|Can Gabbert play like a franchise QB in Year 2? (US PRESSWIRE)|
In March, the Jaguars signed quarterback Chad Henne to a two-year contract. The former Michigan standout was a second-round pick of the Dolphins, where he had an indifferent four seasons before his contract wasn't renewed and he hit the open market this spring. Incidentally, Henne's best year in Miami happened to be his last -- right up till an October shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve.
And now he takes his talents 350 miles north where he'll serve as the backup to Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville's former first-rounder who is coming off a disastrous rookie season. It was so bad, in fact, that many people (us included) figured that Henne had a good shot to win the job outright. New coach Mike Mularkey made it clear in May that, "No, it's not (a competition) … Blaine's our starting quarterback."
Two months later, with minicamps and OTAs in the rearview, that hasn't changed. Former Jags defensive lineman Jeff Lageman (now a color analyst for the team's radio network) continues to be impressed with Gabbert.
Talkin w/Jeff Lageman-he says Blaine Gabbert is clearly a better passer than Chad Henne after the spring workouts— Pat Kirwan (@PatKirwanCBS) July 10, 2012
This would be great news for an offense that relied solely on the running game a season ago. The issue, of course, is if Gabbert in pads plays as confidently as Gabbert in shorts and t-shirts. The biggest knock against him last year was that he was timid in the pocket. Monday Night Football booth member and former NFL coach Jon Gruden wondered during a Week 12 loss if Gabbert had what it took to make it in the league. And NFL Films' Greg Cosell noted that “[Gabbert's] issue was never his arm but rather his willingness to command the pocket and deliver the ball with bodies around him.”
It's what prompted us to think that Henne was in the running for the starting gig, even if Mularkey said otherwise. In fact, last month, we listed Henne as one of the 10 comeback candidates for 2012. Here's what we wrote:
[I]t's reasonable to think that Gabbert could continue experience growing pains in Year 2. Henne never lived up to expectations in South Beach but under the right circumstances he could be a successful NFL quarterback. Yes, we know, referring to Jacksonville as potentially the "right circumstances" is bust-a-gut hilarious. But assuming the team comes to terms with Maurice Jones-Drew, and Josh Scobee (hey, he accounted for 40 percent of the team's points in 2011) shows up next month, the Jags' offense will be much improved. They signed Laurent Robinson this spring and drafted Justin Blackmon in April. A balanced attack with a new offensive-minded coach could benefit Henne. In Miami, Henne was hampered by Dan Henning's 80s-styled offense. And last season, under Brian Daboll, he actually improved until he was lost for the season with a shoulder injury.
The Jags are hoping it doesn't come to that and and Gabbert looks every bit like the franchise quarterback the organization was hoping for when they drafted him. But if he struggles through the first month or so of the season it's reasonable to assume that Henne would get his chance.
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