Gambling on the Mustache
Last Sunday, the temperature on the field was over 100 degrees. The sun baked the fans in attendance. It was so hot it made it difficult to breathe. And then it happened.
With 5:23 left to go in the first quarter, a deflated gasp quieted the cheering crowd.
Silence. Whispers. Jaguars’ starting quarterback Nick Foles was in pain after being pummeled to the ground.
How bad is he hurt? Is that his throwing shoulder? But the fans knew the answer from the PA announcer almost immediately after he entered the tunnel towards the locker room.
Now what? Instead of chasing a veteran quarterback this season, the Jaguars kept sixth round pick Gardner Minshew as Foles’ backup.
The rookie from Washington State struggled during the preseason, only producing three points. But Sunday was his day to step into the spotlight.
And that’s just what he did.
Minshew completed 22 passes for two touchdowns in a 40-26 loss to the Chiefs.
How will the rookie fair during the weeks to come now that opposing teams have time to prepare? The front office and coaching staff have their jobs on the line and need to roll the dice with the rookie to find success.
Don’t Touch the Playbook
The most important thing for the coaching staff is not to panic. That, of course, is easier said than done.
However, Minshew has been involved in OTA’s, mini camps, and training camps this offseason. Furthermore, he is an intelligent, mature 23 year old. In fact, he scored a 42 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test (a timed problem solving and cognitive ability test) that raised eyebrows at the combine.
It’s obvious that they are not doing chemistry experiments on the gridiron, but a little brain power never hurt.
All of these factors should allow offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to keep the playbook wide open.
No need to “dumb down” plays or remove plays. The offense needs to continue to keep running back Leonard Fournette involved in the passing game. The offense must continue to take shots downfield to receivers like Chris Conley and D.J. Chark.
The offense should also continue to keep everyone involved and move the ball vertically. The hope is that the team does not holistically regress like last year, and become bland.
The team must keep up the aggressive mindset, or even ramp it up a bit.
No Reigns on Minshew
Coming from a high-flying offense at Washington State, Minshew is no stranger to throwing the ball all over the field.
Despite not having the greatest arm in the PAC-12, Minshew handled everything that was put on his plate from Coach Mike Leach.
This included the ability to improvise at the line of scrimmage and change plays for a fast-paced Cougars’ offense.
Perhaps this quicker pace of play will benefit Minshew and help him get out of the huddle quickly to survey the defense.
It will provide an opportunity for him to survey the field prior to the snap. Another benefit is that he can get in a rhythm and build some confidence during a drive.
Of course, nobody wants to see him out there drawing up plays in the sand. However, a little youthful pep in his step can be contagious for the rest of the playmakers.
DeFilippo can maybe catch the defense off guard at critical times during a game and that can help the offense take advantage of personnel and create mismatches for Minshew to expose.
Creativity and deception will need to be implemented for Minshew to find success week to week.
Poise in the Pocket
In addition to his staggering numbers during his debut, Minshew displayed the poise of a seasoned veteran.
We knew the kid was tough after some of the shots he took in the preseason. But what you couldn’t see in the preseason was his fearlessness. That was on display against the Chiefs.
Time after time, he stepped up in the pocket, worked through his progressions, and delivered a catchable ball to the receivers. It’s this type of awareness and moxie that Minshew will need to bring to the huddle every play. Poise builds confidence play after play.
DeFilippo has a week to speed up Minshew’s progressions heading into the divisional battle in Houston.
On Sunday, look at Minshew’s eyes. If the confidence is there in the kid from Mississippi, then the Jaguars have a shot to pull the upset.
Pressure is off. Go out there and play football.