The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team on the rise, but they can only reach their full potential if quarterback Blaine Gabbert becomes the guy they thought they were drafting with the 10th-overall pick in 2011. To say that he had a rough rookie year would be an understatement, and early returns from camp have been less than encouraging.
But it's not time to be pencilling backup quarterback Chad Henne into the starting position just yet.
The Jaguars aren't expected to perform at a high level by most analysts in 2012. There's a general consensus that the Jaguars' defense could be great, but their offense is expected to tank from the onset of the regular season.
On the other hand, many familiar with the Jaguars' current situation are optimistic that the team could be a surprise contender for a playoff position. In between these two sets of expectations is a wide chasm of unknown scenarios that could play out.
For the Jaguars to have any hope of long-term success, much less hope for 2012, they will need to put their faith in their coaches. The debate about Blaine Gabbert's NFL viability is not about whether or not he possesses the physical skills to succeed; the Blaine Gabbert debate is centered squarely around his ability to stand in the pocket, surrounded by defenders, and make great passes to his receivers.
There's pressure all around Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars didn't sign Chad Henne to be their starting quarterback, but they went after the former Dolphins starter to provide themselves with a viable plan B should Gabbert fail to pan out in 2012. Gabbert will likely play more than any other starting quarterback in the NFL during the Jaguars' four preseason games. That gives him four chances to convince the Jaguars that they made the right decision when they moved up in the draft to draft him.
Sure, reports out of Jacksonville have been mixed about Gabbert's performance, but he still has time, and it's far too early for the Jaguars to give up on their young quarterback.