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Focused on the positive

Posted Dec 6, 2011

Tucker on Gabbert: 'I'm not at all disappointed with where he’s going'

A day later, Mel Tucker said there must be improvement.

But while that was true of Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the aftermath of a prime-time loss on Monday night, Tucker – a week into his stint as Jaguars interim coach – on Tuesday afternoon said he preferred to focus on the better areas.

And yes, Tucker said, there were better areas.

 “There were very positive signs and he did some good things,” Tucker said day after the Jaguars’ 38-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers at EverBank Field on Monday night.

Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, on Monday started his 10th NFL game.

The Jaguars are 2-8 in those games, and Gabbert has completed 147 of 297 passes for 1,566 yards and eight touchdowns with seven interceptions.

Early on Monday, Gabbert played his best half of the season, completing 11 of 15 passes for 139 yards, and throwing touchdowns passes of nine and five yards to running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver Cecil Shorts, respectively.

Late in the first half, however, he threw a long pass down the middle to wide receiver Mike Thomas that was tipped and intercepted by Chargers safety Eric Weddle. That led to a touchdown that gave San Diego a 24-14 halftime lead.

Gabbert finished by completing 19 of 33 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, and in the second half, he completed 8 of 18 passes for 56 yards.

“Blaine did some good things,” Tucker said. “He completed some balls, and moved the team down the field. He had real good poise and was in a rhythm. I thought that was huge. It did get away from us right before the half.”

Overall, Tucker said Gabbert made correct decisions much of the night.

“You ask a quarterback if it’s not here, throw it away, or if it’s not there and you have to run it, run it,” Tucker said. “He’s going to misfire from time to time and he did that. I counted three times when we needed to probably have a better throw there. That’s going to happen, but from a progress standpoint, we did see that last night. I think it is very recognizable.”

“I’m not at all disappointed in where he’s going and the progress he’s making. He’s showing the willingness to put the work in and I think he has tremendous support from his teammates. He needs to get better and we need to get better around him. We will stay the course.”

The Jaguars, who have lost nine of 11 games since a season-opening victory, took a 14-10 lead on San Diego after a sluggish start, but Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers exploited an injury- depleted Jaguars secondary for 294 yards and three touchdowns.

The three touchdowns all came in a five-minute span late in the second and early in the third quarters.

In the days after Tucker took over for Jack Del Rio as head coach last week, players spoke of the difference in Tucker’s practice and of their tempo and pace.

“We had some very, very up-tempo practice, and I did think it carried over to the game,” Tucker said. “I just did not carry over as consistently as we’d like.”

Tucker said continuing that will be a focus in the coming weeks.

“It all works together,” Tucker said. “In order to have an effective offense or an effective defense, everyone has to be on the same page, operating at a high level. That’s why it’s important for us to work at a high level, up tempo, full speed, as much as we can in practice. That way we can take it to the game.

“The more you do that, the more results you’ll see on a consistent basis in games.”

Also on Tuesday:

*The Jaguars placed defensive end John Chick on injured reserve with a knee injury sustained Monday, and waived tight end Fendi Onobun. The team also officially claimed wide receiver Taylor Price off waivers and signed safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to the active roster.

*The Jaguars also waived safety Matt Estrada from the practice squad and signed linebacker Kevin Malast to the practice squad.

*Tucker said he believes safety Dwight Lowery “is going to be OK” after missing the second half Monday with a shoulder injury. He also said defensive ends Matt Roth (concussion) and Aaron Kampman (hamstring) likely will be day to day this week.

*Tucker said he doesn’t plan for now to move nickel back Drew Coleman to one of the two outside starting cornerback roles. “The role Drew has for us suits us best right now,” Tucker said. “He does have the ability to go out there if we feel like that’s what we need him to do. I feel pretty comfortable with how we’re playing the guys right now.” Tucker didn’t commit to starting cornerback Ashton Youboty, but said he is comfortable with Youboty.

*Tucker said tight end Marcedes Lewis “did a nice job in the passing game,” catching three passes for 27 yards. “He was where he was supposed to be,” Tucker said. “The ball was delivered on time and he was able to catch it and get some run after the catch with some violent finish. He always doe s a great job in the run game and that was no different.”

*Tucker said the pass rush was better than he originally thought despite not registering a sack. “We didn’t get the sacks, but we did have some pressures,” Tucker said. “Several times we were able get him off the spot. We were able to get him to alter some throws, and then we actually hit him a few times as well. But obviously we didn’t finish with sacks and we need to get more rush.” Tucker said a priority is improving on first- and second-down pass rush. “Once we realize it’s pass, we have to convert into pass rush mode during that play,” Tucker said. “We have to get some push on the pocket and get a level rush outside. First- and second-down pass rush is going to be huge for us and we have to be able to get a rush with four guys.”

*Tucker said he liked what he saw from wide receiver Cecil Shorts returning kicks, and called the rookie “a bright spot.” Shorts averaged 21 yards on three kickoff returns. “He got to the ball, and he hit it up in there with some velocity,” Tucker said. Tucker also said veteran Mike Thomas did a good job fielding punts on the fly. “That was a point of emphasis throughout the week,” Tucker said.

*Tucker said rookie free agent Kevin Rutland for the most part played well in his first start. He said he had good coverage on a play on which he gave up a second-quarter touchdown, but he “just wasn’t able to win one on one. Obviously, it was a learning experience for him. I see upside with Rut. I think the arrow is up on him.”

*Tucker discussed an interception late in the first half, a play on which Gabbert threw to Mike Thomas. The pass was tipped and Chargers safety Eric Weddle intercepted. “I think the timing was a little off on both ends of the deal,” Tucker said. “It just resulted in a negative play. I don’t think it’s a thing where you can place blame either way. So many times when you look at a play, offensively or defensively, it’s usually more than one guy. We weren’t sharp and crisp on that play. When you’re going against good players who are playing fast those things happen.”

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