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Expectations Low For Former Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert In NFL Rookie Season

At first glance, the timing was awkward.

Jacksonville Jaguars Gene Smith had just moved up to the No. 10 overall selection in the NFL Draft at the cost of the team’s second round choice, a steep price to take Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The move for a QB in Jacksonville has been discussed before, yet the imcumbent starter David Garrard is coming off perhaps his best season. Why pull the trigger on a player when two high caliber defensive players could be taken with those picks?

Yet it’s the ceiling of Gabbert that had Smith and his staff so ecstatic – with visions of quarterback play that Garrard simply doesn’t seem capable of. Even after a season with a 90.8 rating and a career high in completion percentage (64.5%) and touchdowns (23), the team won eight games with Garrard at the helm. Over the last three seasons, Garrard has started 46 games and won 20.

After Garrard’s last season, he’s certainly continuing to mature and see the field better, so the team’s lack of success isn’t his mantle to bear. Yet Garrard’s also never been mistaken for an elite QB in the making, and Jacksonville knew it. It needed a new face, a new vision for success at the position. And that’s what had player personnel director, Terry McDonough so effusive in his praise in a recent interview with The St. Augustine Record.

“If you get the guy and you believe he is the guy and he is the guy, tremendous things can happy for this organization and this city, and I feel that way about this kid. We did it (traded up to get him) because organizationally we thought this guy had limitless potential and we were so excited to get him. I’m not trying to act giddy but the guy is a stud.’’

Yet the beauty of the choice is that Gabbert can sit and watch a veteran quarterback coming into his own. Even if Jacksonville decides the future is now at some point this season (or beginning in 2012), Garrard’s stock should be plenty high enough to secure a starting gig in the NFL, and likely he will have a choice of a few places with the number of quarterback needy teams.

For Gabbert, the waiting is a part of the process — just ask Aaron Rodgers. Some quarterbacks get thrown in, but with so much riding on this draft class and this choice in particular, expect the Jags to be patient. Big Cat Country, SB Nation’s Jaguars blog, had great insight into reasons Gabbert would sit this season in a recent post:

With the loss of mini-camp and the likely loss of OTA’s, it puts Blaine Gabbert at a severe disadvantage and makes his already steep learning curve that much sharper. Not only that, but sometimes when you throw a rookie into the fire it can damage them permanently. David Carr started before the team was ready for him for the Houston Texans and took 76 sacks his rookie season. Carr became shell-shocked and was never able to recover. He developed a habit of sensing phantom pressure. While the Jaguars offensive line isn’t the Texans line circa “Murder David Carr” era, it gave up 38 sacks last season.

It’s that last comparison that Gene Smith and his staff will avoid at all costs. They already have a quarterback with a supposed limited ceiling in Garrard. If they truly believe Gabbert could take them to the next level, then they’ll handle with care at all costs.

Keep tabs on Gabbert's season and the Jags in general over at Big Cat Country.