When the Jaguars cut David Garrard back in the beginning of the season, I was shocked. Not because I didn't believe that rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert could lead a team, but because I didn't think he was ready to do so yet. Looking back at this 2011 season, I was right.
Gabbert showed potential, but he was raw, unlike the two quarterbacks taken before him in the 2011 NFL draft. Today in the NFL, a rookie is expected to jump right into a team and be one of the best players in the league.
Gabbert is good but could never do that. Cam Newton and Andy Dalton didn't need time to develop—Gabbert does.
Don’t look now but the Mizzou product is the future of a young Jaguars team. In a shortened season, one can’t label any player a bust. Some players take an offseason to adjust to the NFL. Others take a whole season.
Gabbert will take longer to develop, but when he does, this is a Jacksonville team headed in the right direction.
While it is true that Newton and Dalton were much better rookies than Gabbert, they also had much better targets. Newton was throwing to the proven veteran Steve Smith in Carolina. In Cincinnati, Dalton was able to air it out to the explosive tandem of A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson. Gabbert had the help of Marcedes Lewis and Mike Thomas.
If the Jags can land Alshon Jeffery in this year's NFL draft, then expect Gabbert’s numbers to go up. He plays smart football, and if the Jags would build around him, then this team will get much better.
Gabbert is like a fish. Letting him swim by himself in the NFL ocean would get him eaten. Jacksonville needs to build a school of fish around Gabbert and protect him so the group can get better.
The Jaguars front office clearly put their faith in Gabbert. Now is time to back that faith up.
Maurice Jones-Drew might be the best running back in the league, and the young defense is rapidly improving. The main problem is the passing game. The receivers and the offensive line need to get better if Gabbert will have a chance of improving.
Gabbert was sacked 40 times this season. That is third in the NFL. How can a rookie quarterback make throws if he has big defensive linemen in his face all the time? He can’t. Yes, Gabbert deserves some of the blame in this situation, but the receivers and offensive linemen have been playing bad football as well.
This is a quarterback who is technically sound. Gabbert has great footwork and can make throws when needed, but no one can do it alone. Football is the ultimate team sport, and unless all the cogs are working, the gearbox will fall apart.
If Jacksonville can make the right personnel moves to help its young quarterback, then the future looks bright for the Jags. Maybe Gabbert won’t become sushi.