It is finally here Jaguars fans. Blaine Gabbert is making his first NFL start Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Now, this has the potential to be a telltale game for the Jaguars, and not just because of Gabbert. The defense will have its hands full trying to contain a very potent Panthers offense.
The Panthers have two big play wide receivers in Steve Smith and Brandon Lafell, a stellar running duo featuring DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart, and not to mention Cam Newton behind center. Newton is the type of quarterback that can give the Jaguars defense a whole mess of problems on Sunday. Not only do they have to worry about him running, but also if the defense tries to rush and get him in the backfield he can throw the ball to a speedy Steve Smith just as easily. This will be a true test of the Jaguars defense, which has played solid through two games.
Newton, who has impressed us all by throwing for 854 yards in just two games, will no doubt be looking to make big plays against the Jaguars. And while the defense has been solid, they have given up big gains this season. Jack Del Rio is hoping that starting Dwight Lowery in place of Courtney Greene at free safety will help eliminate those big plays. It should also help that the Jaguars will get Derek Cox back after missing last week’s game due to a chest injury.
All eyes will be on Gabbert though, as Jaguars fans impatiently wait for a proven franchise quarterback, and maybe, somebody who is capable of throwing deep once or twice a game, instead of once or twice a season. Although Newton is having a rookie season for the books, it is highly doubtful that Gabbert will post the same numbers, not necessarily because of his skill, but because of the coaching staff.
Jack Del Rio and Dirk Koetter have already stated that the offense will remain conservative with Gabbert at the helm, no doubt to let him get “comfortable”. He is not going to get comfortable throwing by handing the ball off. Let him set up in the pocket and throw the ball around, let him read the defense. That is how he is going to progress. If the offense goes conservative in this game it will be their downfall, they will have to keep up with Cam Newton and company to win. If they open up the playbook, which I think will happen, they have a legitimate shot at winning, 31-28.