By the end of the 2011 NFL season, analysts and fans alike had already begun writing off Blaine Gabbert.
In all fairness, the young QB out of Missouri didn't show much promise in his first year in the league. He struggled to complete over 50 percent of his passes, was the third-most-sacked QB and had a league-worst 65.4 QB rating. Gabbert struggled with defensive pressure, often throwing the ball away too soon or missing his receivers altogether (although, to his credit, he did throw more touchdowns than interceptions).
The Jacksonville Jaguars ended the year with a 5-11 record, the seventh worst in the league.
However, how much was the fault of Gabbert, and how much can be blamed on the team's receiving corps, which was the worst in the league last year? After TE Marcedes Lewis (460 yards, zero TD) and WR Mike Thomas (415 yards, one TD), who have proven to be decent or better throughout their careers, there was a huge talent drop-off. In 2011, the Jags were fielding players like Jason Hill, Jarett Dillard and Chastin West on a regular basis.
In the formative years of an NFL quarterback, that type of roster can really hinder development. It's tough to adjust to the NFL game without support from the players around you, and the Jacksonville receivers did not do much for Gabbert.
It was no surprise to anyone that the Jaguars immediately went after wideouts in free agency, signing breakout star Laurent Robinson to a long-term deal and inking savvy veteran WR Lee Evans to a one-year deal. But they didn't stop there.
The Jags moved up a pick in the 2012 NFL draft to pick Justin Blackmon out of Oklahoma State, the consensus best receiver in the draft. Blackmon was a stud in college, with 1,500-plus yards and 18-plus TDs in his sophomore and junior seasons. He has all the skills to be a No. 1 NFL WR.
These signings, along with Thomas and Lewis, give the Jags an impressive set of wideouts.
With better teammates surrounding him and more time to develop as a player, Blaine Gabbert has a chance to prove himself and become the QB no one thought he would be after his rookie season. A brand new receiving staff, combined with star RB Maurice Jones-Drew, might make the Jags a dangerous team on the offensive side of the ball in the years to come.
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