Two Minute Warning: Are the Jaguars better without Gardner Minshew?

With the return of Nick Foles, does that keep the Jaguars in contention? Should they move on from Gardner Minshew Mania?

Sunday’s game in London seemed to be the chance for Gardner Minshew to secure the starting quarterback position for Jacksonville. During this past preseason, the former Washington State gunslinger wasn’t a lock to make the final 53-man roster. Following a Nick Foles injury, the ‘Mississippi Mustache’ led the team to a 4-3 record. 

Perhaps the pressure got to the rookie’s head late in the game. Although the beginning of Sunday’s outing seemed to be filled with drops and poor play-calling, no one can be blamed for Minshew’s finish. In his final four drives, the quarterback who became an overnight sensation threw a pair of interceptions, caused a fumble, and was sacked on the final play, which could have led to even further damage. 

So yeah, the fun could be over. 

Heading into the weekend, the Jaguars were still not set on what the team’s plan was moving forward at quarterback. Should Minshew had picked up the victory, Jacksonville would be sitting at 5-4, tied for second in the AFC South, and could make a push for the postseason. With a now 4-5 record, the team could be turning the ball over to their $88 million signal-caller following the bye week. 

“I think after those 48 hours are over, I’m going to step away a little bit, take a break because I don’t have to make a decision and have time,” Marrone said Sunday. “That’s what I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks about, and then I’ll tell them probably right before we come back on Sunday, we’ll be able to discuss where we’re going to go. That’s pretty much my plan.” 

The argument for Minshew could be made even with the less than average performance against Houston this weekend. Despite short passes, missed big-time plays, and two interceptions, the once cast-off quarterback has kept the Jaguars afloat following Foles’ injury. 

Minshew has thrown 13 touchdowns against four interceptions and has a 92.8 QB rating. Those numbers are well ahead any of the quarterbacks drafted before him in April. It’s also less than one point lower than six-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady. 

No, nobody is comparing Minshew to the G.O.A.T., but at the same time, how awesome would that be? 

The team sits just a game under .500 despite having a rookie calling the shots. Two losses came against the likes of Patrick Mahomes (Week 1) and Deshaun Watson (Week 9), while another came due to Doug Marrone going for the win instead of trying to force overtime. A loss to New Orleans could have been expected due to defensive play, while Carolina is a wild card each week with Kyle Allen taking the shots. 

Minshew also hasn’t worked with an impressive arsenal this year. Granted, the emergence of DJ Chark and rebound of Leonard Fournette add some dynamics to the roster, but what else does the Jaguars offense produce? Chris Conley has underwhelmed, Josh Oliver is finally healthy while the team’s dependency on Dede Westbrook being healthy is like betting on Washington to somehow win a game. 

He is not the problem with Jacksonville. In fact, outside of perhaps Fournette, he’s the reason for any offensive success this season. A player who wins Rookie of the Week six of eight times usually is the reason the team has even marginal success. The defense has declined overall as well, forcing just two turnovers in seven games. 

The reality is, Minshew plays the position of the man they paid to become the staple of Duval’s offense. Who knows where the Jags could be with Foles under center this season. On his first – and for now the only drive, the Super Bowl 52 MVP went 6-of-8 for 75 yards and threw a touchdown with his final play. Could that be a sign of what could have been?

And that could be a great sign for all involved moving forward.

Even if the franchise believes Minshew’s their guy, they’re stuck with Foles’ contract. Should he play and impress, that could make him expendable, along with taking $33.75 million off the cap space of his current deal. Plus, Jacksonville will be able to show off his skill sets to teams in the market for a quarterback this offseason. 

Should Foles struggle, the team goes back to Minshew. Should he lead a late charge, that’s even better for the organization. Take nothing away from Minshew’s success as a late-round pick. He’s impressed. 

Instead, Foles will need to be better if he wants to remain a part of Duval County’s plan. 

— — — 

Well, I’m sad, guys. Thank you all for being patient with me during the MLB postseason as I was working to help the Houston Astros return to the World Series. Working multiple jobs is tough, but the reward for being a member of a team that went to Fall Classic is nothing short of a blessing. 

