Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden would be more than fine with keeping three quarterbacks on the roster for the 2020 season. At least that is what the Jags' play-caller revealed to reporters on Friday.
“At the end of the day it's up, [Head Coach] Coach Marrone and, obviously, [General Manager] Dave Caldwell and they'll have the final say but if I have my way you know, I definitely want to keep three with all the things going on in the world today with coronavirus you never know what's going to happen. You got to have three guys in the building, I would think, that know the position and know the offense and all the terminology.”
Typically, the 53-man rosters throughout the NFL only host two quarterbacks. It’s not a hard and vast rule, but given the position numbers, most teams want a starter and a back-up. A third QB will usually run the practice squad and can be called-up for extreme circumstances.
As Gruden mentioned however, teams are rethinking their entire roster with the advent of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Some in the NFL have even postured the possibility of quarantining a third quarterback during the season as a way to isolate him in case there are break-outs in the QB unit.
“Roster numbers are what they are and if we have to go with two we have to go with two, but obviously being at one could get sick on a Friday before the game you'd like to have three in a building,” added Gruden.
With four currently on the roster in training camp, all could feasibly still be in Jacksonville come September 13 when the Jags kick-off; three on the 53-man roster and one on the practice squad. With the uncertainties due to COVID-19, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to increase practice squads from 12 players to 16 players. In the past, only two players on the squad could have two or more accrued seasons in the league. But now six of those 16 players have no limit on number of accused seasons. Essentially, veterans can be signed to the practice squad.
The Jags are currently carrying two veterans (Mike Glennon and Josh Dobbs), one second year passer (Gardner Minshew II) and one rookie (Jake Luton). They’re all different styles, with Minshew and Luton most closely resembling the other. But all four, according to Gruden, have shown an ability to retain and run the offense.
“[Gardner’s] doing a good job he's got the meat and potatoes of the offense right now. He’s got to continue to develop some consistency with his progressions, his reads, his footwork, his protection, knowledge, all that stuff that as a quarterback, has to handle snap count, all the little things I got to see him continue to do better and dominate at the line of scrimmage pre-snap and post-snap. Do the right thing with the football and go from there.
“Mike Glennon has really come on the last four or five days he's thrown the ball extremely well… he's done some good things as well.
“Obviously Josh Dobbs is does some really really good things as well.”
It’s the rookie Luton though, the sixth-round pick out of Oregon State, who has stood out in camp. Maybe that’s relative to what’s expected. But because of that, even Gruden was a little taken aback.
“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.
"I think that's 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. We put them 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.”
Knowing that Minshew is the starter means he obviously receives the most amount of reps in practice. But as Gruden explains, that can inadvertently make it harder to find his back-up since the next three won’t get as many snaps to show what they can do. The key, says the offensive coordinator, is finding the best for the team out of a pool of qualified applicants.
"They're in the NFL for goodness sake, so there's a reason they're here in the first place but now we're looking for the guy who will give us the best opportunity to win if something were to happen to Gardner. So all of them shown flashes, now it's just a matter of us going out today and out tomorrow, going out the next day and see who handles it the best," Gruden said.
“I tell you what they've all done something good. They've all shown us that they belong in the National Football League and that is going to be a tough call.”