game, Gabbert hit wide receiver Jarett Dillard in the middle of the field for a big gain, where he threaded the needle.

Gabbert still had two poor interceptions, but unlike some of his past interceptions, the two were merely rookie mistakes. One was Gabbert rolling out and throwing across his body, which is always a bad idea. The second was Gabbert missing the linebacker drop into coverage, right to where Marcedes Lewis route was going. Gabbert had the right idea on the play, as Lewis would have been open, but just missed the zone drop by the linebacker. Those types of mistakes are correctable. He also showed more of a willingness to take a hit and step into his throws. He was clobbered a few times immediately as he let go of the football and was noticeably less skittish in the pocket.

It's worth noting, this was the first game after Dirk Koetter had been the quarterbacks coach for a full week. That might mean nothing, but it might mean everything.

Another thing that stuck out to me, was that when receivers Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts III went out of the game with injuries, the offense didn't seem to miss them. In fact, it seemed like it flowed a bit better. Jarett Dillard continued to constantly get open, but he did drop a nice pass he should have caught. That's rare for Dillard, so I'm fine with it. Kassim Osgood finally got some reps at real wide receiver, and not just token blocker. He didn't look terrible and dropped a potential touchdown and nearly caught another deep pass down the field, but he still fought with the football to catch it. Chastin West was more involved too, and was able to get open and catch some passes on short routes and slants.

Not that Thomas and Shorts being out changed anything, but it was kind of odd that the offense seemed to flow just fine without them, and arguably looked a lot smoother. On a short week, it's unsure if either will play on Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons.