When it comes to the Jaguars' new starting quarterback, Dirk Koetter said reality is pretty simple.
He is talented. He can make every throw necessary. And he is now the guy.
Koetter, the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, said while all of that is true – and while one of Blaine Gabbert's strengths is obviously a very special right arm – it also remains true that the 2011 first-round draft selection is still very much a rookie entering his first professional start.
"It's his first start in the NFL," Koetter said Thursday as the Jaguars (1-1) prepared to play the Carolina Panthers (0-2) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We're not going to come out there and run the triple option out of the spread. Now like any quarterback, as he gains experience and he plays more we'll do more things that tailor to him, but right now we're just going to run the things we think are best against Carolina."
Gabbert, the No. 10 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, took over the starting job Wednesday for Luke McCown, who started the first two games of the season before throwing four interceptions Sunday in a 32-3 loss to the New York Jets.
Gabbert played the fourth quarter of the Jets loss, completing 5 of 6 passes for 52 yards, and while it has been reported in recent days that the Jaguars will do more offensively – such as throwing downfield more – with him at quarterback, Koetter said the offensive game planning hasn't changed.
"To me we're just running our offense and that's the honest truth," Koetter said. "We're running the same offense we'd be running against Carolina no matter who the quarterback was. . . .
"It's not like we have to start over and reinvent the wheel here. You're running your offensive system; our offensive system starts with our run game and we did a good job of sticking to that in the Tennessee game (a 16-14 victory in the regular-season opener)."
Koetter said he perhaps strayed from the run too quickly facing a large deficit against the Jets in a 32-3 loss this past week, and that doing so made it "a little more difficult on Luke."
"Our team is going to go through number 32 (running back Maurice Jones-Drew), that's no secret," Koetter said. "We're not having to do a whole lot of different things. As Blaine gets experience and he plays more we're going to like the things he brings to the table. Obviously you don't draft a guy at number 10 if he doesn't have special talent, and you've all been out there and you've seen it through training camp.
"This guy is very talented. I'm excited for him to play. No one knew when it was going to happen but we all knew it was going to happen eventually and now's the time."
Koetter said Gabbert will have freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage, but said that doesn't mean Gabbert will be at the line picking between hundreds of plays in the playbook.
"Let's say you have 125 plays in your game plan that week," Koetter said. "You have a certain number of plays that are what we call "call-it-and-run-its" that there's nothing that's going to check you out of it. There is a percentage of plays that he has the ability to check out of based on a defensive look, but it's not like every play he's deciding, 'Do this or do this.'
"It's on a percentage of plays and he'll be fine on those."
Koetter said he worked with Gabbert extensively the first two weeks of the regular season when Gabbert was running the scout-team offense, and that he believes Gabbert improved significantly during that time.
"I heard the guys on Monday Night Football talking about (Rams quarterback) Sam Bradford's lack of experience," Koetter said. "He started all 16 last year. Blaine is a very talented player. He has all the skills he needs to be successful. He just doesn't have experience against full-speed NFL defenses. The only way you get experience is by playing. He'll be fine. . . .
"Blaine is a really football-savvy guy. He's been well coached at all levels before this. He really gets football, he understands what he's doing. You're behind because you haven't spent hours and hours and hours in quarterback school and in OTAs, but we've given him reps since the first day he got here. He took a lot of reps in training camp. As soon as we got down to two quarterbacks he's still got at least half the reps.
"There are two other teams in the NFL doing it, they're doing it with rookie quarterbacks (Carolina and Cincinnati). Again, when you've got a guy with his kind of talent, experience is all he lacks and you get experience by playing."
Also around the Jaguars Thursday:
*The status of tight end Marcedes Lewis for Sunday's game remains uncertain after he missed this past week's loss to the New York Jets with a calf strain. "You don't want to be set back, but at the same time I'm doing everything in my power to get back," said Lewis, who said he has been at the Jaguars' facility nearly 24 hours a day. Lewis was limited in practice Wednesday and participated on a full-scale basis Thursday. "I'm not going to give a percentage, because every time I give a percentage I feel better than the percentage I gave," he said. "With each day, it gets better. That's all you can hope for."
*Cornerback Rashean Mathis spoke of the play of Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton, who has passed for 854 yards and three touchdowns in two games. "Wow," Mathis said. "There aren't too many words that can explain it. To put up numbers like that when you're not a rookie is good. He's definitely not playing like a rookie."
*Mathis said what makes Newton particularly difficult to defend is his ability to run as well as throw. He has rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. "We know his legs are as dangerous as his arm," Mathis said. "He's definitely not any other quarterback. He possesses some skills that maybe one or two other quarterbacks in the league possess."
*Koetter addressed rookie left guard Will Rackley's performance in Weeks 1 and 2: "The guy's strong enough, he's athletic enough, he's smart enough. I think Will's going to be a real solid starter in the NFL and he's going through some growing pains which you would expect from any rookie."
*Jaguars defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (knee) returned to practice on a full-scale basis Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
*Fullback Greg Jones, Mathis and Jones-Drew participated full after resting Wednesday.
*Guard/center Jason Spitz was limited in practiced because of a quadriceps injury.