Count me with the masses. As soon as I heard Maurice Jones-Drew was holding out, I was one of the many so-called experts who said that the Jacksonville Jaguars would have a historically bad offense in 2012 led by their incapable 2nd year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. During his nightmarish rookie season, Gabbert completed just over 50% of his throws which resulted in an average pf less than 150 passing yards per game with a measly 12 TD tosses. By comparison, 3 quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matthew Stafford) averaged more than twice as many yards per game in a 2011 season geared towards high-powered offenses. His 65.4 passer rating was worse than the Colts’ Curtis Painter. Not only were his numbers abysmal, but anyone watching a Jaguars game in 2011 saw a quarterback who looked lost, overwhelmed, and out of his league. Gabbert looked like he was years away from developing into a solid contributor to the Jaguars success if he ever developed at all.
So why am I suddenly changing my tune? Over his first 2 preseason performances, Blaine Gabbert has looked like a different player. His throws are crisp, his reads are quick and correct, and Jacksonville has an offense that can move the ball through the air. With new receiving threats in the mix in Justin Blackmon and Laurent Robinson to go with a solid returning slot receiver in Mike Thomas, it looks like teams will not be able to stack the line to try to shut down Maurice Jones-Drew (whenever he decides to end his hold out) like we thought they would.
But Evan, it is only preseason football you might say. Are you really ready to change your opinion based on a couple preseason football games- games that you yourself have said are basically meaningless? In this rare instance I am. The biggest problem with Gabbert last season was his lack of confidence and the fact that he has looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the league so far this preseason should mean he starts the season feeling pretty good about himself.
Gabbert has no doubt benefited from the arrival of new head coach Mike Mularkey. Mularkey has had a history of helping develop young quarterbacks (most recently he worked with Matt Ryan in Atlanta over the past 4 seasons) and his influence on his young quarterback could change the outlook for the 2012 Jags season.
So before you cross off every Jacksonville Jaguar without the initials MJD off your fantasy draft board, watch what Blaine Gabbert has done this preseason. Every Jaguar skill player will be undervalued on draft day and it might make sense to grab Gabbert and his top targets in a late round.