Finding positives for Blaine Gabbert

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
4:39
PM ET
When Jacksonville Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker called Blaine Gabbert “courageous” last week, Tucker lost credibility with regard to his public reviews of his rookie quarterback.

Monday, Tucker’s comments about Gabbert were more measured and more in line with the things I have been hearing from those who maintain it’s too soon to make any sort of final judgment about him.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Jim Brown/US PresswireDespite a dismal rookie season, Jags QB Blaine Gabbert has shown some superior playmaking skills.
“When he comes off the field and you ask him and his coaches ask him what he saw, he’s very, very accurate and I think that’s huge with a young player or any player,” Tucker said in comments to Jacksonville media on Monday. “When a player can come off the field and tell you exactly what he saw, what the defense was and why he did what he did, that’s a good sign.”

Moments are all we have in terms of seeing that for ourselves. On an early third-and-12 in Nashville Saturday, Gabbert took off running.

There was no real chance for him to reach the sticks, but I would have liked to have seen him do more -- try more -- than slide super early, settling for 4 yards.

Elsewhere, two plays in the game struck me as significant if we’re looking for reasons to maintain a degree of faith in Gabbert’s ability to improve as the Jaguars see a new owner take over and hire a new coach.

On a first-quarter third-and-6 from the Jaguars’ 22, he senses Dave Ball closing from his left, dipped and stepped forward with his eyes still downfield, squared his shoulders with another rusher coming hard from his right and hit Jarett Dillard for an 11-yard gain.

Gabbert had two opportunities to conclude the pocket was collapsing and the rush would get him but he kept trying to find something and connected on a conversion.

In desperation catch-up mode in the fourth quarter, with the Titans playing a bit softer as they tried to preserve a 23-10 lead, Gabbert took a shotgun snap on fourth-and-10 from the Tennessee 24. He moved right as Jurrell Casey dove for his ankles, then ran hard to keep Ball from getting him and threw to Dillard on the right sideline for a 21-yard gain.

Again, his head was up, he reacted fine to pressure and he found a play.

Those are just two snaps. They hardly wash away a poor rookie season during which he’s not played well on a team that hasn’t protected him consistently enough and which has horrible receivers.

But if you’re looking for hope that he can handle a rush, keep looking downfield and deliver a throw that can keep an offense moving, there are two plays you can point to.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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