Aren’t sequels always supposed to be worse than the original? If that’s the case, someone better tell Gardner Minshew to cool it after Week 1. The social media king that took the NFL by storm might not be the flashiest quarterback in the league, but Sunday’s outing against the Indianapolis Colts proved that he’s not going away anytime soon.
Overthinking is natural after Week 1 of the NFL season. The Jacksonville Jaguars are sitting at 1-0, and despite their best efforts to “tank,” they remain on top of the AFC South standings. A 27-20 victory against an aging Philip Rivers is one thing; new pieces making an impact is another.
The Jacksonville franchise that parted ways with Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Fournette, Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and numerous others won’t sustain this success over a 16-game season. One game won’t define a campaign, either. Still, anyone that thinks the Jaguars are just going through the motions to land Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence might need to relocate the focus of said idea.
Gardner Minshew will do enough to ruin the Jaguars “tank” in 2020
Minshew’s history of Week 1 wonders
Although not the starter last season when the Jaguars took on the Kansas City Chiefs, Minshew had an opening day coming-out party. One drive into the Nick Foles $88 million era was all the Super Bowl LII MVP could handle before leaving with a broken clavicle. Enter the sixth-round prospect from Washington State, who instead of taking clean-up duty, made magic of his own.
Minshew finished 22 of 25 for 275 yards while tossing a pair of touchdowns. Completing 88% of his passes and finishing with a QBR of 122.5 was the highest of a rookie debut in 2019 — including Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray and No.6 selection Daniel Jones.
Fast forward a year later, and perhaps Minshew is back to start the season for Jacksonville. He outshined his impressive 2019 opener, going 19 of 20 for 173 yards and scoring three touchdowns. His only miscue? A late pass to rookie Laviska Shenault who couldn’t hold onto the ball. That completion percentage of 95% put the second-year starter in a category of Rivers, Drew Brees, and Marcus Mariota to throw that flawlessly along with three scores.
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The difference? He’s the first to do so on an NFL kickoff weekend.
“That just shows what we can do right there,” Minshew said. “That’s just a [expletive] glimpse. We ain’t even scratching the [expletive] surface yet. Do not be satisfied with 1-0. We got another division game coming up so bring it this week in practice. Iron sharpens iron.”
Rookie pieces play a vital role
Minshew deserves the credit after an offseason of scrutiny. Then again, so do the young players who factored into Doug Marrone’s Week 1 victory. With 16 rookies on the roster, several made an immediate impact on the team’s profitable start.
James Robinson, who earned the starting nod following Fournette’s release, tallied 62 yards off 16 carries as the feature back. He also had social media buzzing with his leap over Colts safety Khari Willis to begin a drive in the fourth quarter. Shenault, the target of Minshew’s lone incompletion, rebounded in the second quarter for a 15-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14. Collin Johnson’s 14-yard grab on a third-and-8 eventually led to tying the game in the third quarter.
Oh, that defense that was scrapped of talent this offseason? They saw two first-rounders make their presence felt. Cornerback C.J. Henderson jumped a route intended for T.Y. Hilton to grab his first interception, leading to Jacksonville’s first touchdown.
Then, on a fourth-down play, the ninth overall pick had a crucial pass breakup and sealed the game with 54 seconds on the clock. K’Lavon Chaisson, the team’s second pick last April, caught his first interception, but the play was negated after a defensive holding call on D.J. Hayden.
Minshew Magic 2.0 is alive and well
Two moments will stand tall in Minshew’s record-setting afternoon. First came on the touchdown to Shenault, where he allowed his rookie target to get open against the Colts’ defenders. Feeling the pressure, he side-stepped and repositioned his feet before delivering a strike that ultimately tied the game with minutes left in the second quarter.
The next came with 5:56 left to play. Minshew could have gone for the highlight moment with go-to receiver D.J. Chark near the end zone in double coverage. Instead, he waited, found his man, and lobbed a 22-yard pass to an uncovered Keelan Cole. All that was left to do was watch him take another step to give Jacksonville a 24-20 lead.
There’s no telling if the Jaguars that went out of their way to struggle will eventually represent the AFC South come January. It’s not as if the stat line played in their favor despite a 38-year-old Rivers giving his opponents ample opportunities to close the door. But remember last season when the Dolphins were set to “Tank for Tua” all year? They may have landed him, but it wasn’t with the draft’s first pick?
Fournette commented on his first day in Tampa, saying how he’ll finally play with a “real” quarterback. Tom Brady plays the position, but Minshew’s stat line blew the Buccaneers’ $50 million man off the plank.
Minshew will never be Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson. He most likely will never have the stat lines of Matt Ryan or Aaron Rodgers for a full season. That doesn’t mean he won’t be enough for the Jaguars.
In a class of his own, Minshew is the Captain of the S.S. Consistency and making sure his vessel avoids a trip to Tank Harbor. So long as he’s under center and that mustache is bushy, Jacksonville will be well out of line to be on the clock first overall next April.