Part of why, it now appears, is because they were ready to put him in a no-huddle offense, force the pace against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium and see if the offense couldn’t work more effectively with an appearance by running back Maurice Jones-Drew and a contribution from receiver Justin Blackmon.
Gabbert was excellent, with 13 completions in 16 attempts for 165 yards, a touchdown to tight end Allen Reisner and a 130.5 passer rating. He threw on the move, he threw in the face of pressure when he had to, he threw to people who made plays for him. He carried himself confidently, rarely huddling, and running plays that seemed to offer him quick and simple decisions.
Chad Henne took over with 5:34 on the clock in the second quarter. On his final play, Gabbert banged his thumb on defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson. He was shaking his hand as he headed for the sideline, and according to tweets from several who covered the game in person, coach Gus Bradley said X-rays of the quarterback’s right thumb were negative. It’s a sprain and he’ll be evaluated further on Sunday.
It was 10-10 when he left the game, and with him at quarterback the Jags converted five of seven third downs.
Against a better opponent who is not surprised by the hurry-up and who will have game-planned more for Gabbert, can he do similar things? We’ll have to wait for the answer to that. We don’t want to give too much weight to less than a half of a preseason game. But still, there is a lot more reason to think it could be a yes than there was before this game.
A few other thoughts on Jets 37, Jaguars 13:
The Jags failed to convert the final three third downs they faced in the first half, when Henne had replaced Gabbert. But the first two were runs, they went for it on the fourth down that followed and they converted both.
In 16 minutes of play, the Jaguars had eight penalties for 63 yards. While the hurry-up caught the Jets off guard, it may have also thrown the Jaguars off a bit in this department. The pace of the Jacksonville offense didn’t have a bearing on consecutive neutral-zone infractions against defensive linemen Jason Babin and Sen’Derrick Marks. The Jaguars finished with 12 penalties for 100 yards.
Blackmon was very good, with four catches on five targets for 46 yards. He ran well with the ball in his hands on a couple of quick receiver screens. They are going to miss him during his four-game suspension to start the season. But once he and Cecil Shorts (who didn’t play) are on the field together, they should be a formidable duo. Mix in rookie Ace Sanders who flashed some in this game and there is plenty of reason for encouragement. Sanders caught Gabbert’s first pass, a 35-yarder down the middle.
Timing wasn’t great for rookie safety John Cyprien, who just started practicing on Monday after an offseason hamstring injury. He fell down on the Jets first touchdown, a 23-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to tight end Jeff Cumberland. But even if Cyprien has stayed on his feet, he would have gotten beat on the play.
Jones-Drew got three carries for 9 yards and took a little pass 20 yards. The Jags got him out quickly after his first game action since Oct. 21, 2012. Jordan Todman had some quality carries as the next in line – at least one was undone by a penalty and rookie Denard Robinson showed off his speed before he was slowed in the second half. Neither had a good stat line in the end.
The Jets got effective work out of Bilal Powell when the running back fielded direct snaps. He took one 37 yards as offensive lineman Willie Colon swallowed up Marks to create a big hole. Powell finished with 68 yards on seven carries.
Sanchez and Matt Simms were each sacked once. Jeremy Mincey had the first, sticking with it on a deep drop for Sanchez and ultimately pushing back fullback Tommy Bohanon. Mincey has bulked up so he can play some tackle, and he should beat a fullback. Also of note on the D-line: Continued silence and invisibility from end Andre Branch. His stat line included just one tackle, on special teams.