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Don’t Blame Blaine

Gabbert escapes the pocket

It’s no secret Blaine Gabbert struggled in his first season in the NFL.

He passed for 2,300 yards, 12 Touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 14 starts and was the lowest ranked starting quarterback in the league with a woeful 50.8 completion percentage.

He had very poor pocket presence, rarely stepped into his throws and was hesitant, almost scared, to take a hit.

All in all it was a season to forget for Blaine Gabbert.

However, the blame for his poor season cannot be placed solely on Blaine Gabbert himself. His struggles can be traced to several other factors.

The Jaguars had a below average group of wide receivers and no true number one target. Their leading receiver, Mike Thomas, would be a number three target on most teams. And whilst the Jaguars had high hopes tight end Marcedes Lewis he had a disappointing year after signing a new contract in the off-season.

Without a solid group of wide receivers any quarterbacks production is going to suffer but that is especially true for a developing rookie. Compare Gabbert with the other rookie quarterbacks in the league and they all had elite wide receivers to help them transition to the professional game. Andy Dalton had AJ Green in Cincinnati and Cam Newton had Steve Smith in Carolina. The Jaguars need to give Gabbert a true number one receiver to work with next season if not they can only blame themselves for Gabbert’s lack of production.

A further reason for his struggles can be attributed to his lack of preparation time.

Gabbert, unlike the previously mentioned rookie quarterbacks, wasn’t the obvious starter in training camp and therefore split his practice reps with others. This took precious time away from his development, time that had already been taken away due to the lock out.

Gabbert wasn’t sufficiently prepared to be a starter in the NFL last year and when he became one he didn’t have the tools around him to succeed.

However, it was not a lost season. For all the negatives there are positives from his first year as a starter.

The Jaguars did have a very strong running game in 2011 and Maurice Jones-Drew, who led the league in rushing, attributes much of his success to Gabbert.

In an interview with NFL Network Jones-Drew spoke about how Gabbert managed the running game. “A lot of people don’t know that we would call two or three run plays in the huddle and he [Gabbert] would check to the right one every time” Jones-Drew said “He was very selfless and he just wanted everybody to go out and win….when you have your quarterback doing that at the age of 21 the limit for him to grow is unbelievable”.

Moving forward Gabbert will benefit from a new coaching staff, who have all had success developing young quarterbacks. Mularkey has spent the last 3 seasons developing Matt Ryan in Atlanta and already rates Gabbert highly. “I think he can do a lot of things for us. And I think the guy wants to be coached,” Mularkey said “You can tell some quarterbacks think they know it all. I don’t have that feeling (about Gabbert).””

Gabbert has all the physical tools to be successful in the NFL and now with the support of a new strong coaching staff he just needs the Jaguars to arm him a supporting cast.

Provided they do this they can be confident they will have a different Blaine Gabbert in 2012.

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