Among the most important but most over-looked skills a quarterback can have is his ability to avoid sacks.
Though most fans are quick to blame the offensive line when a quarterback goes down, the burden for sack avoidance largely falls on the quarterback himself.
Gabbert absorbed six sacks in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals swelling his sack rate to an impossible 9.6 percent of all drop-backs. He's now on pace for 48 sacks, an even worse figure than in 2011.
At this rate, he'll be sacked nearly 90 times in his first two years.
Is it his fault?
A look at the tape of the last game will help us determine why Gabbert is going down at such an incredible rate.
Gabbert faces a four-man rush and has time to throw initially. He feels pressure from the middle of the field, tries to step up, but does not keep his eyes downfield and can't get away from the initial push. The first play of scrimmage goes by the boards, and the Jaguars are in a hole.
The protection isn't great, but it looks as if Gabbert doesn't go through his reads quickly enough. He's locked in on the right side where there's no one open.
This is a perfect example of a bad line play and bad route-design coalescing to form a sack.
Head coach Mike Mularkey tries to give Gabbert a simple read on this play so he only sends receivers out to one side of the pattern.
The Bengals blitz, and the Jaguars initially pick it up.
Eben Britton blows his block on right side, however, and Gabbert must adjust. The problem is that he can't roll left because he has no one to throw to on that side of the field.
Instead, he tries to loop back to the right to get deeper than the rush. That's where he runs into the blitzer.
Obviously, the blocking is terrible on the play. However, the play ironically designed to give Gabbert a chance to make a safe read forces him back to the right and back into danger.
Gabbert needs to abandon the pass here, roll to his left and try to scramble. Of course, even if he does that, one of the three Bengals doing nothing in the short zone will probably make the stop, but it likely results in something better than a 12-yard loss.
The entire play is a mess from design to execution by all parties.
Gabbert takes pressure from all sides as the line completely implodes. He fumbles on the play, but it's negated by a facemask penalty.
The only thing of note on this play is how close to the line of scrimmage everyone on the Bengals plays. Teams are daring the Jaguars to throw long, knowing that they likely can't get open, protect and then have Gabbert make the big throw all at the same time.
The Bengals bring seven men up to line, and rush five. The right end drops into coverage, and the middle linebacker blitzes.
Gabbert gets blitzed off the corner and no one picks up the defender.
There are two protection break downs. The center conveniently blocks no one because the backer lined up over him drops into coverage, and the back in the backfield fails to read the blitz properly, allowing two men to come at Gabbert unchecked.
Gabbert doesn't recognize the blitz pre-snap and fails to check to his hot receiver coming wide open off the line.
This is one of those plays where fans blame the line, which is awful, but much of the responsibility falls on the quarterback to read the defense, set the proper protections and then fire quickly to the hot man.
Center Brad Meester and Gabbert have to work together to read the defense correctly. Both are fooled. Several Jags block no one, and the quarterback is toast.
This is classic "bad offensive line play". Both the left tackle and left guard blow their blocks, and Gabbert is taken down before the safety valve can even release out of the back field.
There's no excuse for this. Two players failed, and the quarterback went down. Every quarterback in the league would likely have been sacked on this play.
The left guard gets shoved back into Gabbert's lap before anyone can get open. Again, there's not much Gabbert or anyone could do to save this play.
There's no question that the Jaguars' line is failing to protect Gabbert. On at least three to four of the sacks, there was little chance for him to do anything.
However, Gabbert adds to his worries by failing to read the defenses correctly. The biggest improvement in his play from 2011 is a lack of panic. He know longer looks terrified or confused.
That aside, he still has a long way to go in his development. There are things he could do to limit the damage on sacks and to correctly diagnose where the pressure is coming from.
Unfortunately, there's not much the Jaguars can do to fix this mess now. They are already running short routes and keeping in extra blockers.
Sacks are coming when they are spread and when they are in max-protect. Short of getting a new line or hoping Gabbert makes a big leap forward in his ability to read the defense pre-snap and identify pressure, the sacks are going to keep coming in Jacksonville.
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