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Focusing on Gabbert


All in all, Bob Bratkowski liked what he saw.

Bratkowski, who was announced late last week as the Jaguars' new offensive coordinator, days before that had taken his first extensive look at Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Bratkowski, then the quarterbacks coach of the Atlanta Falcons, did so at the request of Mike Mularkey, the Falcons' offensive coordinator who was headed to Jacksonville to interview for the head coaching position.

Bratkowski watched three games of Gabbert's rookie season, and said Friday – during his first extended conversation with Jacksonville media – he had a general idea he was watching a player with whom he could be working closely for the foreseeable future.

His initial impression of Gabbert? There is talent, a lot of it, and yes, progress can be made.

Bratkowski, too, said this:

That progress won't come in one film session, one conversation, or maybe even in one off-season.

"This whole process is not going to take weeks and days and months," said Bratkowski, a 20-year NFL coaching veteran who spent 10 seasons as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati.

"It may be a year. It may be a year and a half. There will be progress, but getting to the level I'm sure he wants to be is going to take time and it's going to take a lot of hard work on his part."

Bratkowski, 56, spoke on a day when the Jaguars continued to add to their coaching staff. Sylvester Croom, the head coach at Mississippi State from 2004-08 and the St. Louis Rams' running backs coach the past three seasons, joined the staff as running backs coach. That came a day after Mularkey announced that Greg Olson will be the quarterbacks coach.

Olson will play a key role in Gabbert's development, because while Bratkowski will be in meetings and while he and Mularkey each will have appropriate input, Bratkowski said, "Greg has to be the voice."

"Greg's going to be the guy," he said.

Olsen, who spent the last three seasons as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator, also served as offensive coordinator with Detroit in 2005 and St. Louis in 2006-2007.

"He's going to be a coordinator in the league again real soon," Bratkowski said. "He's going to do a great job with our quarterback. He's very detailed."

Bratkowski said the coming weeks will be spent discussing the steps that need to be taken with Gabbert, and, "As soon as we're able to get that done and we can get them together, we'll get started."

Bratkowski said while he, Olson and Mularkey all have experience developing quarterbacks – and while all will work with Gabbert – the development of Gabbert ultimately will depend on Gabbert. Asked the most important person in the development of a young quarterback, he replied:

"The young quarterback."

He added, "He's going to be given things to do, to work on. Now, he's got to go do them. He's got to work at it. . . . A lot of those things will fall on his shoulders. If he wants to reach that level I'm sure he wants to, there's a lot of work to do."

While Gabbert can receive a playbook immediately, neither he nor any Jaguars player can begin working with coaches until the start of the off-season program in April. Gabbert, like all NFL rookies, did not begin working with coaches last season until the beginning of training camp.

"Compared to last year, when we had the lockout, there can be a lot of stuff you can get done," Bratkowski said. "It was really unfair to all of those rookies who came in last year, not having the ability to get their feet wet before training camp. It will be a big help and I'm sure he'll be much more comfortable going into this year's training camp than he was last year."

Bratkowski said he planned to talk to Gabbert Friday.

"I'm anxious to find out about his personality," he said. "There are a lot of things that make a quarterback successful – his leadership skills, his ability to think quickly on his feet. As we go through time, we'll find out where Blaine is in that area."

Bratkowski was asked about the Jaguars signing a veteran quarterback to help work with Gabbert. Bratkowski said veteran Jon Kitna played a key developmental role for Carson Palmer when Bratkowski was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati.

"I'm not sure where we're at with that at this point, but to have that other set of eyes that would help him in his development could help him as well," Bratkowski said. "We'll look at that as we move forward. It's one thing for a coach to say it, but another player (is different)."

Bratkowski said because Atlanta had Matt Ryan he didn't watch Gabbert extensively coming out of college last off-season. The three games he watched at Mularkey's request marked his first extensive viewing of the young quarterback and he said while Gabbert is a "very talented guy" with a "strong arm" and "good mobility," there also are "obviously some technique things" on which he must work.

One particular area is dropping back in the pocket, something Bratkowski said Gabbert seldom did playing a spread offense in college.

"Any time you spend as much time in the shotgun as he did in college, there's a transition into making the three-, five- and seven-step drops," he said. "It's not natural and it takes a lot of work."

Bratkowski also addressed an issue many observers locally and nationally have discussed, that of Gabbert's presence in the pocket. He said what many around the Jaguars have said this season – that while Gabbert must improve the area, that improvement can come with coaching, experience, and with a better feel for what it happening around him.

"I think it can be coached," Bratkowski said. "I think you have to work on it. You have to drill it. A quarterback has to be able to trust what the line up front is doing and what the backs are doing. If he gets to that level, you can work with the techniques of him pushing up in the pocket.

"It's really a sixth sense as well. There are going to be times when it breaks down and there's a flash of color and he has to get out of there. It's a sixth sense, but it comes with experience.

"We can work on it and we'll get some things done."

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