With four quarterbacks splitting snaps and an entrenched starter, it would be understandable if Jake Luton didn’t stand out. The Jacksonville Jaguars sixth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Luton wasn’t expected to become a narrative in the Jags training camp. But with no preseason games and a limited offseason, he's used every opportunity to impress.
And while there’s no question that second year passer Gardner Minshew II is still “the guy,” one can’t help but have their attention snagged by Jake Luton.
The former Oregon State passer is sharp and accurate, with just enough young-gun reckless abandon that makes him exciting. As if the sixth-rounder out of the Pac-12 comparison wasn’t enough, it’s those attributes that make it easy to wonder if he could be another version of Gardner Minshew.
Minshew’s meteoric rise from late rounder to starter in one season isn’t common so it’s unlikely the same happens with Luton this coming fall; but Jacksonville has seemed to find these diamonds in the rough the past two drafts now. Because by all accounts, Jake Luton could be the next nice surprise. Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden is even willing to say exactly he has been one of the surprises of camp.
"I think [Jake has] been the biggest pleasant surprise, I would say—is his ability to come in here, learn, he plays with great poise and confidence for a young player.”
In team periods Luton has split reps with Josh Dobbs and Mike Glennon, with Glennon being the most veteran of the group but also bringing a different feel to the offense. Minshew, Luton and Dobbs are more akin to stretch the edges of the pocket. As such, when it comes time to cut down the roster, the Jags will be choosing between veteran experience or an identity defined by young players. If they choose the latter, Minshew, Dobbs and Luton would seem to be the unit. But with that in mind, it makes sense that Luton would quickly pick up on an offense tailored to passers with his skill set.
“Jake has been very impressive since the minute he walked into the building with his knowledge of the offense, his ability to learn, his ability to throw the ball down the field, short passes with touch,” explained Gruden.
“We put him in the number one huddle a couple times and he’s shown no sign of being intimidated, he fits right in there. Like I said he's got great accuracy, he's got great arm strength so we've been very impressed with him.”
Head coach Doug Marrone counts himself among those impressed. While discussing Minshew and the quarterback unit last week, he specifically pointed out the rookie and what he’s shown thus far.
“I think Jake has done a really nice job for a young guy. I feel good about where those guys are and I think we’re going to have some tough decisions of who’s two, who’s three and we may wind up keeping all four or keeping three. You know, but they’re making it a little tougher, depending on the roster.”
Gruden as well, on Friday, mentioned wanting to keep three quarterbacks on the roster due to uncertainties with COVID-19. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Luton being one of those three. Someone who has definitely enjoyed having him around is Minshew himself.
“Jake's been awesome man. He's, you know, got about everything you know people look for in a quarterback; he’s tall, throws an accurate ball, has a big arm. He's actually, he's really smart. He learned the offense very fast, and he really hadn't needed much help there.
"But it's nice to have—you know, we're a pretty young quarterback group, it's fun to kind of learn all as we go and we're all kind of talking through things. And it really makes it a fun quarterback room.”
Luton (6-feet-6, 224 pounds) threw 28 touchdowns and three interceptions as a senior at Oregon State last season. While official numbers aren’t kept during training camp, he’s been on target more often than not, continuing an impressive camp and forcing everyone around him to pay attention to the next rookie quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Because he could just be the next big surprise in the NFL.