Niners QB Blaine Gabbert avoids sacks, mistakes in opener
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The longer he's in the NFL, the quicker Blaine Gabbert wants to get rid of the ball.
After being battered too many times as a young quarterback in Jacksonville, Gabbert has made it a priority to avoid sacks as he tries to revive his career in San Francisco.
''I think at times, young quarterbacks tend to try and do too much, especially on third down, trying to hold onto the ball, force it past the sticks,'' he said. ''But, when you're in max-drop zones, sometimes your best throw is underneath for catch and carries and let the guys go to work underneath.''
Gabbert did that frequently in a season-opening 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night when he took no sacks, choosing to throw it quickly or scramble if no one was open rather than wait for a big play.
According to game-tracking by Pro Football Focus, Gabbert's average time from snap to release in the opener was 2.03 seconds - second fastest in the league in Week 1.
''For the most part I felt like I was in rhythm all game, going through my reads, taking off when I needed to take off there on third down,'' he said. ''So, I would say that I'm just trying to execute our offense and that's it.''
Gabbert struggled dealing with pressure in the pocket early in his career. He was sacked 40 times in 15 games a rookie with the Jaguars in 2011 and even last season he was sacked 25 times in eight starts with the Niners.
But he mostly avoided negative plays in an opener that was solid more than spectacular. He went 22 for 35 for 170 yards and a touchdown, while adding 43 yards on nine runs.
While Gabbert's running proved effective, one thing he wants to work on this week is avoiding hits on the scrambles. He took one especially hard shot from Mark Barron in the first half and will need to be more careful if he wants to make it through the entire season healthy.
''Blaine knows that we'd like him to get down,'' offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said. ''We'd like him, if he can, score. If can't, get a first down and if not, slide. So, he knows what he needs to do. Am I worried about it? No, because he's smart. He'll get that done.''
Gabbert did enough to get a win over the offensively challenged Rams but he will likely need to improve on when the competition is tougher, like this week when the Niners visit defending NFC champion Carolina.
The Niners did little offensively for the first three quarters in the opener before putting the game away with two late TDs.
''There were some real positives,'' coach Chip Kelly said. ''We didn't give up any sacks. We didn't throw any interceptions. There's some positives that you have to build on there, but there were also some other plays that we felt like we could have made that we didn't make.''
NOTES: DL Glenn Dorsey, who sat out the opener as he recovers from knee surgery last year, has taken part in team drills at practice this week and Kelly is hopeful he will be able to play. ... Backup QB Colin Kaepernick has been getting about one-quarter of the plays in practice this week, Kelly said, with third-stringer Christian Ponder running the scout team.
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