JACKSONVILLE – The storyline accelerates now.
That's true of any young NFL quarterback, and it will be true when Jaguars rookie Jake Luton makes his second professional start Sunday in decidedly difficult circumstances – a road game in a tough venue against one of the NFL's best teams.
To borrow from Head Coach Doug Marrone's analysis, Luton has "checked a lot of boxes" – playing well in his NFL debut this past Sunday and handling himself professionally in a couple of weeks getting starting repetitions in practice.
"Now, it's just a matter of what steps is he going to take?" Marrone said Friday as the Jaguars (1-7) prepared to play the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers (6-2) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"Is he going to take a step backward? Is he going to stay the same? Is he going to take a step forward? That's what we're all looking for and we're going to get that answer Sunday after the game."
Luton, a sixth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, completed 26 of 38 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Houston Texans Sunday. He also ran for a 13-yard touchdown that capped an 80-yard drive that gave the Jaguars a chance to tie late in the game.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who started the Jaguars' first seven games, was ruled officially ruled out Friday for a second consecutive game because of a thumb injury.
The Jaguars will enter Sunday without rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who was one of five Jaguars players ruled out of Sunday's game on Friday; Shenault left the Houston game because of a hamstring injury after playing 10 snaps. Other Jaguars players ruled out Friday were running back Devine Ozigbo (hamstring), Minshew, rookie defensive tackle Doug Costin (concussion protocol) and linebacker Dakota Allen (ankle). Center Brandon Linder (back) and cornerback Sidney Jones IV (chest) were listed as questionable entering the weekend with all other injured Jaguars players expected to be available Sunday.
With Shenault out, veteran wide receiver Chris Conley likely will have an increased role Sunday. Conley, who caught a career-high 47 passes for 775 yards and five touchdowns last season, has 22 receptions for 776 yards and a touchdown this season. He caught a season-high seven passes for 52 yards last week. "Chris is someone who always has worked extremely hard – ultimate pro," Marrone said. "He's someone who has played and who has had production. I never have a problem with the ball going to Chris. He's good after the catch. He does everything well. It's not like we're putting someone in who we haven't seen before. We're putting someone in who has more experience than anyone else we have."
Marrone on the Jaguars' offensive line: "I've said this multiple times: the inside three (Linder and guards Andrew Norwell and A.J. Cann) have done well; they have graded out well. That's backed up by statistics outside of how we look at it and grade it. I think the tackles (Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor) have had moments showing they're really doing a good job and I think there's a lot of pressure on those guys (the tackles) when you get behind in games. Overall, it has been a pretty solid group for us."
Marrone: "I've seen it where (losing) separates a team. There are injuries and guys that don't practice. There are coaches that walk around with their heads down. There's a lot of that has occurred when things like this go on, but I haven't seen that (this season). I love this team. I really do. I have zero issues. These guys are going about their business and working hard. That's not usually the case (when a team struggles). I don't know whether they're too young to even know, but they work. They might not get it done on Sunday, but they work their ass off to try to get it done on Sunday."