The San Francisco 49ers quarterback competition is not expected to pick up full steam until training camp, but for the time being, Blaine Gabbert likely gets the edge in OTAs. The one-time Jaguars first round pick is getting practice reps that Colin Kaepernick will not get until he is cleared from his shoulder surgery. Chip Kelly has said Kaepernick is not behind yet, but it certainly does not help him missing practice reps.
As things even up either in minicamp or at the start of training camp, this becomes one of the more fascinating position competitions around the league. Sure, it's not like when Joe Montana and Steve Young were competing, but it's one of the more notable QB competitions in a while. It sure beats the great Shaun Hill-J.T. O'Sullivan competition of 2008.
Gabbert showed improvement last season from the rest of his career, but obviously the bar was incredibly low. That being said, he's got a significant chance to at least remove some semblance of the "bust" label. The Sporting News recently put together a list of six former first round picks with a real chance at removing that label. It's no surprise Gabbert led the list. They had this to say about Gabbert:
[He] is buried in Jacksonville's past for good. He found a good spot in San Francisco, first in getting the chance to start over ineffective and injured Colin Kaepernick last season and then landing with Chip Kelly in a familiar spread offense this offseason. Gabbert didn't get much help from the scheme and supporting cast with the Jaguars. At only 26, he is two years younger than Kaepernick and has time to turn into a viable NFL QB for several seasons.
I will continue to believe Kaepernick is the more physically gifted quarterback. However, the situation is an odd one, and that could prove to benefit Gabbert. I don't think Chip Kelly will necessarily try and force a square peg into a round hole if it is not going to happen, but this QB competition is going to be interesting to track. I still think Gabbert is starting Week 1, but until Kaepernick gets completely cleared for practice, we are operating with an incomplete picture.
The rest of the TSN list includes Patriots guard Jonathan Cooper and linebacker Shea McClellin, Rams defensive tackle Dominique Easley, Eagles defensive end Marcus Smith, and Jaguars defensive end Bjoern Werner.