As I reported last night, Blaine Gabbert is now the Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback. The Jaguars went with Luke McCown to start the season because they felt he could manage the game for them while Gabbert picked up more of the offense on the sideline, but when McCown threw four interceptions against the New York Jets and was benched in favor of the rookie, the move had to be made. The fact of the matter is, the Jaguars clearly were limiting their offense and tailoring it to a quarterback. In reality, if that was the plan for the Jaguars that's what they should have done from the beginning. If they were going to limit and tailor an offense around a quarterback, why not the rookie?
Moving forward, we'll now get to watch the growth of a 21-year old rookie quarterback. We need to buckle up.
While I do believe Gabbert has the talent to be a top quarterback in the NFL, he's going to have his growing pains. He's not going to be perfect but he probably won't be atrocious either. I don't expect Gabbert to go out and throw for 400 yards a game like Cam Newton is doing, but I don't expect him to go out there and look totally inept either. The initial game plans for Gabbert are likely to be very run-centric as he gets a feel for the game. The playbook will slowly open up as Gabbert gets more comfortable in the offense.
That being said, sooner than later I feel the Jaguars should open up the offense. Let Gabbert do what he's comfortable doing, throwing the ball from 3-wide+ looks on offense out of the shotgun. Will he need to be able to pass the ball from under center? Absolutely, but the modern NFL is increasing more shotgun so it's become more friendly to quarterbacks coming from a passing spread in college.
The team does lack real weapons in the passing game, but they've got tools to work with. When Marcedes Lewis is healthy, he's a great weapon in the passing game because he can line up anywhere and the defense can't pinpoint what he's doing. He can line up on the line of scrimmage and run/pass block, or run a route. That's Lewis' biggest asset, is the defense cannot single out what he's doing, he doesn't have a "tell". The team also has the "potential" of Zach Miller as a match up nightmare as a flex tight end. Mike Thomas is a good safety outlet, who's already been targeted in the passing game four times as much as the next receiver.
Outside of that, the team leaves a lot to be desired however, which is why they'll need to line up wide and create natural spacing for their receivers to allow Gabbert room to work. If all else fails, then turn around and hand the football off to Maurice Jones-Drew.
It's going to be fun to watch Gabbert grow, but just remember a few things as he grows:
- Starting Gabbert isn't throwing away the season automatically.
- Gabbert is going to make mistakes, probably a lot of them.
- Gabbert is going to make mistakes. Seriously, he's a rookie. Be patient now that he's playing.