Jaguars' Gardner Minshew Breaks Downs Rookie Additions at Wide Receiver
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II didn't need to be on a field with Laviska Shenault to know how talented his newest weapon at wide receiver was.
“Laviska Shenault Jr. is a freak, man. I knew it when we played him at Colorado. I was glad he wasn’t super healthy that game because he changes the game when he has the ball in his hands," Minshew said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
But even he, with his prior exposure to Shenault's talents, has been a bit surprised with what he has seen from the No. 42 overall pick this offseason. Shenault figures to play a big role as one of Minshew's weapons this season after he became Jacksonville's most significant investment into the offense this offseason, and the early reports in from Minshew are positive.
"He’s really impressed me," Minshew said. "He’s a lot better route runner, a lot better at catching the ball than I even expected so I’m really excited for what he’s going to be."
In three seasons at Colorado, Shenault recorded 149 catches for 1,943 yards (13.0 average) and 10 touchdowns. He also added on 42 carries for 280 yards (6.7 average) and seven rushing touchdowns. This included a 10-catch, 102-yard performance against Minshew and Washington State in 2018.
“I am super excited. I remember playing against him in 2018 and he kind of banged up our game, which I was not upset about because he was the type of guy that every time he touched the ball you just got nervous because you knew he could break it, we had seen it on tape and at that point he was going to be in the talks for the Heisman until he got injured that year," Minshew said in May.
"He is a very special player. I am excited for him. He is just the type of guy that you get the ball in his hands and good things tend to happen.”
But as Minshew prepares for the 2020 season, Shenault isn't the only rookie receiver he will be building a rapport with. Jacksonville also drafted 6-foot-6 wide receiver Collin Johnson from Texas with the No. 165 overall pick in the fifth round of April's NFL Draft, giving them another big body on the outside to develop.
Johnson was a four-year contributor at Texas, finishing his career with 2,624 yards (fifth-most in UT history) and 15 touchdowns on 188 receptions. Johnson also led the receiving corps as a sophomore when he averaged 58.8 yards per game and as a junior, Johnson set a Big 12 Championship Game-record with 177 receiving yards on nine catches with a touchdown in the title game against Oklahoma.
It was because of Johnson's massive frame that he was able to produce in college, but Minshew sees more than just height in his newest weapon.
"Collin Johnson, really big guy, doesn’t move like he’s a big guy, he moves really well, smooth and catches the ball really well," Minshew said. "Both those guys, they love ball, they love learning, they’re excited to be here so I’m excited to work with them.”
While Shenault and Johnson will have to develop behind the four veterans on Jacksonville's roster (DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley), each has immense physical potential. And so far, they have the support of their starting quarterback, always an important step for any wide receiver.