No one expected his debut to be perfect, but what the Jaguars hoped to see out of their future starting quarterback was the composure, confidence and the ability that would translate into NFL success.
Given a chance to start with Jaguars quarterback David Garrard injured, the rookie Blaine Gabbert showed he has it on Thursday night. That didn't mean it was easy.
"I think he showed a little poise leading the team down and we had a couple of drops," Jaguars coach Jack Del
Rio said. "The good thing is I see him on the sidelines saying 'my bad, I could throw it better.' I know one thing, it's great exposure for him and great experience."
In a game missing several key starters on both teams, the Jaguars dropped their preseason opener to the New
England Patriots 47-12. It was the most points the Jaguars allowed in a preseason game.
And while they played without several veterans, they saw Gabbert, who they selected 10th overall in April's draft in NFL game action for the first time.
Gabbert played the entire first half and completed 9-of-16 passes for 85 yards and no interceptions.
"I'd like to come away with more touchdowns," Gabbert said. "We had a lot of opportunities that we didn't capitalize on. We had a few mental errors that I made and other people made, but we're going to look at the film, we're going to critique things and get better from there."
Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, right tackle Eben Britton and cornerback Derek Cox didn't make the trip. Tight end Marcedes Lewis didn't play.
"He's playing without a lot of weapons, but he looked good," Lewis said of Gabbert. "He's getting the ball in the spots it needs to be and we dropped a couple."
Defensively the Jaguars' new free agent acquisitions — starting linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session and safety Dawan Landry — had limited playing time, with just a week of practice time heading into the game.
Meanwhile, the Patriots started backup quarterback Brian Hoyer while Tom Brady watched from the sideline.
So did Garrard, who sat out with a back injury he aggravated during practice on Aug. 4.
Gabbert completed 3-of-5 passes on the opening drive, overthrowing Jason Hill on a deep shot on third-and-14. The drive ended with a 41-yard Josh Scobee field goal.
Gabbert's last pass of the night could have been an interception, but the ball bounced off the facemask of safety Patrick Chung.
"I've just got to learn from it and improve for next game," Gabbert said.
Garrard, who is both Gabbert's competition and his mentor, was impressed while watching from the sideline.
"I'm proud to see it," Garrard said. "The guys will continue to rally around him in the pocket so he can get the ball down the field. He's looking good. I'm sure he would like to have a few throws back."
Overall, Gabbert looked fairly solid in his NFL debut, but I don't think that he's ready to start right away like other rookie quarterbacks in recent seasons. After all, beyond all-pros in Jones-Drew and Lewis, the outlook for who will start at the other offensive skill positions for Jacksonville looks pretty bleak.
Welcome to David Garrard’s world, Blaine Gabbert.
All-world quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady may be able to make lemonade with a bottom of the barrel grab bag for their wide receiving corps, but Gabbert - as an unproven rookie - is obviously not ready for such an undertaking.
The Jaguars are just an all-around bad team when it comes to passing the ball, which is why I don't see Gabbert having as much success as a rookie with his tools could.
So thankfully, Garrard should be return from his back injury well before the regular season begins, so that he can do all the heavy-lifting while Gabbert continues to learn the position with an earpiece and clipboard on hand.