NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell makes frequent appearances on KNBR, and he had a couple this past week in which he discussed Blaine Gabbert's performance against the Atlanta Falcons. You can go through them here. The transcript below is from his November 9 appearance.
The San Francisco 49ers benched Colin Kaepernick for Week 9, and gave Gabbert his first start with the team. Gabbert will be back in Week 11 to start against the Seattle Seahawks. Gabbert had a solid performance, making some key plays, and avoiding too many bad mistakes. He had the two interceptions, the latter of which David Neumann broke down here.
In his Monday appearance, Cosell discussed the lack of pass rush contributing to Gabbert's success. Obviously he still needed to execute against the defense presented, but facing a defense front Football Outsiders ranked 31st in adjusted sack rate made his job a little easier.
Next week, Gabbert and the 49ers face a Seahawks team that ranks fourth in adjusted sack rate, and 12th in sacks. It will be a more difficult unit to face than what the 49ers saw last week. There are several questions to answer about the 49ers offense before we can make significant predictions about Week 11. Will Andrew Tiller or Jordan Devey start at right guard, and will one receive the bulk of the snaps? Will Trenton Brown get more opportunities at right tackle? Will Carlos Hyde and/or Anquan Boldin be active?
I expect Boldin to play and I expect Tiller to get his first start. Beyond that, it's hard to say what will happen. I would anticipate a poor performance from Gabbert and the offense, but if Boldin and Hyde both play, and Tiller starts and builds on his growing body of work, maybe Gabbert survives and does some decent work. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but this game against Seattle will give us a whole lot more context for the win over the Falcons. It will still only be two games, but a decent Gabbert performance could indicate he is taking some kind of step forward. On the other hand, if he struggles, it will reinforce what I, and probably quite a few people already think of Gabbert. It at least gives us something interesting to consider for next week's game.
The other thing that really stood out to me watching the tape, and again, I haven't seen Gabbert play in quite a while other than preseason, which is always tough to make any meaningful judgment; He's not as explosive an athlete, clearly, as Colin Kaepernick, but he's a better functional mover for the quarterback position, and those are two different things. Being an explosive straight-line athlete is not necessarily a quarterback trait. Being a functional mover is, and there were a number of plays in which he did that.
On differences now vs. in Jacksonville:
I think ultimately, he's always been someone who could throw the ball. He has a quick release, the ball gets out with good velocity. Those were never issues. He was a first round pick, and my guess is 90 percent of the teams in the league would have viewed him as a top-15 pick in that draft. So the skill set was viewed by people in the know as being there.
The issue that he always had was with pressure. Now in this game, and they were playing a team in the Falcons that does not have any kind of consistent pass rush, he was not really under any kind of consistent pressure. And if he continues to be the starter, which I assume he will be for present, there will be an opponent that can put pressure on him, and that will be the true litmus test is how he handles pressure in the pocket. But if he's fairly clean, fairly secure, has functional space with which to throw the ball, he has the DNA of a pocket quarterback.