Posted August 18, 2013

First Down/Fourth Down: Blaine Gabbert complicates Jaguars’ QB picture after strong performance

Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, First Down/Fourth Down, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, NFC North, NFC West, St. Louis Rams, Uncategorized
Blaine Gabbert looked like a different guy against the New York Jets. (John Minchillo/AP)

Blaine Gabbert looked like a different guy against the New York Jets. (John Minchillo/AP)

It’s safe to say that Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert left his team wanting more through his first two NFL seasons. The Jags selected Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, and in 24 starts, he’s been one of the worst quarterbacks in recent league history. It hasn’t helped that Gabbert has struggled with injuries and inconsistent targets, but the high percentage of fans who would prefer that veteran Chad Henne take over the starting job on a long-term basis speaks to where Gabbert is in the football universe. Under new head coach Gus Bradley, Gabbert is starring in a production of Last-Chance Theater, and he did manage to forward his case on Saturday against the New York Jets.

First Down: Blaine Gabbert’s big day.

New York won the game, 37-13, but Gabbert looked like anything but that awkward thrower in the first half. He started off with a nice deep pass to rookie Ace Sanders for a 35-yard gain, and then hit fullback Will Taʻufoʻou with a quick pass across his body. Gabbert kept the efficiency up through his three-drive stint, and the Jags scored a touchdown and a field goal on their first two drives. Gabbert finished with 13 completions in 16 attempts for 165 yards and that touchdown, and appeared ready to fulfill at least some of the promise he showed in college. Meanwhile, Henne completed four of 10 passes for 30 yards and a pick.

Of course, no Jaguars quarterback victory can come without complications. Gabbert left the game in the second quarter after injuring his right thumb — yes, that’s his throwing hand. The team doesn’t seem to be too concerned, but as our own Chris Burke pointed out, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman suffered a similar injury in 2011, and he felt the effects for a longer period of time than he expected.

Fourth Down: Dustin Keller’s knee injury, and adjusting the targets.

The news was far worse for Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller, who tore pretty much everything he possibly could in his right knee against the Houston Texans on Saturday. In the second quarter of Houston’s 24-17 win, Texans rookie defensive back D.J. Swearinger went low on Keller, and the veteran tight end had to be carted off the field. It was a brutal result for a player who was taking a one-year gamble on himself as a free agent.

“It’s just unfortunate,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said on Sunday. “Any time a player gets hurt is very unfortunate, so you feel bad for the player, whether that guy is on your team or you’re the guy playing against. You just don’t want to see those things happen. All the targets are from the shoulders down in football now — D.J. was playing an out-route and reacted to an in-route. [He was] just reacting and making a tackle and unfortunately got caught in a horrible situation. You just feel very bad for the young man. You don’t want to see that happen at all.”

Swearinger also said that the low hit was related to his consciousness of the NFL’s rules about helmet-to-helmet hits, but not everyone thought the hit was legal.

Former NFL great Tim Brown predicted this outcome in an interview with SB Nation just a couple of days ago.

“What you’re going to have happening is the one thing as a receiver you never want to happen. You didn’t want a guy to take your knees out, because the lower they duck their shoulders, the lower you have to go. Sooner or later these guys are going to have to take knee shots. The problem with that is twofold. One, for a receiver, there’s going to be a season-ending [injury]. For a defensive guy, you catch a knee the wrong way, it can be either game-ending or career-ending. That’s how you get your neck broke, you get caught in the wrong position like that.

“I think they’re forcing these guys to hit below the waist, and that’s just not what you want to have happen.”

Well, it’s happening, and it’s one more thing the NFL will have to review.

First Down: Eddie Lacy takes steps ahead.

The 2013 draft marked the first time since 1963 that no running back was selected in the first round. Some will tell you that this is a reflection of the decreasing importance of the position, though you may want to avoid that theory in Minnesota. The Green Bay Packers, long in need of elite talent in that regard, doubled down in this draft, taking Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round, and Johnathan Franklin of UCLA in the fourth. So far, it’s been Lacy demanding a starting spot with his performances, and he continued that against the St. Louis Rams, gaining 40 tough yards on eight carries.

Lacy has Franklin and incumbent DaJuan Harris to worry about, but if the team had a sure thing behind Aaron Rodgers, general manager Ted Thompson wouldn’t have been so active over draft weekend.

“We’ve got a back who has very good patience in Eddie,” Rodgers said after the Packers’ 19-7 win. “It’s a fun competition, and we’ll see what happens moving forward, but Eddie had a good night.”

