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Jaguars to start rookie Blaine Gabbert on Sunday

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) throws a pass while playing against the New England Patriots in the first quarter of a preseason game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on August 11, 2011. UPI/Matthew Healey

Jack Del Rio has already seen enough of Luke McCown.

Following a nasty performance in New York over the weekend, Del Rio has decided to bench McCown and will start rookie signal caller Blaine Gabbert against the Panthers this Sunday. Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in April’s draft, will oppose fellow rookie quarterback Cam Newton, who has already thrown over 800 yards in his first two NFL games.

It was easy to see this move coming when the Jags dumped David Garrard shortly before the season. Del Rio and the front office had seemingly wanted to get rid of Garrard for years but they never had a suitable backup to make the move. When Gabbert was drafted back in April, he was viewed as a raw prospect but that was okay because he could learn behind Garrard for a year…or so everyone thought. But a year was apparently too much for Del Rio and Co., as Garrard was released rather abruptly on September 6.

McCown played fairly well in the team’s season opener against Tennessee, but understandably struggled miserably against Rex Ryan’s stout defense last week while throwing four nasty interceptions. Gabbert will face a Carolina defense that has struggled against the run in its first two games, so expect the Jaguars to largely keep the ball on the ground this Sunday and let the rookie be a “game manager” in his professional debut as a starter.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Jaguars to hold an open competition at quarterback?

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter reveled some interesting information when speaking recently to a reporter for the Jaguars’ official website – most notably that Luke McCown and David Garrard saw equal reps at the team’s recent mini-camp.

“Even though Luke was our number two last year, he didn’t take many reps. We haven’t had much chance to see him operate in our system. Mini-camp was his first chance to get equal reps. This is a time for Luke to show he can compete with Dave. He’s athletic, he’s sharp. Can he push Dave when they’re hitting you for real? We like what we see out of Luke in the meeting room and what we saw of him in mini-camp,” Koetter said.

What Koetter said could mean something, it could mean nothing. That said, the Jags haven’t necessarily shown unwavering support for Garrard over the last year or so. Even though he has been productive, you get the feeling that the Jags want more out of their quarterback position than what Garrard brings to the field.

It’s still early, but the likely scenario is that Garrard beats McCown in training camp and then is kept on a short leash. If Garrard gets off to a slow start, McCown could unseat him early in the season.


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With Bucs’ QB job Leftwich’s to lose, is trade coming for McCown or Johnson?

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback job is Byron Leftwich’s to lose. Unless he’s absolutely brutal in this week’s preseason game against the Dolphins, it appears that Leftwich will be under center for the Bucs in Week 1.

On a related note, NFL.com is reporting that the Bucs are gauging trade interest for Leftwich, Luke McCown and Josh Johnson.

Bucs coach Raheem Morris originally planned to name a starter after Saturday’s preseason game against the Jaguars, then postponed the decision for at least one more week. Veterans Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown have been competing for the job, with first-round draft pick Josh Freeman the quarterback of the future.

Two NFL sources said the Bucs have been calling teams, willing to listen to offers for Leftwich, McCown or second-year pro Josh Johnson, a player thought of highly internally but who likely wouldn’t have great trade value.

“They sounded like they’re willing to deal any one of those three,” one executive said. “They’re looking for someone to make the (starting quarterback) decision for them.”

I think it’s safe to assume that the NFL.com report doesn’t apply to Leftwich now, but that doesn’t mean that Tampa won’t try to ship McCown or Johnson out of town. And considering McCown threw two touchdown passes in the Bucs’ second preseason game, he seems to offer the best value in a trade.

Then again, given Leftwich’s troubles with inconsistency and with rookie Josh Freeman off to a slow start, the Bucs may want to hang onto McCown for the time being. It doesn’t make sense to hang onto four quarterbacks, but it’s not like the Bucs have a clear-cut starter out of the group either.

I don’t see Johnson netting much (if anything) in a trade.

2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Might Happen

It’s time to look ahead to 2009 and play a little Nostradamus.

Last year, we predicted that God would anoint the “Devil-free” Rays World Series Champions (ding!), that Brett Favre would play another year or two (ding! – sort of), that Isiah Thomas would be canned (ding!), and that Kobe would be playing for a new team by the trade deadline…

Granted, that last one didn’t come true, but how were we supposed to know that the Grizzlies would trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an unproven rookie and a bag of peanuts? Our occasional inaccuracy isn’t going to keep us from rolling out another set of predictions – some serious and some farcical – for 2009 and beyond, including President Obama’s plan for a college football playoff, Donovan McNabb’s new home and the baseball club most likely to be 2009’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Read on, and in a year, we guarantee* you’ll be amazed.

*This is not an actual guarantee, mind you.

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Already Knew.”

Michael Vick will play for the Oakland Raiders next season.

Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows suspended quarterback Michael Vick to re-enter the league, let’s be honest, there’s really only one team that will take a shot on the convict: the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Raiders would have to possibly give up a draft pick because Vick will still technically be property of the Falcons, but with Matt Ryan on board, Atlanta would probably be willing to give Mikey up for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…snack size. With Vick on board, JaMarcus Russell could shift to tight end or full back or offensive tackle or something. Or, Vick could play wide receiver! Or running back! Think of the possibilities! The Oakland Raiders will be the most unstoppable team in the league! That is, of course, until Vick gets the itch for his old hobby. – Anthony Stalter

The Nationals and Pirates become the official AAAA teams of their respective divisions.

After finishing at or near the bottom of the division since the franchise’s move from Montreal, Major League Baseball executives analyze the entire Washington Nationals player system and conclude that they have no chance of fielding a competitive team in the near future. In the boldest decision of his tenure, Commissioner Bud Selig demotes the team’s Major League roster to AAAA status, a phrase long used by baseball personnel to describe players that are too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In an added twist, Selig designates that the team’s assets are fair game for all four remaining teams in the National League East, as a means of creating parity. In order to keep the number of teams even in each league, Selig also downgrades the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 94 or more games since 2005, to AAAA status as well. It will be six weeks into the regular season before an NL East team claims any of these former Pirates or Nationals. – David Medsker

Barack Obama will have a plan in place for a college football playoff by 2016.

He has already spoken out twice in favor of an eight-team playoff format for college football. Granted, there are more pressing concerns for the President-elect – the economy, the war in Iraq and a forward-thinking energy policy, just to name a few – but there’s no reason that Obama can’t appoint a “Playoff Czar” to get the conference presidents and the bowl organizers together to hash out a system that works for everyone. Are the bowls worried about losing money? Rotate the semifinals and the final amongst the four bowl cities. Are the conferences worried about losing money? They shouldn’t be – the ratings for an eight-team playoff would dwarf the ratings the current system is getting. And better ratings means more money. This is something that 85%-90% of the population can agree on, and that doesn’t happen often. Mark our words – President Obama will make it happen, especially if he gets a second term. – John Paulsen


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