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A clean slate

Posted Feb 12, 2013

New Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff enters with no preconceived notions about QB Blaine Gabbert

These days, Gus Bradley is about positives and competition.

Little surprise, then, that when the Jaguars’ new head coach and several members of the coaching staff met with the media Tuesday, conversation around Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert was tightly within that context.

Gabbert will face plenty of competition this offseason.

But he absolutely has plenty of positives.

“I know they (Jaguars coaches) are excited about some things they’ve seen on tape,” Bradley said of Gabbert during a brief meeting with the media Tuesday afternoon at EverBank Field.

“We’re excited about the development he has. There’s going to be competition for every position on our team. That’s the best thing we can do for this organization. As a team, that’s how we’re going to improve.”

Moments earlier, Jaguars quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo called Gabbert a player blessed with “a lot of good tools.”

“Physically, there’s nothing he can’t do on the football field,” Scelfo said. “I haven’t been able to talk football with him, so we have to figure out where he is and what we have to get him to. If there were issues, then we have to overcome those.”

Scelfo also reiterated a point made by Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell in recent weeks – that Gabbert not only remains one of the youngest quarterbacks in the NFL, there are multiple quarterbacks projected to go early in the 2013 NFL Draft who were in the same high school class as Gabbert.

Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel and North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon, each of whom are projected to be drafted in April, graduated high school in 2008, the same year as Gabbert. Scelfo said Monday if Gabbert were entering the draft this year he likely would be the first quarterback – and perhaps one of the first players – selected.

“This is his draft class,” Scelfo said. “If he would be coming out, with the quarterback class the way it is, would he be the top guy taken? I think the answer would be yes. If you asked scouting departments and general managers around the league, I think you’d end up with a yes on that.”

Gabbert has struggled at times in his first two seasons, completing 210 of 413 passes for 2,214 yards and 12 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 14 starts as a rookie and 162-of-278 passes for 1,662 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions in 10 starts last season.

“You all have an opinion formed based on two years,” Scelfo said. “I don’t have an opinion. My vision of him is not skewed one way or the other. He has the motivation inside to be successful, which means he’s going to be a hard-working guy. It’s easy for me to look at him and be comfortable with who he is.”

Bradley said while some head coaches have assistants compile tapes of players’ bad plays upon taking over teams, he took the opposite approach, having assistants compile good play tapes.

“I felt like we should take the opposite approach,” Bradley said. “Let’s see his good play tape. Let’s see what he does well and how we can make him better. I wanted them to start off getting excited about the guys we have in our locker room and our team, and to really challenge these guys and make these guys better.

Along those lines, Bradley said he is impressed with Gabbert’s arm strength and that he has played well in stretches – such as a season-opening loss to Minnesota this past season. He also said he has heard positives about Gabbert’s ability as a leader, and that the coaching staff will try to improve Gabbert in those areas of strength.

Scelfo said he likes Gabbert as a person, and said he can only judge him based on tape. Because he doesn’t know what Gabbert was being asked to do, he said it’s difficult to yet judge him as a quarterback or a decision-maker.

“I don’t know what he was being told,” Scelfo said. “He might have been told the right things and was doing the wrong things. He might have been told something differently than what we’re going to tell him. He might have been at a point in his life where he was immature and hopefully, that maturity will come through as this season builds and grows. There are so many factors that go into a quarterback’s development.

“There never has been a guy who has been defined in the first two years about who he’s going to be for the rest of his career. My challenge to Blaine is ‘don’t let the last two years define what your career is going to end up being.’’’

Bradley on Tuesday also said:

*The Jaguars’ aggressive philosophy on defense could help the pass rush, though not necessarily by blitzing extensively. The team finished with a league-low 20 sacks this past season. “Pass rush is important,” he said. “We talked earlier about creating a defense that’s extremely aggressive. Sometimes, people perceive that aggressive means blitz-happy. That may not be exactly what we’re talking about.” Bradley said aggressiveness may mean more press-technique from cornerbacks. “That’s more aggressive in nature by a defense,” he said. “When you do that, the quarterback generally has to hold the ball a little bit longer. Because of that, rush becomes a little more important. You get opportunities for the rush to get going.”

*He expects the defensive transition to be smooth, with the emphasis this season on a 4-3 scheme. He said as the Jaguars acquire more personnel to play a hybrid front, the team should play more 3-4 technique. “We’re going to try to be unique, and we’ll have some 4-3, 3-4 principles based on our personnel we’d like to eventually get to,” he said. “A lot will be based on personnel.”

*Bradley said one reason he felt comfortable taking the Jaguars’ position was a connection with Owner Shad Khan about the correct approach in the short-term. “I think last year he felt like maybe there was a time this team had the potential to be really good,” Bradley said. “I think now he understands that it might be more of a process. When he asked me my philosophy, and we talked about trying to eliminate as many distractions as we can, and just allow an environment where players really feel like they can get better, he said, ‘Gus, that’s really what I’m looking for. I just want to see this organization get better, this team get better.’  So, I think there’s some patience there with our owner. Obviously, we all want to get to that level where we’re winning with a consistent rate. We have that in the back of our minds, but not at the expense of our true vision, which is enabling players to get better.”

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