Fourth Down: The Cowboys-Cardinals game.

The ever-increasing lobby of fans unhappy about paying regular-season prices for preseason contests got a lot more fodder for their arguments in the game between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys on Saturday afternoon. Arizona won, 12-7, but the final result featured no happy coaches.

“Obviously, you can’t win football games like that,” Jason Garrett said of Dallas’ six-turnover performance, which featured two especially horrid picks from backup quarterback Kyle Orton. We’ll go through them play by play. You can give them credit on each of those plays, but obviously you have to take care of the football.”

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians wasn’t happy with an offense that looks iffy through two preseason games — through the acquisition of Carson Palmer at quarterback presents a clear upgrade for a franchise that has suffered through mistake after mistake at the position since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season. He was a bit more pleased with his defense, which kept opponents scoreless through the first seven quarters of the preseason. That changed when Cowboys quarterback Alex Tanney hit tight end Gavin Escobar with a five-yard touchdown pass with 10:55 left in the game.

“We’ll have to come up with a good fine for the players who were on the field for the players who gave up the first points of the year,” Arians said of his backup defenders. “I’m sure the veterans will come up with something special for that.”

The NFL should also come up with some kind of recompense for those poor souls who pay the full boat for games like these.

14 comments
JaguarsOrDie
JaguarsOrDie

NEWSFLASH: No one in Jacksonville wants "Chad Henne (to) take over the starting job on a long-term basis".  We all know what Henne is. Much rather give Gabbert the chance to improve this season, and if he goes 2-14 again, then draft Teddy. 

AndrewM1
AndrewM1

When Harrison was getting fined, some deserved, some not, he pretty much said he didn't want to lower the target because he didn't want to destroy someone's knee and their entire career.  After catching so much abuse and paying out so much in fines, he relented and said he changed his targeting.

This is what the NFL wanted, now they've got it.

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

and DJ has been around long enough to know,right? Please, someone bounty this kid...oh, I mean get a clean shot on him

heardhimsay
heardhimsay

What's wrong with going for the waist?  These guys make is sound like there's nothing between the head and the knees.  Go for the middle!

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@AndrewM1 Actually, when Harrison was getting fined, his first responses were to elaborate upon how he enjoys inflicting pain, and how it was his job to try and knock people out.

Only much later did he retreat to the rhetoric of 'head vs knees'.

Mike26
Mike26

@WHO*IS*ESPN What an idiotic comment - DJ knows EXACTLY what the score is and how to avoid flags and fines.  Quick learner he is - and how stupid of a comment yours was.

Grant2
Grant2

@heardhimsay In a lot of situations, when you are a cornerback trying to tackle a tight end, you need to avoid the center of mass, because you would get run the hell over. So, above the shoulder pads or below the waist are your only viable options a lot of the time.

BobDavis
BobDavis

@heardhimsay The waist?  Because if the receiver lowers his head to his waist and the defender can't adjust then the defender gets the penalty and the fine.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@Grant2 @heardhimsay This is bunk.  There's this thing called 'form tackling', and the sad truth is that even at the pro level players forget it these days in favor of just trying to hit hard.

Unless the size and mass discrepancy is truly EXTREME, if one properly form tackles another, the guy is going down, period.  Proper tackling is mostly technique, not strength. 

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@BobDavis @heardhimsay And tell me, just how often do you see a receiver that already has the ball secured be able to bend almost entirely over like that before taking contact from a defender? Unless it's a running-back's rushing attempt, the practical fact is that receivers are almost never, ever bending that low.

crpadgett41
crpadgett41

@leehwgoc @Grant2 @heardhimsay I can guarantee you one thing about 'form tackling,' it's about as rare as the perfect swing in baseball. They aren't very common, and never have been. Plus, past the line of scrimmage, most coaches teach one thing: get him down. Unless you're meeting someone in the hole, squaring them up and trying to drive them backwards just isn't a conventional rule. The rule is get them on the ground.

BobDavis
BobDavis

@leehwgoc @BobDavis @heardhimsay Not often but it happens.  I work with an NFL referee and his tendency is to not call it if the receiver lowers his head but it's not consistent among the refs.

Regardless, if the receiver lowers his head into the hit the defender gets the penalty.  In the playoff game against the Broncos a couple years ago James Harrison lowered his point of contact to the knee and knocked the player out of the game.  I'm sure that was in reaction to all the fines.