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A glipse of the future


That's not easy, but it's the best approach entering the Jaguars' game Sunday against Carolina – and for the rest of the season, for that matter. I'm not suggesting to take your fan hat completely off this season and forget about the post-season. The Jaguars aren't doing that because of the move to start rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, and neither should fans.

Still, this is going to be a process and a process means highs and lows. Certainly, it is going to be fascinating and fun to watch. But part of the process will be frustration, too. We know this. Let's keep it in the front of our minds as long as possible.

The mood around the team?

That there is just as much of a chance at the post-season with Gabbert as with the other two quarterbacks who have been in the mix the last two months, and that if things break right – and that if Gabbert develops at a rapid pace – there's a chance for something special.

Rookie quarterbacks have had big seasons, and there are cases such as Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco in which rookie quarterbacks have led teams to playoff appearances.

Maybe that will happen, though the above-mentioned instances are the rare exceptions to a far more wide-reaching rule.

What's more likely, as I have written often this week, is a sometimes-frustrating, sometimes-euphoric mix of good and bad. Gabbert's arm could very well mean a big play or two that give the Jaguars a victory few expected. The reverse is true and from a historical perspective, more likely.

And remember:

Mistakes Sunday and the rest of the season don't mean Gabbert can't play. It means he made a mistake. It's how he learns from them, how he handles himself, how he continues to lead and develop that matter far more than the immediate result.

But enough preaching and preparing already.

Overall, I like the mood of the fans who have written this week. Many have talked of the energy they feel for the team. You can feel that same energy among players this week. A young quarterback with potential does that to an organization. Those same fans have talked about having patience, about not worrying about mistakes, about wanting to see a glimpse of the future.

That's easier written in September than believed in November, but I hope that's how it plays out.

Speaking of which, I don't know how the season will play out. No idea. The Jaguars have an improved roster that is capable of being very competitive and making a playoff push if it gets good quarterback play. It also is true that quarterback play is important enough to make an improving roster look decidedly unimproved.

That's the great unknown facing the Jaguars Sunday, and the rest of the season. But it's the unknown that makes the NFL fun – that, and a young quarterback with potential.

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy – easier written than believed though it may be – and take a look at these 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat Carolina Sunday:

1.Protect the passer.It's always critical. Never more so than with a rookie starting quarterback.

2.Let the kid throw.Gabbert's strength for now is the ability to make passes most quarterbacks can't make. Put him in the position to make them.

3.Pressure and contain.Cam Newton must be pressured, but you can't let him outside the pocket, either. The Jaguars' defensive tackles need to disrupt from the interior.

4.Get Charles Johnson blocked.The Panthers' defensive end is a force.  Eugene Monroe needs to keep him off Gabbert.

5.Play through the mistakes. Gabbert is going to make mistakes. This team's defense is good enough to keep the Jaguars in the game in spite of them.

6.Limit the big plays.Newton has made a stunning number of plays downfield. The Jaguars need to pressure Newton up front to take pressure off the secondary.

7.Limit turnovers.Except for turnovers, the Jaguars had a chance to beat the Jets Sunday. It's hard to "except" four turnovers.

8.Channel the energy.Gabbert is the new face of the franchise, and there's a feeling in the locker room that this move was inevitable. Time to settle in and play.

9.Take advantage of mistakes.Newton threw three interceptions last week. Turn his errors into points.

10.Run Mo-Jo.Always critical and that doesn't change this week. The Jaguars need to open up the offense. If they do, that will make Jones-Drew even more effective. 

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