The confidence in Blaine Gabbert remains high.
Brad Meester said that's true not only when it comes to how Gabbert feels about himself, but how his teammates feel about the Jaguars' rookie quarterback.
Have there been struggles this season? Has there been criticism?
Has the record been disappointing?
Yes to all of the above, but Meester – the Jaguars' center and longest-tenured player – and other veterans said this week that after six games with Gabbert starting they remains convinced the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft is destined to be an elite-level quarterback.
"I think he has done a great job," Meester said this week as the Jaguars went through a pair of bye-week practices at their practice fields outside EverBank Field. "He's a tremendous quarterback in a lot of ways."
With the Jaguars 2-6 at the bye week and having slipped three games behind Houston in the AFC South, there are many questions at the midway point of the season.
Most surround an offense that ranks 32nd in the NFL.
And with the passing offense also ranking No. 32 in the NFL, a lot of the questions specifically surround Gabbert, who has started the last six games.
The Jaguars are 1-5 in those games, and Gabbert has completed 79 of 173 passes for 907 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions.
But while Gabbert is the NFL's lowest-rated passer, teammates were unanimous this week that not only do they believe he is the team's quarterback of the future, but that through six starts he has shown the qualities it will take to improve and develop into a winning NFL starter.
"I think Blaine has handled himself very well," Jaguars veteran wide receiver Mike Thomas said. "He hasn't wavered. His mindset has been to come out and make plays, make the throws. His passion is still there from my eyes. When he misses a throw, he cusses himself out. He's been like that since Day 1.
"This thing we're going through as an offense, it takes time. You just can't throw things together and expect it to grow. You'd like it to happen like that, but when it doesn't, I think it's easier for people to sit back and not realize you can't throw it together and expect it to work."
Meester said Gabbert has shown poise in his approach – and most importantly, in the huddle – throughout the season.
"For a rookie to do that is an impressive thing to do," Meester said. "A lot of times it takes guys years to come with that type of confidence in the huddle. He comes in with great confidence – humble, but with great confidence.
"No matter the situation we're faced with it. We had tough games when we were down, and he still came in there, fired us up and got the group going. That's what you want out of your quarterback and out of your leaders."
Meester said the approach goes beyond the field.
"He's constantly in here watching film on Tuesdays and in the morning," Meester said. "He's always finding ways to get better, finding ways to correct himself. That takes a special guy right there, to do that type of stuff.
"He's doing all the right things. That's what I really like about him."
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said the schedule can't be overlooked. The Jaguars in October played the No. 1- (Baltimore), No. 2- (Pittsburgh), No. 3- (Houston) and No. 4- (Cincinnati) ranked defenses in the NFL.
Jones-Drew also said Gabbert has not been helped by the rest of the offensive skill players, who at times have dropped passes that could have been caught.
"The guy is a fighter," Jones-Drew said. "I feel like we need to win more to build his confidence up more, but he's a very confident guy, He trusts his arm. We have to do a better job catching the ball around him. He's not backing down. He's fighting.
"He's going to keep doing his thing. We have to keep up with him and make sure we're making him look good at the end of the day. "
Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis spoke highly of Gabbert through the first half of the season, and he is more certain of Gabbert's future after six games than he was early.
"It gets better every day," Lewis said. "He puts a lot of pressure on himself, as does everybody on the whole offense. He's a fast learner, and once he gets it all, lookout. That's just who he is. We're going to continue to go through all the pains together. We're going to be here for a while."
Lewis has said throughout the season he firmly believes Gabbert will be elite.
"He can be awesome," Lewis said.
Lewis was asked to expand.
"First of all, he has all the tools to be awesome, but the intangibles – the mindset, he wants to be great," Lewis said. "He puts more pressure on himself than anybody else could. I know that, because that's how I am. It's one of those things: we all recognize real. If somebody real walks into the building, you recognize it. I see that in him."
Thomas said he sees it, too, and said while Gabbert must improve, there's little doubt among his teammates that that improvement will happen.
"Blaine has done everything he's supposed to do for a rookie," Thomas said. "He has done some great things and he knows he has some things he needs to work on, as we all do – receivers, down the board. We'll stay in it and see what we can get out of it.
"You look around and regardless of what's going on, you feel like you're going to be all right because our quarterback, he gets it. He knows he has to improve before we all can improve. Him being the ringleader of our group, he understands that and he has the right mindset. With that, you can always plan on getting better."