With a handful of 2013 mocks out, I've started noticing a trend. Everyone not following the Jaguars closely has a very misinformed understanding of our current position, and for good reason. Our top draft pick had a rediculous DUI which is now affecting his contract status and keeping him out of camp. Our only true star player is holding out for more money. Our top 10 QB from last year has "bust" written all over him. Or does he?
Trust me, I know how fandom works, and I know that no matter how multidimensional I look at the situation, I'm always going to be a bit biased. The truth is, fandom aside, there is a lot of substance with the Jaguars right now. Having not translated that into wins yet hides the coverage and hype of a team full of young guys and shockingly deep at positions of importance. Do you remember how much hype the 49ers had coming into last season? Now I'm not saying we're going right for the AFC Championship, but I think you'll be surprised with the wins and losses by season's end.It's undeniable that we have question marks all over offense, but this is a rare case of really bad coaching. Also, a case of very bad wide receivers. We have improved both of those things tremendously, and coupled with a solid young offensive line, the best running back in 2011 who should still be in his prime (whenever he decides to show up, anyways), a TE who has the potential to be a star (more on that later), and quality young depth in nearly every position, and you find there's only one real question mark.
That question mark is Blaine Gabbert. This is no secret. I'm no defender of his play last year, but he simply shouldn't have been playing yet. He wasn't ready and it showed. Fortunately, he now has 14 starts and hopefully shook all the rookie out. Here are a couple of pieces on his development:
- Accuracy was a big issue for him last year. According to nearly every source that follows the Jags closely, this was a complete mechanical issue. Throughout OTA's and Training Camp so far, those mechanical issues have turned upside down, and he looks surprisingly comfortable and natural. This is of course except for the dreaded "problem with toughness," and when pads go on we'll get a real look at that.
- This "problem" is the definition of hyperbole, but a lot of it has to do with a couple bad prime time games. If you break down the plays, you'll find that Gabbert has no problem throwing into the face of the rush if he sees something open. Last year, no one was open very long if at all, and Gabbert is the kind of player who makes good decisions when to throw the ball, despite his stats. The biggest problem here was immaturity and not knowing what to do or how to make the best of his options. Something he showed he was capable of on a couple of plays towards the end of last year.
-Nearly every interception Gabbert had came from a tip, a bad play by a WR or a mechanically bad throw and in one instance an unreal downpour of rain. Tips are going to happen. I've already discussed the WRs and the Mechanical problems. Rain will happen. Decision making is not his weakness. He wasn't freaking out and throwing the ball to the wrong place. He was freaking out and losing the integrity of his mechanics.
-Coaching staff is allowing him to play with audibles. He knows the playbook so well and is making great adjustments to defensive schemes. He knows where to look for the soft spot of the zone. The coaches have been exceptionally complimentary of him - not something you do to someone who is failing miserably.
-Golden Arm. Nobody is disputing this.
-Players are behind him. Far more vocal than they ever were about Garrard. There's not a player on the team who has said anything other than he's their leader.
-Mercedes Lewis. Yes, he had a bad year last year, but I think it was a "fluke" bad year. Lots of personal issues he was dealing with. A QB he couldn't rely on. Occasional double coverage. No WRs pulling extra coverage, themselves. Bad coaching. Lewis was a recipe for disaster. If he looks like he did in 2010 this year, he will be Gabbert's best friend and could really help anchor some stats for Gabbert.
The ceiling on Gabbert is still very high and the floor is much higher than people expect. He wasn't great last year and he may not be great this year, but he is clearly putting in the much needed work the elevate his game to be at least average this year.
That would mean an average offense, and a defense that lost 6 starters last year and still placed 6th is back, healthy and even better this year. No way we place last, no way we take another high QB next year.
Gabbert ranked 15th-22nd
Jags Offense ranked 15th-20th
Defense ranked 5th-7th
7-9 to 10-6 record