Blaine Gabbert will walk onto the field tomorrow night as the Jaguars' starting quarterback, but that doesn't mean he'll still be in that position by the start of the season. Here’s what Gabbert has to do to ensure his survival as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback moving forward.
Step into pressure) Gabbert has been widely criticized for shying away from pressure by either getting rid of the ball early or throwing off his back foot. This is valid criticism, and the solution is simple. Step into throws, despite pressure, and make decisions that force defenses to back off.
Complete more passes) Last year was much better for Gabbert in this respect. As a rookie, he completed just a shade over 50% of his passes. Last season, Gabbert completed 58.3% of his passes. That’s still not at the high end of the league, but it’s not stick-a-fork-in-him terrible either. Still, topping 60% would be a huge help to an offense not expected to produce.
Move the ball downfield) A byproduct of getting rid of the ball quickly is completing a lot of short passes. That works well sometimes, but there’s a point where a team needs to get vertical. Chad Henne may not have been great last year, but he pushed defenses back by simply taking shots, albeit ill-advised at times. Gabbert needs to threaten defenses deep to keep pressure off himself.
Take a risk) Finally, and possibly my biggest Blaine Gabbert complaint, the Jaguars’ young signal caller needs to be willing to take a risk from time to time. I’m not saying he should throw a duck into triple coverage, but too often Gabbert throws the ball away on third and long situations. Backed up in your own territory, sure, that’s a wise call, but if you’re on the good side of the 50, or even past your own 40, take a shot or two. The gains outweigh the potential losses.
Make no mistakes about this season; Blaine Gabbert is on his last chance. He has offensive weapons and a much improved line to work with. If he can’t succeed now, there’s no reason to keep him on the team moving forward. Simply put, it’s now or never.