Gabbert and Blackmon's Careers Will Be Tied

Gabbert and Blackmon's Careers Will Be Tied

With significant pressure to improve the passing game, Blaine Gabbert will have to get on the same page with Justin Blackmon. The two have already begun to bond.

One of the first players to greet Justin Blackmon when he arrived at the Jacksonville Jaguars facility a day after the team selected him as the fifth overall pick of the college draft, was quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Jaguars fans and team officials are hoping that's the first of many such hookups between the team's quarterback of the future and now the most promising Jaguars wide receiver since the days of Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith.

Gabbert and Blackmon spent most of the morning together, sharing their experience of being a top 10 draft pick by the Jaguars and with Gabbert giving Blackmon a tour of the facilities. Gabbert went at the No. 10 spot the year before and could have used someone like Blackmon during the 2011 season.

Jacksonville receivers rarely posed a threat to opponent's secondaries as the Jaguars passing attack ranked dead last in the NFL last year. Leading receiver Mike Thomas caught a paltry 44 passes, not even an average of three catches per game.

So it's not surprising that Gabbert was on the lookout for Blackmon's arrival at the facility that day.

"Now I'm the guy who's already played a year in the NFL, but I'm expected to teach the young guys, even though he's my age," Gabbert said later in the day. "He (Blackmon) is going to come in and he's going to be just fine. It's going to be fun to get him in here throughout the OTAs and the mini-camp."

In 16 NFL games last year, Jaguars wide receivers combined to catch 121 passes. In 12 regular-season games plus an appearance at the Fiesta Bowl, Blackmon caught a total of 111 passes after making 122 catches the year before.

Jaguars receivers coach Jerry Sullivan will be the first to coach Blackmon at the professional level. He's eager to get his new pupil out on the field.

"I think he's got confidence and has a swagger about him," Sullivan said. "When he was at the combine, I introduced him to Michael Irvin. Michael and I are friends. Michael played the game with a lot of intensity and love of the game and great swagger.

"I think this kid has got some of those innate characteristics of guys that play the game really well."

Blackmon considers that a fair assessment of his talent. He was arguably the best receiver in college football the last two years, becoming just the second player ever to be back-to-back winners of the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation's premier wide receiver.

With 233 receptions in his final two seasons at Oklahoma State, he easily could have been the school's all-time leading receiver had he stayed and played his senior season instead of opting for the NFL.

He certainly isn't lacking for any self-confidence. After being told that Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said he felt that Blackmon thinks he can't be covered and that he likes that edge, Blackmon concurred with that rationale.

"I think that's the kind of mindset that you have to have when you're competing the way we compete," he said. "With that mindset, you're always thinking about knowing no one can stop you and you can only improve."

By trading up two spots in the draft with Tampa Bay, the Jaguars were able to frustrate an old nemesis, former Tennessee coach and current St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher. The Rams were expected to take Blackmon with the No. 6 overall pick before the Jaguars made the trade with the Bucs to move into the No. 5 spot.

One report said that when it was announced in the Rams war room that the Jaguars had acquired Blackmon in a trade at the No. 5 spot, Fisher reportedly slammed his eyeglasses onto the table and uttered an expletive.

Jaguars fans are hoping their new wide receiver causes similar frustrations to opposing team defenders this fall.

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