New Hair, New Game?

In 2011, Blaine Gabbert was one of the most scrutinized rookies in the history of the game. He was in perhaps the worst situation of any rookie with no weapons, no offseason and a lame-duck coaching staff. The Jaguars are trying to give him every opportunity to take a giant leap in his second season.

For 16 weeks during the 2011 season, Blaine Gabbert's talents as a quarterback were dissected, analyzed, criticized and mocked. Only on rare occasions did the Jacksonville Jaguars' rookie quarterback receive plaudits.

During the first three months since the team concluded a disappointing 5-11 year, a season that cost Jack Del Rio his job and saw owner Wayne Weaver sell the team, it's been more of the same. Few have been willing to give Gabbert the benefit of the doubt. His numbers say why that's the case.

Gabbert passed for 2,214 yards in 15 games, completed a shade more than half of his 413 pass attempts (50.8 percent) and finished with a passer rating of 65.4 in 2011. He couldn't even crack the NFL's list of top 32 quarterbacks, ranking 34th among last year's starters.

Maybe that's why after the Jaguars' first day of the veterans voluntary mini-camp, of the 18 questions directed at Gabbert, half of them pertained to his cutting his hair that had grown to over six inches in length in the back.

Gabbert was more interested in talking about the return to the football field and the team's approach to the new coaching staff now in place.

"It was a blast, a lot of energy out there. We're happy to be back, we love what we do," he said following the first workout. "There is a lot of energy in this building right now. Our coaching staff is doing a phenomenal job introducing us to the new playbook, the new system and taking it slowly so we can process all the information and still go out there and have success on the field."

One thing Gabbert welcomes this year that he missed out on a year ago, is the offseason practices. A year ago, the NFL shut the doors on the players while the league and players union thrashed through a new working agreement between the two sides.

"Not being able to go through this offseason program last year, not being able to have a rookie minicamp, yeah, this was great (today)," Gabbert said. "Now we are here with the veteran mini-camp and OTAs. This year is going to help out a lot. We are going to make a lot of strides right now so we will be clicking on all cylinders going into training camp."

Of equal importance to Gabbert, was the presence of new receivers Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans. A year ago, the Jaguars wide receiver leader in receptions was Mike Thomas who caught 44 passes for 415 yards but just one touchdown. Those figures pale in comparison to numbers put up by Robinson and Evans in the past.

Last year Robinson had 54 catches, 858 yards and 11 scores. Evans' best year came in 2006 when he latched on to 82 passes for 1,292 yards and eight touchdowns playing for the Buffalo Bills.

"They have only been here a day like everybody basically, but Lee and Laurent are going to pick it up quick and they are explosive guys," Gabbert said.

The Jaguars' quarterback is confident that with his rookie season behind him, he can begin the climb upward on the NFL passing list.

"Having one year under my belt, 14 games (started), you know what to expect now in the NFL so you have to come out here on a daily basis and compete. That is all what it boils down to."

All of which should turn some of those low passer-rating games into games of success for Gabbert. He had just three games in which he passed for over 200 yards, with a 221-yard effort against Cincinnati in a losing effort ranking as his season's best.

The former Missouri standout has cut the locks that fans came to mock. Now he'll attempt to put an end to those doubters about his play on the field with a more consistent effort and more 200-yard performances

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