Gardner Minshew II Sparks Jaguars' Offense in Win Over Titans

The rookie quarterback completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns as the Jaguars protected home field by securing their first victory of the season.
By Alaa Abdeldaiem ,

We saw glimpses of it when he and his trademark mustache introduced themselves in Week 1, going 22-of-25 passing for 275 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Chiefs.

We saw it again on the horizon in Week 2, when a little magic and a late rally had his Jaguars just inches away from a near-upset of the Texans.

And on Thursday, in a 204-yard, two-touchdown performance and a 20–7 AFC South win over the Titans, it was more obvious than ever. Ready or not, there’s no running from this reality.

The legend of Gardner Minshew II is growing, and growing fast.

In his NFL primetime debut, Minshew made his mark right out of the gate, quickly putting the Jaguars up 7–0 following a muffed punt by Tennessee's Adoree' Jackson. He then made it 14–0 with a 22-yard strike to DJ Chark on the next possession. The backup quarterback connected on 13 of his 18 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns by the end of the first half, recording a passer rating of 128.2 and becoming the only rookie in Jaguars history to pass for at least 600 yards through three weeks of football.

Things weren’t always as seamless in the second half, however. After leading Jacksonville on another scoring drive, this one ending in a 40-yard Josh Lambo field goal, the offense began to stall. The ground game was nonexistent. Efficiency on third down was abysmal. Struggling to build on their lead, the Jaguars turned to their defense to protect it. 

They answered the call, and had themselves a night in the process.

After a first-half performance that held Marcus Mariota to 62 yards passing and running back Derrick Henry to 31 yards, Jacksonville’s defense continued to shine. Calais Campbell built himself a permanent residence in the backfield, suffocating the run and sacking Mariota three times.

Jalen Ramsey, the NFL’s self-proclaimed best cornerback, played as promised for the Jaguars, even after requesting a trade following last Sunday’s game. He insisted he didn't want to be a distraction. And on Thursday night, he wasn't, helping the rest of the unit keep Henry bottled up and, minus a misread on a 47-yard reception by Tajae Sharpe, keeping receivers blanketed in coverage.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Jaguars lost their shutout bid, letting Henry score on a one-yard run that capped a six-play, 66-yard drive with 12:04 remaining in the game. By the night’s end, a unit that had four sacks through two weeks found itself with nine in a single game.

It was the type of defensive showing the Jaguars will need to support their offense if the Minshew era is going to be successful. And it can be. With Nick Foles on injured reserve until Week 11, Minshew still has half a season to further develop. Thursday night was proof that the sixth-round pick out of Washington State has what it takes to keep the Jaguars afloat.

And as long as he continues to impress with each passing week––as long as the young quarterback keeps doing his thing––there’s a reason for Jacksonville to believe that there’s hope. That not all is lost with Foles on the bench. That the solid performances are for real.

That Minshew Mania is here to stay.

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