Saturday night’s matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets was one of the most intriguing of the weekend simply because both teams are in the middle of crucial quarterback competitions that will determine the future of the two franchises for years to come – or at least the rest of the season.
The Jaguars are trying to pick a starting quarterback out of a group familiar to the team. Last season, the team ultimately decided Blaine Gabbert should be the team’s starter, although it didn’t work out for the Jags. At the end of the year, the Jaguars won just two games, and many thought they were destined to draft a quarterback to take the franchise forward. That wasn’t the case, and once again this year, the Jaguars are stuck with picking Gabbert or Chad Henne.
Saturday night, Blaine Gabbert did his best Peyton Manning impression, distributing the ball around the field with efficiency and making snap decisions. Basically, Blaine Gabbert looked like a great quarterback. His stats line was impressive (13 of 16, 165 yds, 1 TD), but his command of the offense was better than it’s ever been before. Chad Henne fell flat after Gabbert left the game due to an injured thumb, but barring terrible performances in the coming weeks, Gabbert has himself in position to win the Jaguars’ starting job.
In New York, incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez is trying to hold off rookie Geno Smith, and unlike Jacksonville, Sanchez didn’t make the decision any easier for head coach Rex Ryan. Sanchez was able to start the game in impressive fashion, quickly moving the Jets down the field for a touchdown, but the great play didn’t last.
The biggest problems we saw from Mark Sanchez are well documented. Deep in the redzone, Sanchez threw an interception on a pass that should have never left his hand. On the play, Sanchez’s tight end was blanketed by a defender, but that didn’t stop Sanchez from firing the ball towards his receiver. The Jaguars were able to catch a break, and their defense was able to get off the field.
Sanchez’s other huge mistake came right before halftime. After recovering a muffed punt at the three yard line, Sanchez was faced with a third and goal from the six yard line with six seconds left. On the play, Sanchez scrambled outside the pocket, wasting the entire clock, before throwing the ball out the side of the endzone. In that situation, the Jets should have walked away with no less than three points, but instead, they were forced to go into halftime with nothing.
Although the Jets ultimately won the game comfortably, the Jaguars walked away with more valuable information. It seems almost certain that Blaine Gabbert will be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback week one of the regular season. Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, underwhelmed, and with Geno Smith out recovering from an injury, the Jets’ quarterback situation is still up for grabs.