Poised. Decisive. Leader. Those are three words on how I would describe San Francisco 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert. A player who has been overshadowed by fan favorite and controversial QB Colin Kaepernick, it will be Gabbert’s job to lose in 2016.
Will he be the next coming of QB Joe Montana or QB Steve Young? No. But the next QB Alex Smith? Absolutely.
Let’s put it this way. Gabbert will never be a quarterback who will beat you with his arm. Instead, he will use his smarts and football savvy to stick it to other NFL teams. He’s very intelligent, makes sound decisions, and seldom makes mental errors. Simply put, he’s a game-manager.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) August 31, 2016
But game-managers comes with a negative connotation. They aren’t known to have game-winning drives, signature plays, or comeback from behind wins. But so what? As long as the team wins, who cares if it looks ugly. A win is a win. I’d rather look ugly and win, then look good and lose. After all, NFL teams are measured by wins and losses.
So what should Forever Faithful expect from Gabbert in the season opener versus the Los Angeles Rams?
While, Gabbert did complete 63.6 percent of his passes for 354 yards and 1 touchdown in last year’s finale, he also had veteran WR Anquan Boldin as his security blanket. Not anymore.
I wonder how many more followers I would gain if I just said KAP should be the starter Week 1. I’m not. I keep it 100. And IMO it’s Gabbert.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) August 15, 2016
But this is a new offense. One that takes pride in dictating the flow of the game. Not to mention, a revamped and drastically improved offensive line–Gabbert should endure success, as the team plays host on Monday Night for the second consecutive season.
One player, who will benefit and have a breakout season is 2013 second-round pick (No. 55) TE Vance McDonald. The Rice product has been nothing short of a disappointment with his questionable hands, but the same can’t be said of his blocking skill-set, which is among the best in the league. However, it appears McDonald is finally coming into his own as a ‘complete tight-end.’
Back in June, I went straight to the source in talking one-on-one with TEC Jeff Nixon on what skill-set Kelly favors the most from his tight-end.
Throughout training camp and preseason, I sense a strong rapport between Gabbert and McDonald. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if McDonald was the team’s most targeted player when it’s all said and done. Odd right? Well considering that Gabbert seems to look McDonald’s way on the seams, posts, and hitches — more times than not, I can’t help but think that will become reality.
The loss of third-year WR Bruce Ellington hurt the team. He was primed to relish the slot role while being Gabbert’s security blanket on third-and-short situations. But that’s all for not. Now, Gabbert will have to rely on newly acquired dual-threat WR Jeremy Kerley.
To be honest, I think they roll with Gabbert if anything. https://t.co/l6fmYPyz5y
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) January 22, 2016
Gabbert looks like he has better rapport & grasp of offense. Gabbert surveys entire field, Kap makes 1 or 2 reads. https://t.co/kFycCqeyII
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) August 4, 2016
I still think Gabbert is the guy as of right now. Kap continues to telegraph his passes which is why Reaser got PBUs https://t.co/gZv0J2doqH
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) August 7, 2016
A task easier said than done, because the chemistry in terms of timing on route-running may not be there yet. Which leaves me to believe that Gabbert will rely heavily on McDonald not only against the Rams but throughout the 2016 season.
The Rams defensive front seven will undoubtedly be the focal point on Monday Night Football. Led by All-Pro DT Aaron Donald, I had a strong feeling he would be the player he is today (read Senior Bowl article above).
A stout run defender who plays with fundamentally sound leverage at the POA (point of attack), it will be up to 49ers G Zane Beadles, C Daniel Kilgore, and G Anthony Davis to keep him at bay with their combo/reach blocks. But Donald isn’t the only player to be mindful of as no team can sleep on DE Robert Quinn.
Another player the 49ers are extremely familiar with as they were thinking about drafting Quinn back in 2011, they instead rolled the dice on ‘young pup’ OLB Aldon Smith for the team’s 3-4 scheme.
“I think the pick [Aldon Smith at No. 7] speaks for that,” Baalke said when talking about why they chose Smith over Quinn. “I’m not going to get into the comparison of the two athletes. The pick once again speaks for how they were rated on our board. We liked both players. We just had Aldon rated higher.”
In 71 regular season games, Quinn has recorded 176 tackles, 50.0 sacks, and 16 forced fumbles. Talk about strip-sack ability. Calling on LT Joe Staley to earn his paycheck as he will have the tough assignment of stopping the North Carolina product- and I believe he will.
If the 49ers offensive line can somehow give Gabbert a clean pocket to work with, I fully expect him to make the proper reads down field all while moving the chains. An uptempo offense which will impact the defensive schematics based on limited substitutions- the 49ers have the upper-hand when they have the ball. The question is can they light up the scoreboard when entering red zone opportunities? Because let’s be honest, we all know they can move the chains between the 20’s.
With Gabbert named the unquestioned starter, look for him to win in his 2016 season debut, as I predict him to have a stat line similar to 24 of 36 for 250 passing yards and 1 touchdown.