by Josh Kipnis
On Wednesday, coach Jack Del Rio of the Jacksonville Jaguars announced that rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert will be starting this week over interception-machine Luke McCown. While the matchup between Jacksonville and Carolina would typically be overlooked, the enticing battle between Gabbert and Panthers’ rookie, Cam Newton, creates an opportunity for NFL fans to take a glimpse into the future.
Breaking Down Blaine Gabbert
Gabbert took a few snaps in the 4th quarter of the Jaguars Week 2 loss against the New York Jets. While he looked good in the brief appearance, five completions on six attempts, it was not nearly enough to tell us what to expect in his first upcoming start.
Jack Del Rio and the rest of the Jacksonville organization was hoping to wait till later in the season before giving Gabbert significant playing time. Unfortunately, Luke McCown screwed the pooch, and has forced Del Rio to rush this decision.
“He’s a big strong kid whose really been kind of a star quarterback his whole life,” said Del Rio about the rookie out of Missouri.
However, this star is not going to be sparkling on Sunday. Gabbert has plenty of weapons to be a competitive QB in the NFL, but he will most likely be held back by the Jags’ lack of talent at receiver. Maurice Jones-Drew should open up the passing game with his running attack, but WR Mike Thomas and TE Marcedes Lewis are his only two proven targets. With neither one being a true veteran, it’s going to be difficult for Gabbert to rely on such young and inconsistent players. Gabbert is going to need more than these two options to be successful in his NFL debut.
Breaking Down Cam Newton
We’ve all heard the sensational stats that he has put up, but Newton and the Panthers are 0-2. Sure, he’s done what no rookie has done before, but the ultimate question is can he lead the Panthers to a victory?
Part of the reason Newton remains winless is his inability to score in the red zone. In the first two games, Carolina ranks 25th in the league in red zone scoring percentage. Last week, versus Green Bay, the Panthers had the ball inside their opponent’s 20-yard line six times, but were only able to punch it into the end zone twice. ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer made a great point on the matter when he said, “You don’t make your money in between the 20s. You make your money from the 20 in, against [the] pressure.”
If Newton and Carolina can find a way to cash in their chips, they could be one of the most electrifying and successful passing attacks in the league.
Gabbert and Newton were the two top quarterbacks available in this year’s draft. Having battled it out in the NFL Combine, changing the scenery to an actual playing field will give us a much better evaluation of who is the top rookie QB.