Jaguars' Gardner Minshew sets franchise record in Week 3 victory over Titans
There doesn’t appear to be anything flukey about Gardner Minshew. Hot on the heels of an impressive NFL debut after stepping in for an injured Nick Foles in Week 1, Minshew delivered a solid and a follow-up in Week 2 that included another 200+ yard outing with no interceptions and did all he could to help the Jacksonville Jaguars avoid the 0-2 hole they fell into to start the season. In addition a dominant defensive performance, Minshew was the main reason the Jaguars defeated the Tennessee Titans in a convincing fashion, 20-7, to begin Week 3’s slate of NFL action.
He was back at it on Thursday Night Football against the Titans, owning the first half with 125 yards passing and two touchdowns on 13 for 18 passing. That was good enough for a passer rating of 128.2, and in the process, he also became the only rookie in Jaguars history to pass for at least 600 yards through three weeks of football. That’s an impressive feat in and of itself, but especially so when factoring in how he did it in less than 10 full quarters of play and in how running back Leonard Fournette almost contributed nothing (with the exception of one carry) on the ground in the TNF effort.
Fournette had negative yardage up until there was just 4:38 left to play in the game, when he tore off a 69-yard run to finally enter the statistical green. Outside of that run, the Jaguars were forced into a one-dimensional game plan, but Minshew still finished with 204 yards with the aforementioned two TDs on 20 for 30 passing.
For the season, he’s thrown for a total of 692 yards and five touchdowns to just one interception.
If not for an unforgivable drop in the end zone by wide receiver Dede Westbrook in the third quarter, it’s key to note Minshew would’ve finished with that much more of an impressive stat line on the evening. Still, he finally received enough help to land his first career NFL victory and also grab the Jaguars’ first win of the young season.
Hitting his favorite bullseye in D.J. Chark often and finally getting a serious defensive jolt from All-Pro pass-rusher Calais Campell — who himself had three sacks on an evening wherein the Jaguars landed a monstrous nine total on the night — all Minshew needed to do was what he’s done in the first two games, which is to make the big throw when needed and to play mistake-free football. And although Chark is his favorite target, he’s spreading the ball around as needed, getting others like Chris Conley and tight end James O’Shaughnessy involved as well. There’s a lot of pressure on Minshew to keep producing as the Jaguars try to keep afloat and more in the AFC South, but that’s not exactly difficult to do at the moment.
With no Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and questions continuing to surround the Texans’ inability to keep DeShaun Watson upright on a consistent basis, there’s no reason to believe Minshew can’t lead the Jaguars to the top of the division soon. His next test will be another AFC battle, but this time with the Denver Broncos on Sept. 29. Considering the Broncos are currently 0-2 and look nothing like a contender themselves, if they can protect Minshew from the likes of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, and 0-2 start could morph into a 2-2 mark entering October.
For Minshew — initially an afterthought with a former Super Bowl MVP on the roster — has so far proven himself so much that questions will inevitably arise surrounding the “hot hand” dilemma when Foles is healthy enough to return. That is still a ways away from happening, with Foles on injured reserve and shut down for a minimum of eight weeks, but if Minshew continues playing well and winning games; things will get very interesting in Jacksonville.
Foles signed a four-year deal this offseason worth up to $102 million, and that alone should be enough to keep him seated at QB1.
Factor in his playoff success as well and it’ll be hard to envision a scenario in which Minshew gets the nod over him, but there might at least be a conversation about it — particularly if Minshew stacks wins — even if it’s one simply aimed at resting Foles for an additional week or so. The Jaguars will cross that bridge when they come to it, though, because at the moment they know that while the prince is away, the record-setting gardener isn’t letting them down.