Jacksonville Jaguars Preseason Week 1 Review: Goo Goo over Gabbert?

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistAugust 11, 2012

Gabbert got a passing grade from most, but not from me.
Gabbert got a passing grade from most, but not from me.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

It means nothing that the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the New York Giants 32-31 in Jacksonville Aug. 10.

It means only slightly more that they trailed 24-7 in the first half.

There are a few things that do matter, however. Aside from a truly putrid effort by the replacement officials, here's what we can take away from the first game.


Blaine Gabbert Was Not as Good As Advertised

After the game, reviews of Gabbert's play were breathless. Whether it was Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union or Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com, people seemed pleased with his effort. It was an encouraging report, to be sure. 

I was surprised at the praise, because his numbers were pedestrian, at best. He was 5-for-10 for 62 yards, a touchdown and a fumble. Still, I turned on the game expecting to see an impressive performance.

That's because in preseason, numbers don't tell the full story. Normally, 6.2 yards per attempt and 4.7 net yards per attempt are awful numbers. The biggest worry for Gabbert isn't his passer rating, but rather his ability to avoid pressure. It was perfectly believable to me that he put up weak numbers in what was really a strong performance.

That's not what I saw, however.

He was under duress much of the night, getting hit on several plays and taking a sack in just 11 drop-backs. On balls thrown at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, he was just 1-for-4.

He showed nice touch on the goal-line touchdown pass and did a fine job hitting Mike Thomas in stride, turning a modest gain into a 29-yard play on third down.

It's hard to know how much blame to put on Gabbert for his play. The line did give up a lot of pressure, and there seemed to be miscommunications with Laurent Robinson.

Still, on the sack/fumble play, Gabbert had time, failed to diagnose the rush and ultimately fumbled. I saw no improvement in his ability to handle pressure. With Gabbert, the issue is his inaccuracy and his struggles with the rush, and both were on full display in his limited action.

The Jaguars need average-level play from Gabbert to have a successful season, and I saw no evidence of it in this game. When given a clean pocket, Gabbert looked fine, but any time he was asked to throw the ball more than few yards downfield, it was an adventure.

I would describe his play as inadequate, at best. There were some nice moments, but enthusiasm over his effort has more to do with painfully low expectations than it does actual success. Gabbert may well be getting better and could have a solid season. I saw little on Aug. 10 to encourage that conclusion, however.

It's not like there's likely to be a quarterback controversy, however, as Chad Henne looked terrible in his turn at bat.

The Jaguars will live and die with Gabbert this season, and I hope to see more of the good things from him in the next two starts. Of course, adding Justin Blackmon to the mix can only help him as the season approaches.


Rashad Jennings Shows Why the Jags Won't Cave on Maurice Jones-Drew

Jennings ran the ball during his limited action, and that's no surprise. When healthy, he's shown the ability to be an effective back. Of everything that happened on Aug. 10, his ability to get yards was probably the most important development.

As long as the Jaguars can show a strong front and remain steadfast that the offense will be fine without Jones-Drew, his bargaining position weakens.

Jennings isn't Jones-Drew, and over the course of a season, the Jaguars will miss their star back. In the short run, however, the team can survive and even thrive with Jennings.

Still, given the violence of the position, the team would be much better off with two dependable backs rather than just one.

Jacksonville needs Jones-Drew, but as long as Jennings continues to thrive, it needs him that much less.


Jacksonville's Defense Gets a Pass

The Jaguars missed a chance to make a few plays, notably Dwight Lowery dropping a pick, but they played down a couple of starters as well. It seemed like the replacement officials missed a few obvious calls against the Giants as well.

Giving up 24 points isn't encouraging, but many of those came as the result of short fields after turnovers by the Jags offense. I'm willing to reserve making any serious judgements for a few weeks.

Without a full complement of players, it's difficult to judge what I expect will be an elite unit. Andre Branch looked to get some pressure in the middle point the game, so that's an encouragement.