HOUSTON – 49ers backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert got off to a considerably better start to the exhibition season Saturday night than a year ago.
Gabbert, whose first preseason game with the 49ers produced a lowly 1.7 passer rating against the Baltimore Ravens last summer, was at the controls when the San Francisco scored their only touchdown of game against the Houston Texans on Saturday. It came as Gabbert capped his first drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Garrett Celek in the teams’ 23-10 loss.
“I think the way we have approached this offseason, this training camp, the amount of reps the quarterbacks have gotten, running our core offensive plays has helped tremendously,” Gabbert said.
“The more reps you get the better you are going to play. You are going to see the quarterbacks trending upward throughout the preseason. The more snaps we get in these situations, getting more comfortable is extremely important.”
Gabbert played 22 offensive snaps on Saturday as he entered in place of Colin Kaepernick fot the 49ers’ second offensive series of the game. Gabbert completed 8 of 11 pass attempts for 86 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Gabbert's passer rating was 125.6.
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“He’s doing really well,” Celek said. “He’s a very calm, collected guy. He’s a smart guy, very positive guy. He communicates a lot with us pre-snap, so it’s good to have a guy like that on our side.”
His strong outing came just days after 49ers coach Jim Tomsula expressed confidence in Gabbert as the team’s backup quarterback.
“Well, I’m a believer in Blaine Gabbert,” Tomsula said on Thursday. “I am. Just point blank: I’m a believer in Blaine Gabbert. We are building a team, so in terms of the on-the-field play and the team, Blaine Gabbert, that’s a beautiful piece.”
Gabbert, the No. 10 overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011, said it was a “good thing” for his coach to express that kind of confidence in him. Gabbert came to the 49ers last year in a trade, and the 49ers re-signed him to a two-year, $4 million deal in the offseason.
“I just try to approach every day with a professional mindset and just get better,” Gabbert said. “Let the plays speak for themselves and that carried over in the game. How you approach practice is how you are going to play in the game. Practice reps are huge for me, huge for this football team. So that’s kind of how we have to approach it.”
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Gabbert compiled a 5-22 record as a starter during his three seasons with the Jaguars. Last season, he appeared in only one regular-season game with the 49ers. He entered late in a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos. Gabbert said he approached Saturday’s exhibition opener as far from meaningless.
“While you’re in the game, it’s a game,” Gabbert said. “The guys that aren’t starters and the guys that are trying to make this team, it’s extremely vital and important to approach a preseason game like it is a regular-season game.”