A calmer, better quarterback

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Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II (15) throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints in an NFL game, Sunday, October 13, 2019 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Rick Wilson/Jacksonville Jaguars)

JACKSONVILLE – It's all in the feet.

Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said that's the biggest on-field change in Gardner Minshew II in two months.

The difference in the rookie quarterback is about calmness, poise, experience and a bunch of other quarterback things. But DeFilippo said where you see it first is the feet.

"He's just so much calmer in the pocket from a footwork standpoint," DeFilippo said Thursday as the Jaguars (4-4) prepared to play the Houston Texans (5-3) at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

Minshew, who on Sunday will start an eighth consecutive game in place of injured starter Nick Foles (broken clavicle), has completed 13 touchdown passes with two interceptions this season. He has a 4-3 record as a starter. He has shown enough poise, leadership and playmaking ability that there is a legitimate question about whether he or Foles will start when Foles is eligible to return against Indianapolis November 17.

Minshew not only has shown those attributes, he has appeared from the observer's eye to have improved his pocket presence and his awareness in recent weeks.

DeFilippo, speaking during his weekly media availability on Thursday, said that's absolutely the case. And he said those attributes can be seen in Minshew's on-field demeanor during his brief tenure as a star.

"We were talking about this the other day as a staff," DeFilippo said. "If you turn on his first game against Houston [in Week 2], his first start, compared to the last game against the [New York] Jets [this past Sunday], his feet have calmed down tremendously. His vision has grown exponentially.

"He can tell you what's going on when he comes over to the sideline. He communicates great with [quarterbacks coach] Scott [Milanovich]."

DeFilippo said that accelerated comfort with coaches, schemes and situation has translated to the Jaguars having a greater chance of succeeding offensively than was the case when Minshew first took over as the starter. It's key stuff in the growth of a young quarterback.

"He's really starting to understand what he has a chance of seeing before he gets the ball in his hand – in terms of the depth of safety, the alignment of the linebackers … little things like that," DeFilippo said.

Key to Minshew's performance in recent weeks has been adapting to defensive coordinators who are now game-planning against him based on his performances early in the season.

The New Orleans Saints had success against Minshew in this vein in Week 6, covering the Jaguars' wide receivers on the outside and helping with a safety to guard against deep passes. The Saints in that game forced Minshew to work the middle of the field and also rushed to try to keep Minshew in the pocket and negate his mobility.

Minshew, after not throwing a touchdown pass and throwing an interception against the Saints, threw a touchdown pass without an interception in a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals the following week. He threw three touchdowns with no interceptions in a victory over the New York Jets this past week.

"I don't want to say you've ever perfected it," DeFilippo said. "But I think once you see something once or twice, there's no doubt you get better at recognizing it."

DeFilippo was asked if it would be hard for defenses to "fool" Minshew twice with a certain scheme or approach.

"I would hope so; I would hope so," DeFilippo said. "You see him, and he just looks more relaxed in there."

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