Jaguars Training Camp 2012: What Is MJD's Loss Has to Become Gabbert's Gain

David LevinSenior Writer IIAugust 2, 2012

July 27, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) hands off the ball during the first day of training camp practice at Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

There comes a time when a player must step forward and take command of his team in order to show there is some unity on and off the field.

That time is now for the Jaguars’ Blaine Gabbert.

The second-year quarterback not only needs to show better command on the field in the huddle and with his passes, but he also must become a leader on the practice field, at EverBank Field and in the locker room. He must become the voice of this team.

It was Mark Brunell’s team. It was David Garrard’s team. It must become Blaine Gabbert’s team.

And with the issues of Maurice Jones-Drew not in camp and Justin Blackmon quickly becoming a huge draft concern, it would be great if head coach Mike Mularkey could look to the blond kid with the rifle arm to take the leadership role that most quarterbacks seize in the NFL.

I don’t think the Blackmon situation—that being he is the only first rounder unsigned right now—will get better within the next few days, and we all certainly do not think MJD will be in training camp any time soon.

Some callers on sports talk radio (1010XL’s Greg Hallaman Show) in this town have requested that the Jaguars trade the back because the problem with him holding out with two years remaining on his contract might become a cancer in terms of fan support for the team’s best player; and it will affect how the team handles his request for a new contract.

In simple terms, if you and I were to walk away from work because we wanted more money, we would be fired on the spot.

But this is not about MJD, but rather what Gabbert, who has looked both good and bad in practice this week, has to gain by the star running back not being in camp.

Every team in the NFL has a proven leader (even the Browns). While we all want to think MJD is the face of this franchise, Gabbert has the chance to assume that role.

He is young, good looking, articulate and seems to want more of the minutiae that comes with the position.

This is not to say I think he will ever be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but I could see him as Drew Bledsoe or Boomer Esiason or Phillip Rivers.

Yes, he can be that good.

But Gabbert must understand that cutting his long locks and smiling for the cameras and showing a little bit of a swagger is only part of the “act” of being “the man.”

This week in practice he has shown some improvement with his arm, reading pass plays and looking more comfortable in a new Jaguars’ offense; but he has also shown maturity in getting on veteran players (receiver Mike Thomas) about missing catches and pass routes.

Maybe the maturation process is slowly taking place. Who knows?

What we do know is while MJD is in California and playing the “me” card, Gabbert and the rest of the team is here in Jacksonville playing the “us” card.

And in that case, it can only benefit the confidence of a gun-shy quarterback ready to take the next step.