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Jaguars QB Gabbert welcomes new season, raised expectations

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Associated Press
4/2/2012 5:40:57 PM
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert reviewed each of his plays from last season, dissecting clips from what he called an "outsider's point of view."

As it turned out, his opinion was fairly similar to everyone else's.

Gabbert realizes he needs to make progress.

"There's always a bunch of things you'd like to do differently," Gabbert said Monday, the first day of the team's off-season program. "You're going to make mistakes throughout the season. You just have to try to limit those mistakes."

Gabbert's mistakes were analyzed and scrutinized like no others in the organization.

He got few breaks for being the youngest quarterback in the NFL, for having arguably the league's worst receiving corps or for getting thrown into the starting role two weeks into the regular season.

Instead, he got the brunt of the blame for a 5-11 season that included a lame-duck coaching staff and a strange quarterback change days before the opener.

"Some of the criticism was pretty intense," Gabbert said. "You're always going to get criticized; people need something to talk about. When the coaches say I'm doing fine, I trust their opinion because that's the only one that matters. You can't worry about what everybody is saying about your game. You've just got to focus on the things that you can control and the things you can improve on."

Gabbert and the Jaguars have plenty of room for improvement.

The Jaguars ranked last in the NFL in total offence in 2011, scoring 14 or fewer points in 10 games. Gabbert completed 50.8 per cent of his passes for 2,214 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and was sacked a whopping 40 times.

Maybe more troubling for the former Missouri standout is that fellow rookies Cam Newton (Carolina) and Andy Dalton (Cincinnati) looked better than Gabbert did last season.

But key people inside Jacksonville's football facility -- owner Shad Khan, general manager Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey -- insist Gabbert is their guy for now and for the future.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to work with him," Mularkey said. "I'd like to give him a chance with some of the things we're going to hopefully help him do. We feel like we can help him develop his talents. There's a lot that he does very well and we just need to get that to be a consistent thing."

The Jaguars believe a full off-season and a revamped receiving corps will work wonders for Gabbert.

The team signed former Dallas Cowboys receiver Laurent Robinson in free agency and is expected to add another wideout early in the NFL draft.

Gabbert welcomed the latest addition.

"We added another weapon to this offence, another big target to make plays for us," he said. "That's crucial. You need people on the outside to make plays, and he had a great year last year in Dallas, scored a lot of touchdowns, and he's looking to do that again this year for us."

After a tumultuous rookie season in which his head coach was fired and the team was sold, Gabbert left Jacksonville shortly after the season. He returned early last month and spent the last three weeks working out in Pensacola. He stayed in contact with Mularkey, and for good reason.

The Jaguars signed former Miami Dolphins starter Chad Henne to be Gabbert's backup. The move raised eyebrows, especially when Mularkey said Henne would compete for the starting job.

"I trust Gene Smith and Mike Mularkey's word that if they say I'm the starting quarterback, then I'm the starting quarterback," Gabbert said. "That's good enough for me. That doesn't mean that I don't have to go out there and work hard and compete every day. This business is competitive. You have to perform on a daily basis. That's how it should be and that's how it will be."

The Jaguars tried to shake up the quarterback situation even more by trying to trade for former Florida star Tim Tebow. Jacksonville looked like it was going to swoop in and land Tebow, but he ended up with the New York Jets.

"There was so much talk going around that you didn't know what was the truth," Gabbert said. "It's not really worth stressing out over. At the end of the day, you can't control it one way or another."

The thing Gabbert can control now is getting better.

"My expectations are definitely higher this year," Gabbert said. "I have a full off-season ahead of me and a great coaching staff. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together."

Blaine Gabbert (Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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