The Jaguars have officially started a quarterback competition that will likely be one of those kind of, sort of competitions. While it’s quite notable that Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are splitting first-team practice reps during OTAs — meaning Henne will be given a legitimate chance to win the starting job — you have to believe that somewhere in a room with the door firmly shut, the Jags’ brass is hoping Gabbert wins. That’s a common feeling when a first-round pick is invested in a quarterback, and through 24 career starts he remains timid in the pocket, and inaccurate with his short passes.
Or maybe I’m wrong and they just don’t care, because the new regime with its new general manager (David Caldwell) and new head coach (Gus Bradley) has no ties whatsoever to Gabbert, and in a league where employment can be short-lived for coaches and GMs if their team sucks, latching on to a really sucky quarterback may not be their preferred path. Shocking stuff, I know.
Common sense seems so easy until it isn’t, as former Jaguars regimes have taught us. And in fairness, the other option is Chad Henne, whose main problem is that he’s still Chad Henne. But our primary concern here is the continued growth of both Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, and it’s quite easy to see who they preferred to catch balls from last year.
Before his season ended due to both a forearm injury and a torn labrum, Gabbert started 11 games in 2012, while Henne started six games and he made four other relief appearances, two of which were lengthy ones in week 10 and 11 (Gabbert attempted only two passes in Week 11). When Henne was the guy throwing the passes, life was much better for Blackmon and Shorts.
- With Henne: 87.9 receiving yards per game
- With Gabbert: 27.7
- With Henne: 83.6
- With Gabbert: 62.3
Blackmon’s gap is particularly large, and is highlighted by his 236 yards in Week 11 against the Texans. While that particular day was rather stupid as Blackmon produced the 38th best single-game receiving total in NFL history, he still maintained high production under Henne which included two 79-yard games with a touchdown in each (13 fantasy points), and a 93-yard game. In fact, four of Blackmon’s five touchdown catches came on balls thrown by Henne.
Blackmon will miss the first four games of next season due to a suspension. When he returns, whether or not he can provide quality mid-season value will depend on the guy who’s under center. Go…Chad?