I’m back, and we have a ton to discuss on the Two Minute Warning following an exciting weekend in football. Several players could be in MVP contention while one team is going to be the roster to watch down the line. Let’s dive in. 

Stop doubting D.K. Metcalf and the Seahawks

When the Seahawks ended D.K. Metcalf’s draft-day slide, some believed it was due to the Ole Miss’ projection at the next level. The former Rebels receiver made headlines for looking like Goku’s long-lost brother from Dragon Ball Z and putting the Shawn Oakman meme to rest. Outside of that, people believed that Metcalf would be a bust at the next level. 

Rule #1: Give me your football card if you believe that.

Rule #2: Take a lap until I say, stop to earn it back. 

Several rookie receivers have flashed their potential to become the next big name in their city. Metcalf is already there. The clear-cut top receiving prospect finished with a season-high 123 yards on six catches and scored a touchdown in Seattle’s come-from-behind win against Tampa Bay. For the season, Metcalf has already collected 29 receptions for 525 yards and five scores. 

“He’s the real deal,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve been around enough young guys. We know what they’re like when they come through the process. He’s not typical. He’s atypical. He’s well ahead of the curve, in his smarts and awareness and savvy.”    

Speaking of the Seahawks, are we still sleeping on them? Despite being second in the NFC West, could one argue they have looked better than undefeated San Francisco? Russell Wilson is hitting the midseason mark with MVP like numbers, even without the likes of his former go-to targets.  

The team has found success with the likes of Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on offense. Chris Carson is a serviceable running back, and the offensive line has improved. With games against Minnesota, Philadelphia, and two matchups against the 49ers, this could be a chance for the Seahawks to show the NFL they’re the real deal. 

Much like Metcalf, don’t overthink the Seahawks. Both have lived up to the preseason hype and then some. 

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Jackson jumping into the MVP conversation 

When someone beats Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, it’s like graduating to the next tier of NFL quarterbacks. Well, Lamar Jackson just received his diploma and his heading to graduate school to become the next great gunslinger. 

Baltimore’s 37-20 victory over the Patriots says more about the second-year quarterback than New England’s struggles. A bad night can come to any team at any given moment. Jackson’s ability to match the defensive success has put him and the Ravens into legitimate postseason contention. And it was during the third quarter that Jackson shows the NFL world he’s ready to become the next big name under center. 

With three defenders closing in, the former Heisman winner juked and jived his way away from each Patriot, turning a sack into a first down. It’s a play expected to be made against defenses such as Miami, not New England. 

Jackson’s jump in 2019 has him back in the MVP category heading into the second half of the season. Wilson, Watson, and Carolina’s Christian McCaffery still are the front-runners, but the Louisville star is more than just a one-trick pony. Finishing with 163 passing yards and a touchdown, Jackson used both skillsets to add another win to the Ravens’ season. 

Ideally, the team would like to see him use his arm to put up points. For now, it doesn’t matter so long as he continues to win. With a strong defense plus the dreaded AFC North, it’s not going to be hard for Baltimore to walk out looking like contenders. 

But Jackson is here to stay. Watch out NFL awards; he’s knocking on the door. 

Is Fitzpatrick’s deal finally looking smart? 

The Pittsburgh Steelers were dragged through the mud following their acquisition of Dolphins’ safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The team just lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season and were hoping that Mason Rudolph would be the real deal. Kevin Colbert shipped a first-round selection for the former Alabama defender, believing he could correct the secondary.  

A potential QB-needy team trading away that high of a pick is risky. In a way, it’s somewhat played out in their favor. 

Fitzpatrick hasn’t missed a step since joining the organization back in September. On the season, the former first-rounder has collected three interceptions, including a 96-yard interception returned for a touchdown. He’s also been a productive player overall with his tackling and in coverage. 

The Steelers still have a slew of holes on the roster they’ll need to replace in the future. With the addition of Fitzpatrick and Devin Bush, Pittsburgh has a young defensive duo that could end up being promising for the future. Throw in the potential of Terrell Edmunds, and maybe you have something there. 

A first-round pick is still too rich, but the Dolphins are looking foolish to move on from a talent like Fitzpatrick. Rudolph has been serviceable and could grow into at least a Kirk Cousins-esque player. 

