Training Camp Battle: Blaine Gabbert vs. Chad Henne
I'm one of the biggest Gabbert haters around, always have been, but I'll come to his defense before I rip him apart. First of all, he's a rookie. Expecting a raw rookie quarterback to succeed will almost always leave you disappointed. Also, his receivers were pathetic last season. The leading receiver was tight end Marcedes Lewis who finished with a mere 460 yards on 39 catches and no touchdowns. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew finished second on the team with 43 receptions, just one less than team leader Mike Thomas. Now their low production does have somewhat to do with Gabbert's lack of ability, but I'm not sure Joe Montana could have had a good season with these guys catching his passes. Despite that, Gabbert's incompetence is shown by more than his offensive production.
The reason I find Mularkey's comment about Gabbert's confidence so absurd is because I don't think I have ever seen a quarterback sit in the pocket with less poise. He looks like a squirrel surrounded by hungry bears when he drops back. That's something that can't be taught. Certain guys have the ability to feel the pass rush and hang in there ready to throw until they need to make a move. Gabbert can't do that, and I don't think he ever will. He led the league in yards lost on sacks, despite only starting 14 games. I'm a Raiders fan. I watched JaMarcus Russell struggle with the same problem, and I painfully endured his career while the problem was never resolved. Don't give me any "no he was bad because of accuracy." He was inaccurate because he was scared. He was plenty accurate in college when he was facing an NCAA pass rush. He had far more talent than Gabbert and never solved his pocket presence issues. Gabbert won't either.
I'm also not a fan of these quarterbacks who shoot up draft boards during the combine and pro days. You might strike gold with a wide receiver or running back who's a freak athlete, but quarterbacks can't be drafted because they're athletic and "good kids." So much more goes into playing the position. Gabbert didn't even put together that great of a college resume. He actually was significantly worse in his junior year than his sophomore year (400 less yards, 1.4 less yards per attempt, 8 less touchdowns). His stock shot up when he showed up to the combine with no pads or no pass rush and precisely hit wide open receivers. My suggestion to teams is to put a tad bit more stock into what the guy does when he's actually on the field in college, wearing a helmet and shoulder pads and is facing a pass rush. Guys like Gabbert are the reason that I don't agree with Miami's Ryan Tannehill pick. Had just a pretty good season and disappeared in big games: 8th overall pick? I don't think so.
Now Chad Henne is no stud either. However, he isn't completely terrible. He can get the ball out to give his receivers an opportunity to make plays, and he won't be asked to do too much due to the Jaguars having last season's leading rusher, Maurice Jones-Drew. No chance Henne is the long term answer, but Blaine Gabbert is a lost cause. If the Jaguars want to give themselves the best chance of winning football games, they need to put Henne behind center. However, it may not happen until the new coaching staff sees Gabbert pee his pants while facing a full speed pass rush.