Be careful what you wish for Jaguars fans.
That notion was reaffirmed last week when the Florida Times-Union’s Tania Ganguli tweeted this:
“On the quarterback questions, Gabbert won't sit for the sake of development. If he beats out Garrard, he will start.”
There is absolutely nothing wrong with fans wanting their first-round draft pick to come in and start immediately, especially if it’s at the oh-so important quarterback position, but in the pit of my stomach I feel that Gabbert coming in as a rookie and playing right away would have disastrous results.
I get why people want Gabbert to start immediately. As the 10th overall selection of this year’s NFL Draft, he comes with a lot of hype because he has so much potential. After all, he’s big, mobile and possesses a fairly strong arm. Those are qualities everyone wants in a QB. Plus he is regarded as a smart player and has the persona to be the face of the franchise.
And if he does outperform out incumbent starter David Garrard in the preseason then the job should be his. I’m just saying that if that scenario plays out, don’t expect Gabbert to be as successful as guys like Matt Ryan (16 TDs, 11 INTs, 87.7 QB rating) or Ben Roethlisberger (17TDs, 11 INTs, 98.1 QB rating) were in their rookie campaigns.
Here are the three reasons why I cannot see Gabbert reaching anything close to Ryan or Roethlisberger status this year:
1.) Gabbert’s mechanics- I will not pretend to be a quarterback guru and breakdown every nuance of Gabbert’s throwing motion, but I have been around football long enough to see the inherent flaws that the Missouri product has in his throwing mechanics.
His footwork is bad—he doesn’t get his feet set and seems to throw off his back foot quite a bit. And his release is far from smooth. Gabbert has gotten by with a strong arm for the collegiate level and he takes a lot of risks, but his arm isn’t strong enough to take the same gambles in the pros.
Every QB has to work on fine-tuning their technique when they enter the NFL, but Gabbert has a pretty long way to go in my opinion.
2.) Experience in the spread offense- There is nothing wrong in my view with a quarterback playing in a spread offense in college as opposed to a pro-style set. That’s in large part because the NFL is becoming a shotgun league.
But the scheme Missouri had makes it difficult to evaluate Gabbert. The Tigers routinely ran five-wide receiver sets and regularly motioned one of the players towards or in the backfield. It was a different philosophy that doesn’t translate over to a traditional shotgun set that you see in the NFL. That means the transition to Jacksonville’s offense has the potential to be daunting.
Big Cat Country had a particularly insightful blog post the other day about the challenges spread-system QBs have making it in the NFL. The lack of NFL-ready players the system has produced is very telling.
3.) Lack of help- Yes, the Jaguars have All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew and Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis to help out whoever is at quarterback for the Jags, but if Gabbert steps in and starts, which wide receiver is going to help him out? Guys like Ryan and Roethlisberger already had a seasoned receiver or two to help them out and the Jaguars have Mike Thomas (more suited as a No.2 receiver) and Jason Hill, who is a wild card at this point. I’m not sure if the support system is in an ideal position for a young QB to thrive.
Gabbert has potential, no doubt. And Gabbert playing as a rookie might only translate to one or two loss difference than if Garrard started all year long. With that being said, he is likely too raw to even get the Jaguars to the same level they were at last year, which was an 8-8 fringe playoff contender. The question now becomes this: do the Jaguars gamble a chance at the playoffs for a full year of developing their franchise quarterback?
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