Is there a point where the Jacksonville Jaguars have to really lean in on this whole Gardner Minshew phenomenon?
Can they, somehow, someway, make the move from injured Nick Foles and Foles’ Super Bowl-hero resume and go all in on Minshew?
The beauty to these questions is that they will answer themselves in due time. Foles is still weeks away from returning to the line, meaning the Jaguars coaches and front office will get more evidence before having to make a decision.
But through four starts – and even in the face of Sunday’s 34-27 loss at Carolina – Minshew has done nothing so far that says he shouldn’t continue. Yes, there were three fumbles on Sunday, including one in the fourth quarter on a play where Minshew tried to do too much. There was also a dropped interception by Carolina that should have sealed the game. One of the fumbles was returned for a score, but that wasn’t Minshew’s fault when one of his teammates collided with him.
In the larger sense of how football works, Minshew and the Jaguars had no business being in this game, let alone having a couple of shots to tie the game at the end. Minshew didn’t just almost overcome the Panthers, he almost overcame his own team’s horrendous run defense.
Carolina gashed the Jaguars for 285 yards rushing on 27 carries, including an 84-yard touchdown run by Christian McCaffrey and a 59-yarder by Reggie Bonnafon. There are few quarterbacks at any level who can overcome their team’s defense getting hammered like that, especially when they lose three fumbles on their own.
Yet Minshew somehow did that. His 26-of-44, 374-yards, two-touchdown was prizefighter stuff when coupled with the running of Leonard Fournette (23 carries, 108 yards, one touchdown and another breakaway run for 48 yards this time). Again, the stats are a byproduct of some truly special ability for Minshew, who has already developed an uncanny relationship with second-year wide receiver D.J. Clark.
There are moments when Minshew and Clark look like they have been playing together for four years, not four weeks. Clark’s Elastic Man style of play is reminiscent of Martavis Bryant at his physically gifted best. Minshew has incredible trust in the young receiver already.
Of course, there are concerns. Minshew still has moments where he tries to do too much. The fourth-quarter fumble was exactly a result of that. Minshew has gotten away with some bizarre-looking scrambles so far. The fourth-quarter fumble was the example of what happens when bizarre goes bad.
At the same time, Minshew has obvious football acumen and he has confidence to make up for what he lacks as a classic-looking quarterback. He looks more like fire hydrant with thick legs when he lines up under center.
Then again, that’s not all that far removed from Russell Wilson or Drew Brees, two shorter quarterbacks who have proved the league wrong for years.
What the Jaguars have to figure out is if Minshew is the next version of one of those guys or play the conservative route with Foles?
Foles has the Super Bowl victory that Jacksonville craves. He has the demeanor of a proven leader and the classic looks of a quarterback with his 6-foot-6 frame. He has a career worth of experience. He is the safe and logical choice and that’s not going to change between now and whenever he comes back.
The question is whether Minshew will continue to do enough to force Jacksonville’s hand to do something with incredible. So far, he has done everything possible to do force that decision.
The question is whether Jacksonville will take that risk?
Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?
One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.
Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) February 26, 2020
This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.
Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″
It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:
Doug Marrone: ‘’No doubt where I stand or the coaches.”
—They want Yannick Ngakoue back. pic.twitter.com/vOorH4hH95
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 26, 2020
However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially, put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?
Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.
If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.
Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus
At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.
Caldwell confirmed the Jaguars are not picking up DT Marcell Dareus' option.
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 25, 2020
Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.
Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.
Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.
However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.
Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.
However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.
Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.
As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?