Patriots ready for Gabbert in exhibition opener


Patriots ready for Gabbert in exhibition opener

By A. Sherrod Blakely Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn FOXBORO The New England Patriots are playing it cool heading into Thursday's preseason opener against Jacksonville.

But if a puddle of drool forms in front of the Patriot defenders, it probably has something to do with the Jaguars trotting out their top pick in this past spring's draft, quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio has indicated that Gabbert, a player Jacksonville moved up six spots to select, will start against the Patriots.

The team's usual starter, David Garrard, re-aggravated a back injury and will not travel with the team to New England.

While the Jaguars have said they plan to bring Gabbert along slowly, that might change with a strong preseason showing.

"He's got a great skillset in terms of arm and size and speed, those things," Del Rio told reporters. "We think he's got a bright upside. He's got a lot of work to do. He's doing some things now off natural ability."

Even with the kind of skills and talent to justify him being the 10th overall pick in the draft, Gabbert's lack of experience surely makes him an easier target than a more seasoned quarterback.

Regardless of the sport, talent trumps experience most of the time.

But when it comes to quarterback, there are so many nuances to the game that a lack of experience at the most critical position can be major hurdle.

"The only position that I would put that, where experience is really something you have to consider, is quarterback," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "I think all the other positions, of course it's good to have more experience than less, but I think we've seen a lot of players play all those positions . . . there's so much happening at that position, having gone through it from an experience standpoint, playing in games in the NFL with the rules and situations and the way the game is played, having control of a team that a quarterback needs to have, there's a lot to be said for experience at that position."

Maybe so, but Patriot players refuse to take Gabbert -- or any other young quarterback -- for granted.

"Rookie, 15-year vet, it's all the same," said Pats defensive lineman Gerard Warren. "It doesn't matter. It's a quarterback."

Even if a quarterback has no history of success in the NFL, New England safety Patrick Chung tells that you still have to view all signal-callers as a great challenge.

"They wouldn't be in the NFL starting, getting drafted, if they couldn't make good throws," Chung said. "You have to go into the game with the mentality, 'this guy's an all-star, he can make all the throws.' And then, you just play your game."

Chung added, "You never know what can happen."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn