Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gabbert Subpar among Rookies; Jaguars QB Is Not Measuring Up to Other First-Year Starters

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gabbert Subpar among Rookies; Jaguars QB Is Not Measuring Up to Other First-Year Starters

Article excerpt

Byline: Tania Ganguli

Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert wasn't afraid to get after the veteran when the Jaguars played the Houston Texans.

"I kind of sat down on a route because I thought it was zone and it was a man concept they were running," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "So he got on me about it, which is a good thing. He's going to make sure we try to make him look good."

Halfway through the season, Gabbert's obvious confidence hasn't wavered, but he's had a difficult start to his career. He directs the NFL's 32nd-ranked offense in total yards and passing yards per game and has struggled to master certain mechanics.

In a year with four rookie quarterbacks starting, Gabbert lags behind Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, Carolina's Cam Newton and Minnesota's Christian Ponder. And while experts note Gabbert struggling now, they believe the 22-year-old's struggles will wane.

"He's not immune to it," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "There have been other guys that have come in and had their struggles but he's our guy, we're going to grow around him and going to need to play better around him and going to need to play better football as a football team and find ways to win."

Only one rookie quarterback played Sunday, perhaps the best of the bunch, all things considered. Andy Dalton threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns in Cincinnati's 24-17 victory over Tennessee. He now has 1,696 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season.

Dalton, Newton and even Ponder, who has only played in three games with two starts, have all impressed observers in their rookie season.

Newton was September's offensive rookie of the month, Dalton was October's and Ponder nearly led the Vikings to a win over the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in his first start.

Gabbert, 22, began his career as a starter earlier than the Jaguars had planned. He was the team's backup after the Jaguars cut David Garrard, then became a starter in Week 3 after Luke McCown threw four interceptions in a loss to the New York Jets.

He took over a struggling offense that continued to struggle when he did. The Jaguars offense ranks a distant last place in both total yards per game and passing yards per game.

NFL pundits have noticed his struggles. Gabbert wasn't asking for understanding because of his age and inexperience, and he didn't get it from most quarters.

ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said Gabbert shied away from contact and would need to "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'."

Sports Illustrated's Peter King listed Gabbert among his weekly "Things I don't think I like" after the Jaguars played the Texans.

"The man played hurt with bruised ribs, which is noble," King wrote. "But it's a production game. …

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