JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Blaine Gabbert describes the offense being implemented by the Jacksonville Jaguars as fun to run.
A week from now, he should have a better handle on whether the fun has just begun or if his time with them might soon be done.
The first-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft is one of only two quarterbacks taking part this week in the Jaguars’ three-day voluntary minicamp for veterans. Although not many people are predicting them to use the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft on someone else at that position, it’s clear that both Gabbert and Chad Henne will soon have company, as new coach Gus Bradley is emphasizing open competition on offense and defense.
“All you can worry about as a player is the things you can control,” Gabbert said Wednesday. “That’s how you prepare, how you study, how you practice, how you eat, how you sleep, just little things like that.”
Elbow and shoulder injuries limited Gabbert to 10 starts in a season where the Jaguars tied the Kansas City Chiefs for the league’s worst record at 2-14. Jedd Fisch, who was brought in by Bradley as offensive coordinator, wants more of an uptempo style where the ball is snapped as quickly as possible and passes get to receivers in less time.
Gabbert’s first impressions of Fisch’s system are all positive.
“It’s fun to run,” he said. “It’s very user-friendly. We have so many options for everybody.”
But in drills toward the end of practice where owner Shad Khan was in attendance, several passes were batted down by defensive linemen. Bradley, who was most recently Seattle’s defensive coordinator, didn’t look at those as a black mark against Gabbert as much as evidence that the Jaguars’ pass rushers are already learning to keep their hands up.
Gabbert and Henne were rotated to let them get close to the same number of snaps with no differentiation between first-string and second-string units. All this took place during a high-energy practice that, as was the case Tuesday, featured piped-in music.
“We’re always going to be fast, and our guys are going to get on and off the field quickly,” Fisch said. “We’re going to be coaching on the move.”
“Strength and conditioning does wonders,” Gabbert said. “But to really execute this offense at a high level, you’ve got to practice it.”
Henne went so far as to say that to be more effective on offense, the Jaguars have to become the most well-conditioned team in the NFL. Accomplishing that will be a challenge, although they have some playmakers in place at wide receiver in Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts III and newly-signed Mohamed Massaquoi, as well as tight end Marcedes Lewis.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Shorts said. “But this is going to be an exciting offense once we get things going.”
Two mock drafts which came out this month have the Jaguars selecting quarterback Geno Smith of West Virginia second overall. A more likely scenario would be them picking someone at that position later on, something they haven’t done since waiting until the fourth round in 2002 to take David Garrard.
“There are some guys who are out there,” Fisch said. “We’re all excited for next Thursday and Friday. And I’m sure those college quarterbacks are excited to see where they land and where they end up.”
Gabbert is trying to tune out all that speculation as best as he can.
“We’re always competing, regardless of the situation we’re put in,” he said. “Our biggest focal point right now is just getting better on a daily basis.”