Mularkey, Gabbert Have Tough Task

Jacksonville heads into Green Bay with a 1-5 record, a new coach, a young quarterback and statistical weaknesses across the board. "We understand the situation we're in here," first-year coach Mike Mularkey of his team, which will be without its best player on Sunday.

There's no sugar-coating it: The Jacksonville Jaguars are a mess.

They're 1-5 and have been outscored by almost a 2-to-1 margin. In terms of yards, they rank 32nd on offense and 28th on defense.

Their best offensive player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Their defense has recorded just five sacks.

Due to small crowds in Jacksonville, the NFL is sending the Jaguars to London for a game in each of the next four seasons. Rumblings of the franchise's eventual move to Los Angeles continue.

"We understand the situation we're in here," first-year coach Mike Mularkey told Packers beat reporters during a Wednesday conference call. "It is, obviously, a new staff, a new system offensively, new players that we're learning a lot about each week. But we're staying the course. Unfortunately and fortunately, I've been in this position before, my first year in Buffalo. Like I told that team there, when I started 0-4 there, there is no 0-4 folder I'm going to pull out of my file and make this the solution. This is what we know, this is what we believe in."

The future of the franchise – both in the short term and the long term – rests on the shoulders of Mularkey and quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the 10th pick of the 2011 draft.

In a league filled with exciting young quarterbacks, maybe Gabbert joins that group at some point. But for now, Gabbert's been dealt a tough hand.

As a rookie, he didn't have the benefit of the offseason program because of the lockout – an offseason program that was badly needed as he made the transition from the spread attack he ran at Missouri. He was thrown into the fray in Week 3 and posted horrible numbers – just 50.8 percent accuracy with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 14 starts.

"I watched a lot of film leading up to the interview here because I knew that would be one of the big questions, based on all the things I'd heard," Mularkey said. "I think he had a tough situation when he got here with no offseason, not being the starter in training camp so getting limited reps and, by default, being thrown in there as a 21-year-old, three-year quarterback out of Missouri. I just think there were a lot of things going against him -- on top of things within the organization with ownership change, coaching changes. All those things just never really gave him a chance to establish himself or even progress as a quarterback."

Gabbert had to start from scratch this season, with Mularkey replacing Jack Del Rio as coach and new offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski changing the Jaguars' scheme. There have been a few encouraging signs. Gabbert's completed 55.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating of 77.1 is up about 12 points from last year.

"I hired Greg Olson, a quarterbacks coach who's coached a lot of very good quarterbacks, including Drew Brees," Mularkey said. "I think I see steady progress with Blaine. I think we have a lot of room to still grow maturity-wise and in his level of play. I thought he was one of our most improved guys in training camp. He's a different quarterback in the pocket than he was last year, and a lot of that has to do with just time with Greg. Obviously, the starts are invaluable for him."

Gabbert, who expects to start after getting knocked out of last week's overtime loss at Oakland with an injured non-throwing shoulder, needs to play and he needs to get some help. Justin Blackmon was the fifth pick of the 2012 draft as the two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver, but he's caught just 14 passes for 126 yards and no touchdowns in five starts. The Jaguars gave Laurent Robinson a five-year, $32.5 million contract with $14 million guaranteed after a one-year wonder season of 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns for Dallas. Out with a concussion, he caught nine passes for 134 yards in four games. They've both dropped three passes, according to Pro Football Focus.com. The leading receiver is tight end Marcedes Lewis, who's caught just 17 passes. By contrast, the Packers' fourth-leading receiver, Jermichael Finley, has 26 catches.

"We got a new offense this year so, from that standpoint, we see new things week in and week out," Gabbert said. "Everybody in this building on offense is learning that. So, it's coming along. There has been improvement form a week-to-week standpoint, but we just have to put together a complete game and play four quarters of football."

In three road games, Gabbert has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions with a rating of 98.4. He put the Jaguars ahead with 20 seconds to go at Minnesota in Week 1 but the defense gave the game away, and he won at Indianapolis on a last-minute, 80-yard touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts.

"It's just little plays here and there," Gabbert said. "There's always going to be one or two plays in every game that decide the outcome, whether that be a turnover, a lack of conversion on a third down, a big play on offense, a big play on defense. There's going to be one or two plays in every game that usually decide it, and you never know when they're going to come (but) you've got to be ready and expect them. You've got to make those plays because we've been so close in a couple games where the outcome should have been different."

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