The partnership between Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is only one game old at this point, but the two had a debut on Sunday that they can build off of.
In the Jaguars 27-20 upset of the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, Minshew had a near-flawless day. In terms of actually passing the ball, one could make a strong argument that he was indeed flawless as he completed 19-of-20 passes. His lone incompletion was a drop by Laviska Shenault, so all 20 of his passes should have been completed.
While completing 95% of his passes against the Colts, Minshew also threw for 173 yards and three TDs for a passer rating of 142.3. Minshew became the just fourth player in NFL history to throw at least three TD passes and complete at least 95.0 percent of his passes in a single game (min. 20 pass attempts). By all standards, it was a good day at the office for the second-year quarterback.
But for quarterbacks, there is never truly a flawless day. The margin of error at the position is small, and the players and their coaches are more often than not perfectionists. As a result, there are still areas Minshew can look to improve upon after his Week 1 performance, which Gruden explained in detail on Wednesday.
“Yeah, I mean, he’s never flawless. He’s 19 for 20, of course, and he had the drop, but I think there are some things that we can clean up," Gruden said during a media conference.
"I think in the pocket, a little bit, he might’ve escaped a little bit too soon on a couple plays where we had down-the-field shots. But for the most part, we’re always going to find something. We’re coaches, we’re not very nice, we’re going to find something to be critical about. That’s just the way it is, we have to. We can’t tell him he was perfect, otherwise he’ll get a big head."
To Gruden's point, Minshew left the pocket several times to either scramble for a few yards or, in one instance in the fourth quarter a sack. But Minshew is still a young quarterback, so these kinds of small but steady improvements over the course of his career should be expected.
With Minshew having just 13 starts under his belt, some growing pains will almost assuredly appear now and then throughout the course of the 2020 season. Despite a dominant performance on Sunday, some of those growing pains still appeared at times, including him holding onto the ball for too long and taking a third-down sack that almost knocked the Jaguars out of field goal range at the end of the third quarter.
"So, we’ve got to keep him calm and keep him on the right track. Just continue to learn, continue to study his footwork, his projections, and his eyes. And then obviously in the pocket, when things break down, the decisions that he makes," Gruden said.
"You know, the sack that he took there on third down-and-2, could’ve knocked us out of field goal range. There [are] some decisions there that we’d like to have back. But we’re learning and we’re learning together. I’m learning more about him, what he is as a quarterback, as a person, what he likes, what he doesn’t like. And that’s going to be a process that is going to continue to take place. But as far as his first game with me and me getting to know him, I’m very impressed with the way he played.”
Minshew and Gruden will be taking another step toward expanding the offense in Week 2, and the obvious hope is that Minshew can learn from his epic Week 1 performance. Minshew and Gruden will next be tested by the Tennessee Titans and head coach Mike Vrabel's always solid defense, but if Week 1 was any indication, Minshew should be prepared.
"He’s a student and he knows he’s got a long way to go, from a mental standpoint. And he’s just soaking up the knowledge. It’s exciting to work with him because guys that are aware of how necessary it is to prepare and the guys that do prepare, it’s fun to watch them and develop," Gruden said.
"So, we’re just scratching the surface. We played one game, we’ve got a whole new game plan for Tennessee, so new plays coming in. So, he’s got to study, he’s got to work and he’s going to do that.”