Gabbert is back home, hopes to help Jags win ..
By Joe Lyons
Blaine Gabbert, who starred at Parkway West High and at the University of Missouri, is coming home for the weekend.
But this trip, as starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars at noon on Sunday against the Rams, will mark his first in his hometown as a professional and his first at the Edward Jones Dome since leading Mizzou in back-to-back wins over Illinois to close out the Arch Rivalry series in 2009 and 2010.
Gabbert seems to thrive on the road; in his last five pro starts away from Jacksonville, he has thrown for 852 yards with five touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 91.9.
“It’ll be a lot of fun ... we’re ready to go,” Gabbert said during a Wednesday morning phone call with St. Louis media.
The Rams (1-3) and Jaguars (0-4) both are fighting to keep their 2013 seasons from spiraling out of control. Jacksonville, which won just two games a year ago, has been blasted 28-2 by Kansas City, 19-9 in Oakland, 45-17 in Seattle, and 37-3 by Indianapolis to open this season.
Following a comeback win over Arizona to open the season, the Rams have dropped games to Atlanta (31-24), Dallas (31-7) and San Francisco (35-11).
“I know getting discouraged isn’t the way to get better, so we just stay away from that,” said first-year Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, who last year served as defensive coordinator with the Seahawks. “Whether we’re 4-0 or 0-4 or 2-2, it doesn’t matter right now. ... To go back and think about (the losses) is only a distraction, so the challenge is to get our team to focus on this task that we have in front of us Sunday. If we can do that, then I think we’ll have a great opportunity to get better this week.”
Gabbert, who sat out the Oakland and Seattle games with a hand injury, agreed: “Nobody expected to be 0-4, and at the same time, you can’t control the past. What we can focus on right now is learning from our past mistakes, applying them to practice and just working to get better each day at practice.”
Gabbert, 23, is in his third season after being selected with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but he has yet to reach the potential he showed at Mizzou, where he went 18-8 in starts. In those three seasons, he passed for 6,822 yards — third in school history — with 40 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. His career passer rating (132.6) at Missouri is topped only by his predecessor and current Kansas City Chief Chase Daniel.
As a pro, Gabbert has yet to hit his stride. He’s 5-21 as a starter while completing 53.4 percent of his passes for 4,176 yards with 21 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. In two home starts this fall, he has completed 33 of 67 passes (49.3 percent) for 300 yards, with five interceptions and no touchdowns.
In his defense, all three of Gabbert’s interceptions against the Colts Sunday came on balls that went off the hands of Jacksonville receivers.
“Interceptions are a part of the game,” said Gabbert, who beat out veteran Chad Henne for the starting job during training camp. “Obviously, you want to eliminate them or minimize them as much as you can, but when they do happen you’ve got to find ways to overcome them.”
Bradley has been impressed with Gabbert’s maturity and noted that this is the quarterback’s first back-to-back practice weeks since camp.
“I think he has six practices in like five weeks for us,” the coach said. “So now to get him back and get him in the rhythm of practice weeks, I think that’s what he needs more than anything else right now.”
In his third pro season, Gabbert has worked with four head coaches, three offensive coordinators and in three offenses.
“Every day you’re in a new offensive system, the more comfortable you get,” the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder said. “It’s unfortunate my preseason was cut short (with a thumb injury) and the last couple of weeks were cut short by nagging injuries, but the more I practice, the more comfortable I’m getting.”
The Jaguars’ attack should get a boost this week with the return of second-year wideout Justin Blackmon, who missed the first four games while suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. As a rookie, Blackmon caught 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns.
“Justin’s a great player, and he’s been working extremely hard the last four weeks and really getting himself in position to come in and make an instant impact,” Gabbert said. “We missed him, but it’s great to have him back and put him back in the offense.’’
Gabbert’s athleticism could be a threat to the Rams.
“He’s extremely mobile, and he can extend plays,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “He gets out of the pocket, runs for first downs. He’s tall, he’s an accurate passer over the middle, and he’s making good decisions.”
Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton added: “He moves around well, and when he has time he makes some good throws. Getting one of his top receivers back and (running back Maurice) Jones-Drew getting healthy, that just takes a little bit off (Gabbert’s) shoulders.”
Like any quarterback, Gabbert tends to draw more than his share of criticism as the Jaguars try to rebuild. But he has no problem with that.
“It’s part of the job description,” Gabbert said. “The quarterback and the head coach are the ones that get the blame, and they’re the ones that get more of the credit than they deserve when things are going well. It’s the quarterback’s job to lead his football team, and it’s the quarterback’s job to get points on the board. That’s the thing that we’re working toward right now. ... You just have to focus on your job and doing that job well.”
Re: Gabbert is back home, hopes to help Jags win ..
Always been a fan of Gabbert hope he does well after this week! ;)
Also they got some former UCLA guys I like there. MJD being the main guy, and he is good when healthy!
Hope our Rams don't think this is a shoe in win! They need to buckle down as a team and execute in all phases to really finally play well again... Our prayers go out to them and the coaches.
Re: Gabbert is back home, hopes to help Jags win ..
too bad McDonald isn't here to stick it to MJD