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 injury woes continue- LB Myles Jack to IR
The bad news on the injury front for the Jaguars continued on Thursday, when they placed star linebacker Myles Jack on injured reserve.
Source: #Jaguars LB Myles Jack (knee) is going on Injured Reserve today. A hit to the Jacksonville defense.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 5, 2019
Jack missed Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers with a knee injury that was believed to be a sprain suffered in the loss to the Colts two weeks ago. However, the move to IR indicates it may be more serious.
The Jaguars season has unraveled over the course of the last month with injuries to their defense and the team trading away perennial Pro Bowl defensive back Jalen Ramsey to the Rams. Jacksonville had already put DT Marcel Dareus on IR, All-Pro defensive tackle Calais Campbell has been trying to battle through a bad back and DB Tony Harrison has still not been cleared with a concussion.
Coach Doug Marrone has expressed the last two weeks that it has been a struggle for his defense with all of the injuries mounting late in the year.
As for Jack, he had settled in the middle linebacker roll after Telvin Smith abruptly retired in May.
Jack has been solid, but not spectacular, in the middle of the defense registering 7 or more tackles in five games this season. However he hasn’t forced a fumble, has only one interception and half of a sack. Jack also has just three tackles-for-loss at a position that often dictates much more output than that.
The former second-round pick out of UCLA had question marks about his knee coming out of college, when the Jaguars took him in the 2016 draft. However, he has answered critics on his durability by being active for all 59 games of his career up until last week.
Jacksonville will use veteran Donald Payne at middle linebacker for now. Payne played significantly last week against the Buccaneers and has been on and off of Jacksonville roster this season.
Can Jaguars get necessary spark from Gardner Minshew?
The Jaguars were back on the practice field on Wednesday and have to rally around their rookie QB, Gardner Minshew, to re-ignite their season. And their opponent, may be the perfect for them, too.
Minshew took over in the second half for an ineffective Nick Foles, as Foles committed turnovers on each of Jacksonville’s first three possessions. Now, he’s back as their starter to see if the 4-8 Jags can salvage some games in December.
Now, the 4-win L.A. Chargers come stumbling to North Florida off a dramatic loss in Denver and yet, somehow, have been listed as 2.5-point underdogs by top sports betting sites.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers, new-look defense is coming to Jacksonville to try and move to 5-8 and make a run at a .500 season. In effect, both of these teams’ seasons are all but over, so they are just playing for pride. And while mathematically, the Jags are not completely out of the AFC South race, yet, let’s be honest … the Titans and Texans are not going to drop four straight games … and it definitely isn’t looking like the Jags are going to win four straight.
Coach Doug Marrone is clearly in trouble and everything they try is not working. There were plenty of games that the Jaguars could have or should have won, but didn’t. And, now they are sitting on the very bottom of the AFC South with few games remaining.
Onto to the matchup.
The Chargers have owned the Jaguars historically, as they have won in two of the last three and seven of the last ten meetings. But right now, this is a pretty good spot for the Jags.
When we look at standard offense on any given Sunday, the L.A. Chargers are about two points better than the Jacksonville Jaguars on average. The Chargers put up 20.33 points per game against the Jags 18.33. It would be nice for Jaguars fans, if the Chargers performed significantly worse on the road, but they don’t.
They are almost exactly the same level of bad whether at home in Los Angeles or out on the road. And unfortunately, for Jags fans who buy tickets to home games, they have let them down at TIAA Field by performing worse in Jacksonville, to the tune of nearly three points per game. They score just 15.83 on their home field.
The yardage stats are comparable in this one, as the Chargers pass for 255.33 per game, while the Jags pass for 242.50. The Chargers rush for 92 yards per game, while the Jags run game with Leonard Fournette has dropped off to 79.67 average, currently.
On defense, the Chargers are a respectable top ten unit (No. 7 in the league) that allows just 18.50 points per game. They hold teams to 212 yards passing and 97.83 yards rushing.
However, that’s where Minshew will put them to the test. He is far more mobile than Foles and got Jacksonville 11 points in the second half Sunday with them driving for more. That is until the rookie’s killer interception at the Tampa Bay goaline midway through the fourth quarter.
So, most of the numbers point the another Jacksonville loss. That said, the Chargers have lost three straight but have shown some flashes of brilliance. So too did Minshew, who won four games in eight tries earlier this year as the fill-in starter.
If you can avoid this game for your “Survivor Pools” do so … If you are a bettor … stay away.
This is a game where anything can happen, especially with “Minshew Mania” back.