Jacksonville Jaguars: The Time Is Now for Blaine Gabbert
While fellow rookie quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Cam Newton flourished during their first seasons, Gabbert struggled.
Frankly, Dalton and Newton were put in better situations. They were immediately given the reins of their respective offenses and had the full confidence of the team, coaching staff and organization.
Gabbert on the other hand was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, supposedly in a backup capacity, but was soon thrust into the lineup seemingly too early after a poorly mismanaged quarterback situation by former head coach Jack Del Rio.
He was behind the eight-ball from the very beginning, and it didn't help that he was throwing to guys the average NFL fan couldn't even name.
The 2011 season could not have done much for his confidence.
In 2012, however, there are no more excuses for Gabbert. He still has running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who led the league in rushing yards a season ago.
While Dalton had A.J. Green and Newton had Steve Smith last season, Gabbert now has some weapons at receiver that were not there to bail him out a year ago.
The Jaguars went out and signed Laurent Robinson from the Dallas Cowboys and drafted two-time Fred Biletnikoff winner Justin Blackmon with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft after moving up two spots in a trade with Tampa Bay.
Gabbert will also have a more offensive-minded head coach in Mike Mularkey, who helped in the development of Matt Ryan while he was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons the last couple of seasons.
Gabbert seems to have everything in place to, at the very least, take a step forward in his progression as the starting quarterback for the Jaguars.
If Gabbert does not progress or even regresses, his days could be numbered as the permanent starter for the Jags.
Although Mularkey is an offensive-minded coach and a developer of quarterbacks, he did not draft Gabbert and essentially has no allegiances to him.
Mularkey already somewhat covered his bases by bringing in veteran Chad Henne to be a stopgap if Gabbert has a rough go of things in his sophomore campaign.
If Gabbert struggles in 2012, that will mean that the Jaguars as a whole will struggle in the quarterback-driven league of the NFL. That could mean the Jaguars will be selecting in the top 10 again next April, and if that were the case, they could be looking for another quarterback.
Gabbert will be given time to progress and develop, but he should not get too comfortable in his position as the starter. It is a new regime in place in Jacksonville that wants to fill up those empty seats at EverBank Field.
The best way to do that is to have productive quarterback that helps the team win now.
Gabbert has to be that guy in 2012.
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