Let’s say that Pittsburgh is still in playoff contention, and the magic of Fitzpatrick is a pretty good reason why. 

RIP Mitchell Trubisky 

No, Mitchell Trubisky didn’t die or anything. Well, I mean, his career probably did, but he’s doing fine and dandy. What was expected to be a make or break season for the former number two overall selection certainly is looking that way now. The only problem is that it’s looking to be going against Ryan Pace’s favor. 

The Chicago Bears relied on their defense last season to carry them to an NFC North title and playoff appearance. Trubisky made the Pro Bowl and most considered that to be something special, I guess. His season has seen more downs than ups, but Sunday is a moment the team will never forget. 

The Bears collected nine yards of offense during the first half of their loss to Philadelphia Eagles. 

Yeah. Nine. Total. Yards. Excuse me as a watch Bears’ fans pull a Tommen Baratheon since Trubisky has pretty much wild-fired Chicago’s offense. 

Despite Chicago making it competitive near the end, that could be more on rookie David Montgomery’s success on the ground rather than Trubksiy. The former Tar Heel finished with 125 passing yards and didn’t score a point. 

The Bears are still without a first-round pick following their addition of Khalil Mack, making drafting a franchise quarterback near impossible. Still, the team could be forced to either sign or trade for a veteran or potentially select someone such as Jalen Hurts on day 2 to add competition. Perhaps Matt Nagy is a good coach, but Trubisky isn’t his guy. 

The Bears still could contend this season if Trubisky is below-average for the team. The problem is, he’s not even been that this year for them. It could be a long season in the Windy City for fans if something — I mean anything doesn’t change. 

Parting Shots 

10.) The New York Jets are a mess, but keeping Le’Veon Bell at the trade deadline might be their biggest blunder. The former Steelers running back suffered a knee injury during the team’s loss to Miami over the weekend and underwent an MRI Monday afternoon. 

9.) There are two ways to handle players on social media. The Cleveland Browns elected to waive defensive back Jermaine Whitehead following a list of negative tweets directed at radio analyst Dustin Fox. 

The Jets are keeping cornerback Daryl Roberts after his post about fans “liking another team” if they’re going to be critical against the Jets.  

Personally, both were handled well by the organization, but New York could have cut Roberts after an atrocious game, and no one would have batted an eye. 

8.) While the Miami Dolphins won, they also lost one of their few decent offensive pieces. Running back, Mark Walton was suspended by the NFL for four games after violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. 

This season, Walton has tallied 201 rushing yards through seven games. Goodluck Miami moving forward. 

7.) Hopefully, you already cut DeSean Jackson from your fantasy roster. If not, here’s your wake up call to do so. The Eagles announced that the former Pro Bowl receiver would undergo core muscle surgery after irritating his abdomen again against Chicago. His season is likely over. 

His stat line will likely finish in 2019 with nine catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns. And Philly didn’t add a receiver at the deadline because? 

6.) Although leaving early against the Steelers, the Colts are confident quarterback could return in Week 10 against the Dolphins. The former backup suffered an MCL sprain during Sunday’s 26-24 loss. 

With the team hoping to contend in the AFC South, this would be a big momentum swing for the Colts. 

5.) Give some credit to Frank Gore playing the mentor role. On Sunday, he made sure Adrian Peterson stopped by and greeted rookie running back Devin Singletary. 

Yeah, you could say he’s special. 

4.) Dear Jameis Winston, 

Are you just writing the jokes yourself now? First turning over the ball, now turning over the opinions that we’re not sure you’re even sane? 

3.) Who else thought that the 49ers would be the last undefeated team of the season? No one, yeah, me too. Still, after all the crap I’ve given Jimmy Garoppolo, he had a good game against Arizona, throwing for 317 yards and four touchdowns. 

But then again, it’s the Cardinals, and Kliff Kingsbury screwed the team out of a win just before halftime. 

2.) Baker Mayfield, are you ok with Freddie Kitchens calling the shots in Cleveland? Shave off entirely if it’s a no. 

We’re almost there, folks. 

1.) Make sure you check out the PFN’s Podcast network. This week, the “Handle Your Business” crew discuss the Trent Williams fiasco, Jamal Adams’ frustration, and much more. 

Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.

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