Full of hope and enthusiasm, the Jaguars opened the 2013 season how they wanted to early against the Chiefs. Decent stops on defense and then a great special teams play leading to a blocked punt and a safety and a 2-0 lead. From there, the team looked like it slipped into their 2012 persona with dropped passes, not much pressure on defense and good field position for the Chiefs thanks to spotty special teams play.
Head Coach Gus Bradley was afraid of guys trying too hard instead of letting their talent and their training guide them through each situation. “We had some of the older guys talk to the young guys last night about doing your job. Some guys think they need to do something different than what they’re trained to do,” the Head Coach said in his post game press conference. “We need to settle down as a team. The defense started to do that, but we need that for the whole team.”
That’s what the offense looked like early. Without much rhythm, they were mechanical, not flowing and subsequently had dropped passes, bad reads and not many first downs. On defense it looked the same, with not much pressure on the quarterback by the front four and tackles that weren’t quite competed that allowed Kansas City to move the ball downfield and execute their offensive game plan. Of course, the Chiefs didn’t have to be great because they had great field position starting almost every drive on offense in the first half.
What was disappointing is how it appeared the defensive line was being pushed around in the running game, giving the Chiefs good down-and-distance opportunities as they marched towards the end zone.
Meanwhile the Jaguars running game looked anemic and the passing game mistake-prone. “We didn’t play as a team,” Gabbert said afterwards in his standard locker room comments. “We were never in sync. Some of that’s on me, I can’t throw the ball there,” he added when asked about the two easy interceptions the Chiefs came up with.
I’ve said all along Gabbert is a very “seductive” player when you watch him in practice. He makes all the throws, he has an unbelievable arm and he is a commanding presence in and out of the huddle. But of course there’s nobody chasing him with bad intentions in practice, which might be why he has difficulty translating that performance onto the field for game day.
Maybe missing Marcedes Lewis and Justin Blackmon made a big difference for Gabbert and the rest of the offense. But it appears none of the offensive woes will change until Gabbert becomes a more polished and complete player. He doesn’t have the internal clock that most quarterbacks have when it comes to understanding when to eat it and when to not. While he has good speed and mobility, he doesn’t always know how to use it to a quarterback’s full advantage. He’ll shuffle in the pocket, but then take a sack for holding it too long. He’ll run out of the pocket, only to miss the open guy downfield he just bought himself time to read since he didn’t even see him. And then he’ll decide where he’s throwing it before reading what’s there, sometimes putting the team in danger of a crucial turnover.
I’ll take Bradley at his word that if this team plays in games how it performs on the practice field, we’ll see a better performance with better results. I’ll also buy into the defense playing better if they build on their nine consecutive stops at the end of the game. And I’ll agree that playing within themselves is possible and that too will improve their chances at victory.
But Gabbert’s still the key. If he can’t play better consistently, he won’t get a chance to play much at all.