When the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up in the first round of April's draft to select quarterback Blaine Gabbert, it was clear that he would be the future of the franchise. With former starter David Garrard's poor play in practice and preseason, it was very easy for the team to try and accelerate Gabbert's development by playing him early.
Rookie mistakes are expected with any player, especially at the quarterback position. Even some of the all-time greats struggled early as Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions as a rookie, his brother Eli tossed nine picks in seven starts and Troy Aikman led the Cowboys to a 1-15 record his rookie season.
Blaine Gabbert has started six games and if you judge him statistically, he's one of the worst quarterbacks in football. Gabbert has completed just 45.2 percent of his throws for 907 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. Those numbers aren't atrocious for a rookie but it appears that Gabbert is somewhat regressing.
In Gabbert's first victory last Monday against Baltimore, he threw for just 93 yards while completing just 9 of 20 passes and taking five sacks.
"I thought he was making steady progress and he went up against a top end defense (Baltimore) and he regressed a little bit," Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said.
"He did what he had to do. We won the game. He didn't turn the ball over and you would expect a rookie quarterback to be inconsistent at times. We felt like we had been seeing steady improvement, but we felt like he took a little bit of a step back fundamentally. You can say maybe that's somewhat to be expected from a rookie, but it's not necessarily acceptable. He knows that. I'm not saying anything he already doesn't know," Koetter added.
Playing against a lesser Houston Texans defense on Sunday, Gabbert had his worst game of the season as he connected on just 10 of 30 throws for 97 yards with one touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Gabbert's rating was a career low 26.7.
“We expect to come in and succeed," Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert said when asked if his struggles are typical because he's a rookie. "That’s an excuse, and I don’t like to use an excuse.
“Those are for weak people.”
Nobody expects Blaine Gabbert to look like a Pro Bowl quarterback as a rookie and nobody expects him to carry a bad Jaguars team to the playoffs, but the rest of his rookie class is showing more promise early on.
First-overall pick Cam Newton is completing better than 60 percent of his passes and is averaging nearly 300 yards passing per game. Newton has accounted for 18 touchdowns with just 11 turnovers. Second round pick Andy Dalton isn't on pace to break any records, but he is completing better than 62 percent of his tosses with more touchdowns than interceptions. Most importantly, Dalton has helped Cincinnati to a 5-2 start when they won just four games all of 2010.
"We didn't have to go far to surpass last year, unfortunately," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said.
The Minnesota Vikings just made the switch to rookie Christian Ponder and Ponder has led the team to 51 points in two games including a victory. Ponder's stats are mediocre- 51.9 percent completions, with three touchdowns and two interceptions but the team has been more competitive and the offense is scoring points.
The book should be far from closed on Blaine Gabbert after just six starts. He has considerably less weapons than the other rookie quarterbacks and the Jaguars line play has been poor. Still, Gabbert needs to improve significantly if the Jaguars are going to win some football games.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie