Patrick Daugherty

Football Daily Dose

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Del Rio's Gamble

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Regime change happens a lot faster in the NFL than it does in the real world.

Despite a preseason that saw him complete just 35-of-70 passes for 365 yards, Blaine Gabbert will make his first career start on Sunday against the Panthers after Luke McCown demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of the forward pass in Week 2.

He’ll be starting opposite Cam Newton, a player with whom he’ll be forever linked after they entered last spring’s draft as the two most heralded quarterback prospects.

The matchup is a rather unfortunate one for the No. 10 overall pick. Newton has made all of the hand-wringing over whom was the better choice appear preposterous in hindsight, setting an NFL record by throwing for 854 yards in his first two career games.

In reality, it shouldn’t be surprising Newton is poised to make a much larger impact as a rookie than Gabbert. Newton wasn’t just college football’s best player last season, he was its best passer. This became too easily ignored thanks to Newton’s ability to make plays outside the pocket and the fact that Auburn ran one of the more inventive offenses college football has ever seen.

Newton’s superior skill set isn’t the only reason Gabbert has nearly no chance to get off to a similarly hot start, though.

While Newton doesn’t exactly have an impressive arsenal of weapons at his disposal, he does at least have a reinvigorated Steve Smith.

Gabbert? He has Jason Hill and Mike Thomas, two receivers with career numbers as pedestrian as their names.

His one potential difference maker in the passing game, TE Marcedes Lewis, will likely be at less than 100 percent after missing Week 2 with a calf injury.

If the Jaguars don’t get a big day from Maurice Jones-Drew, and likely even if they do, Gabbert will be hung out to dry as a player many argued he was better than surpasses 1,000 yards passing in just his third game.

It’s a scenario that would try anybody’s confidence to a severe degree, which is a dangerous thing for the Jaguars. If there’s one thing any NFL player, rookie or otherwise, cannot afford to lose it’s his confidence.

If Gabbert still has his after Sunday, it will be a huge first step toward a positive rookie season. If not, he might soon find himself getting compared to Jimmy Clausen more often than Cam Newton.

Whether it’s Matthew Stafford’s shoulder, Peyton Manning’s neck or Maurice Jones-Drew’s knee, sometimes a player’s body part can become a bigger story than the player.

Kenny Britt’s hamstring would certainly qualify. One of the most injured body parts in all of football, it acted up again on Wednesday, forcing the ascendant wideout to leave Titans practice early just three days after he posted his second consecutive 130-yard performance.

At first glance, it’s grim news for every fantasy owner who gambled Britt would be able to beat back his injury issues the way he has his legal ones en route to a season that establishes him as a true WR1.

But thankfully, it appears to be little more than a scare. Although HC Mike Munchak admits to having “general concern” about the injury, he insists it’s "not to where we’re concerned he’s not going to be able to play by any means.”

Not as rousing of a statement as “Kenny Britt will play in Week 3” would have been, but enough to assuage fears that Britt’s season could be going off the tracks before it even really begins.

It will be disconcerting if he misses practice this afternoon, but true worry will only be warranted if he isn’t back and fully participating on Friday.

Have a backup plan ready, but don’t count on having to execute it.

Since Steven Jackson was supposedly this close to playing on Monday against the Giants, you would think returning to practice on Wednesday would have been a formality.

Think again.

Not only was Jackson absent from the practice field, he appears destined for his second consecutive game-time decision.

This is not as big of an issue as it was in Week 2 where fantasy owners had to decide to sit or start their RB1/2 roughly 30 hours before he was set to take to the field. But it is more uncertainty for a player who was forecast by many to begin declining in earnest this season.

If he doesn’t go, Cadillac Williams will be in line to make his second straight as long as his hamstring checks out. If it doesn’t, Jerious Norwood will get the call. Neither would be recommended plays against a Ravens’ front seven that shut down Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson in its first two games.
If you were an elite fantasy player with the last name Johnson on Wednesday, your best bet might have been not leaving the house.

Stevie (groin) joined Calvin (ankle) and Chris (ribs) on the sideline at practice, but for now all three are expected to suit up in Week 3.

Chris’ injury is the most concerning, as unlike Stevie and Calvin’s ailments, it’s new and can be easily targeted throughout the game.

However, all indications are that he’ll be a go against the Broncos, and after two straight sub-par performances, he could be in line to go off against a run defense that could barely even slow Darren McFadden in Week 1, let alone contain him.  

One of the more curious stories of the young NFL season is Minnesota’s use, or lack thereof, of its number one receiver Percy Harvin.

Through two games — both losses — Harvin has been on the field for just 51.4 percent of the Vikings snaps, including almost none in the red zone.

To say it’s baffling for a team with no other weapons in the passing game would be an understatement.

It’s so baffling, in fact, that it’s hard to believe the Vikings will be able to keep it up. But if they do, you may have to be prepared for the bizarre possibility of dropping a player that at one time seemed reasonably certain to turn in WR2/3 numbers this season.

Give him at least two more weeks before doing anything rash, however.

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Patrick Daugherty

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