Quarterback Gardner Minshew prepares to face the Jaguars AFC South rival Indianapolis on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.
With a body of work that spans 13 games, Minshew has at least earned himself the right to challenge for the starting quarterback spot with veteran Nick Foles next season. Some would argue it is the other way around. In any circumstance, the Jaguars should walk into OTAs next year feeling pretty good about what was one of the more maligned positions on the football team last season.
This season has seen its share of struggles for Minshew and Foles, but it’s hard to argue about success with a rookie signal-caller who has thrown the ball around the yards for 2,976 tards with 18 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. And since he has replaced Foles in the lineup in the second half of the game against Tampa Bay, he has had better control of the football, which was an issue in his first eight starts this season.
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As Minshew talked to the media on Wednesday, he talked about a season of improving his game. At times, he has looked like the gunslinging quarterback that burst on the scene and took the NFL by storm. And he has also looked at times like a rookie lost in space.
"“There are definitely positives to be taken,” Minshew said. “There’s a lot of learning, too, that happened. I think we’re going to use some of the stuff we went through this year to make us better for the future, for sure.”"
This is Minshew’s first time facing the AFC South rival. Playing at home with the team 5-10 and eliminated from the playoffs and trying to search for something positive, it is still a chance to put another marker on the board. Can Minshew take another step forward and show he can be an effective starter in this league for next season and beyond.
Since jumping back in the huddle, he has not fumbled the ball and has been intercepted just once.
"“It’s just a new focus to it,” Minshew said. “It’s just learning that guys get on you a lot quicker. They’re longer. They’re faster. In college, it feels like you have a little more time than you do here. Getting a better feel for that, I feel like has helped.”"
His maturity in the huddle, his focus on the practice field and his attention during the game have gotten the coaching staff’s attention. Not many rookies have the kind of season the former Washington State star has had. And while Minshew seems to be as humble as his southern roots, the coaches have praised him for his progress.
"“We’re trying to figure that out – when to extend plays and how to do it the right way,” Minshew said when asked about finding a balance during the game.“One of the things we feel like I do well in my game is being able to do that, extend plays. You have to do it responsibly, though.“That’s been part of the learning process, working on that. As we move forward, as we get more experience, hopefully the better we’ll get at it.”"