will start the regular season for the Jacksonville Jaguars
...if his thumb will allow him. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Blaine Gabbert will be the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting quarterback in Week 1. That is, if Gabbert can play.
Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley announced in the span of just a couple minutes Monday both that Gabbert had beaten out Chad Henne for the team's QB job and that Gabbert had suffered a hairline fracture of the thumb on his throwing hand in Friday's game with the Jets. Because of that injury, Gabbert will sit for the remainder of the preseason.
Bradley believes that Gabbert will be good to go against the Chiefs on Sept. 8, but a lingering injury would force him to turn back to Henne. Obviously, that is not the plan.
"I'm not a kneejerk-reaction type of person," Bradley said, when asked how solid he was on his decision to start Gabbert.
Gabbert's performance against the Jets, prior to banging his hand on a helmet and exiting with that thumb injury, likely put the final touches on his victory over Henne. The third-year QB delivered an extremely sharp performance, connecting on 13-of-16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown; Henne struggled to a 4-of-10 day and fired an interception.
"I just felt it was time, we felt it was time as a staff and as an organization," said Bradley of the timing of his starting-QB announcement.
Gabbert is coming off a season in which he won only one of his 10 starts on a terribly poor Jacksonville team. His numbers for the season (58.3 completion percentage, nine TDs, six interceptions) actually showed some progress over 2011. Then, as a rookie, Gabbert completed a mere 50.8 percent of his passes and finished with an egregious 65.4 QB rating.
Bradley, who was the defensive coordinator in Seattle during Gabbert's first two NFL seasons, said he has witnessed maturation from Gabbert, even since the preseason began.
"By all means, we are not there yet," Bradley said. "I talked to Blaine today. I said, 'OK, we're naming you starting QB, we're excited for you, now go out there and compete.'
"We're continually growing in this position to be not only what we want but who we want in the future."
With Gabbert out of the lineup for the final two weeks of the preseason, Henne should see the majority of reps with Jacksonville's first-team offense. Intriguing rookie Matt Scott, who starred in Rich Rodriguez's read-option attack with the University of Arizona last season, also figures to pick up additional reps, perhaps even enough to put heat on Henne as Gabbert's backup.
The race to the starting spot is over though -- assuming Gabbert is ready to roll three weeks from now.