With Matt predicting big things coming from Jacksonville Jaguars OG Will Rackley. I think it's fair to do a reaction story about the player who will likely make the biggest leap going into his second year: QB Blaine Gabbert. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, Gabbert played badly last year. He was thrown into a desperate situation when he was clearly not ready to play and he was ripped apart on and off the field. His QB coach had not coached QBs before, he had a turnstile for a right tackle, injuries were mounting up around him, and his receivers (That includes his "Pro Bowl" tight end Marcedes Lewis") couldn't catch a cold, much less a laser on a deep post route. On top of this, he had mechanical flaws that dated back to his time at Mizzou and it affected his accuracy. Why is it so hard to believe that a new coaching staff, a returning Eben Britton, and more receiving weapons will help him improve? We will start breaking things down after the picture.
1. His Weapons Are Better
Having more receiving threats make any offense better. This is especially true in Gabbert's case. As we catalogued earlier this year, the Jaguars had 40 drops throughout the year, 10 of them coming from Marcedes Lewis and 15 of the coming from Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard, and Jason Hill combined. As many observers found out, Mike Thomas is not cut out to become a #1 receiver, neither were Dillard or Hill, who were both cut from the team. With Laurent Robinson, Lee Evans, and Justin Blackmon taking the top three spots and with Mike Thomas taking a backup role, Gabbert will have much better targets to throw to.And Who know, maybe Marcedes Lewis will grow a pair (of hands) and learn to catch again, this passing offense would be even scarier.
2. His Mechanics Are Better
This will mostly be a product of the improved coaching, but his mechanics will improve. As a matter of fact, they already seem to be improving. Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski noted that Blaine Gabbert was dropping back in the pocket way too quickly. These quick steps would make him unbalanced at the end of his drop and it would affect the accuracy on some of his throws, especially when he is under duress and needs to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Over the past month or so, Bratkowski and Olsen have coached Gabbert on his dropback. It has obviously been successful since LB Clint Session stated that the offense looked like the "Greatest Show on Turf" compared to last year. That is not only a compliment for the receivers, but for Gabbert as well.
3. His Pocket Presence Will Improve
There has been a bunch of debate on this, so we'll cover both sides. First of all, I understand the concerns about Gabbert's pocket presence, but it CAN be fixed. It just takes TIME. I know that David Carr couldn't fix his pocket presence issue, but we have to deal with facts here. Carr was sacked 140 times in his first 3 seasons To put that in perspective, the second QB taken in the 2002 NFL Draft, Joey Harrington had a 7 year NFL career. He was sacked a total of 124 times. We may make fun of Guy Whimper as a human turnstile, but that is nothing compared to what David Carr had to deal with. Getting sacked that much will cause anyone to get shellshocked. It's a rather extreme example. The more likely example is Eli Manning, who was assaulted in his rookie year, creating concerns about his pocket presence. Nobody really thought that he would be successful until he actually played in his second season, where he threw for 3700 yards and 24 TDs. Now, he has two Super Bowl rings and nobody brings up those concerns anymore.
I know that sounds good and everything, but you want to hear about results, so I'll give show them to you. In Gabbert's first 9 starts,his average QB rating was 62.5 and he had a QB rating of 73.3 in his final 5 starts. What does that say? His accuracy, yardage and TD-INT ratio improved as the season went on. In the later games, he obviously improved his pocket presence enough to start manipulating safeties with pump fakes as seen during his throw to Marcedes Lewis. Remember that fadeaway throw where he looked like he was trying to make a jump shot every time he had to get the ball out quickly? That also disappeared during the latter part of the season. It isn't a stretch to think that he could be more consistent in making great throws after working with Greg Olsen and Bob Bratkowski for a whole offseason.
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