EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Here's what you want from this editorial: An answer.
Here's when you want it:
Well, sorry. Not yet. Not quite.
Even with Blaine Gabbert's eye-catching performance in New York on Saturday night, even after the third-year quarterback looked more poised, accurate and in control than he has in any other game in his three NFL seasons, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said it wasn't time to make a decision on the preseason storyline that has dominated all others.
Gabbert? Chad Henne?
Who will start at quarterback in the regular-season opener? Just where does this whole thing stand?
Bradley wasn't giving that answer yet. Not yet. Not quite.
I think we need to take a look at the film and watch all the quarterbacks and how they handled themselves," Bradley said after a 37-13 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium Saturday.
That was what Bradley said when asked if Gabbert had moved ahead of Henne in the battle – a classic, late-night, post-preseason game answer. And that's exactly what he should have given.
Saturday night wasn't the time.
But here's what Saturday did do: It made the argument for Gabbert stronger. Much stronger. The Jaguars started Gabbert a second consecutive game Saturday, a move that surprised many and angered some fans who wanted Henne to start. But Bradley said upon making the announcement last week that he wanted to give Gabbert a chance at extensive time with the first team Saturday, a chance for significant repetitions after he had just 17 last week.
Gabbert got 30 plays against the Jets, and you know what he did? He responded.
He led a touchdown drive on the Jaguars' first series, completed four of four passes for 71 yards as he did it. He capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown to tight end Allen Reisner, and set up the touchdown with a 35-yard pass to Ace Sanders and a 20-yard pass to Maurice Jones-Drew.
The next series, Gabbert was equally impressive.
The drive covered 75 yards. It took 17 plays. Gabbert completed 7 of 9 passes, with three for 37 yards going to second-year wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who played for the first time this preseason and showed again why his presence is critical to the offense.
Blackmon can turn short passes into first downs, and he is a reliable, big target who makes a quarterback's decisions on third downs easier. He did that once on the 75-yard drive, and kicker Josh Scobee capped that drive with a 23-yard field goal to make it 10-10.
Gabbert left the game after three series with a sprained thumb, though he would have left the game at that time for Henne anyway and Bradley said afterward he didn't believe the injury was serious.
Henne, who outperformed Gabbert statistically last week, played the rest of the second quarter and into the third.
And this time, he did not outperform Gabbert.
He completed 4 of 10 passes for 30 yards and the interception he threw to linebacker Danny Lansanah helped the Jets turn a three-point deficit into a 27-13 lead.
When will Bradley make a decision?
The sense here is may come sooner, rather than later. Maybe this week – yes, before preseason Week 3. That's a guess, but the timing would make sense, with Week 3 being a dress rehearsal in which the starting unit will play into the second half.
If there's a chance in the preseason for a starting unit to get timing together, Week 3 is it. But that is a question for the coming days, and for Saturday night, there were more storylines than simply the quarterback issue that has dominated Jaguars media the last few weeks.
There was the 2013 debut of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who rushed for nine yards on three carries, and who looked close to regular-season ready before leaving after one series.
And there was the 2013 debut, too, of Blackmon, who didn't start but who showed what coaches wanted to see. And there was the NFL debut of Johnathan Cyprien, a rookie safety who started and struggled at times, but who should improve with experience and repetitions.
Of course, there was the second half, too. The Jaguars were sloppy throughout, and the turnover trend that began with four in the preseason opener continued with three in Week 2. That, to Bradley, is unacceptable.
Unacceptable, too, were 12 penalties for 100 yards.
But really, what happened after the second quarter wasn't the story for the Jaguars Saturday. The second half of preseason games usually aren't the story.
The story was the first three series, and the story was a first-team offense – and a quarterback – that looked very good. And they did so missing three starters, wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, right tackle Luke Joeckel and tight end Marcedes Lewis. Yes, he looked good at times as last preseason, but this was different. It wasn't the regular season, but it was impressive however you looked at it.
What did it mean? That remains to be seen, but did it make the argument for Gabbert a little stronger? No question. What it didn't mean was that a decision was made.
Not yet. Not quite.