JACKSONVILLE – He once again didn’t lead a touchdown drive, and that was difficult.
“Very frustrating,” Gardner Minshew called it.
The question for Minshew now: Did the sixth-round rookie from Washington State do enough to secure his position as the Jaguars’ backup quarterback?
That’s not a question Minshew can answer.
It’s also a question that Head Coach Doug Marrone didn’t answer in the wake of the Jaguars’ 31-12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Thursday’s 2019 preseason finale, but Marrone was asked if he would be comfortable with Minshew backing up starter Nick Foles entering the regular season.
“If that’s what is elected to do, then I will be fine with it,” Marrone said.
Marrone said during the week leading to Thursday’s game he liked a lot about what Minshew had done during the preseason. He also said there were times he wanted to see more from the rookie who started the first two preseason games and played extensively in the second and third quarters in the third.
Marrone expressed a similar sentiment Thursday.
“There are times where I felt really good and times where I want to see more,” Marrone said.
Minshew, who entered the game not having led a touchdown drive in his first three appearances, led two field-goal drives Thursday. He completed 11 of 26 passes for 79 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions, completing 54 of 96 passes for 455 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in four preseason games.
“You want to see him do better,” Marrone said, adding that it was tricky to evaluate Minshew because he had played only with reserves during his four preseason appearances. “It’s always in the back of your mind. ‘Well, what if he was with this guy or that guy?’ But you want to see that production. It’s tough.
“Quarterbacks and a lot of positions offensively, when you get better guys around you, you’re going to do better. It’s easier to evaluate if you had better guys around you and he doesn’t do well, then it’s easy and you shouldn’t be around. … I wish there was more evidence to make it easier for him because he’s worked so hard and deserves it, but it’s what you do on the field.”
Marrone on Thursday lauded the play of Taven Bryan, saying the second-year defensive tackle appeared to play better Thursday than in a loss at Miami the previous week. Bryan, a first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, drew two roughing-the-passer penalties against the Dolphins – and had come under criticism from media and fans throughout the preseason. Bryan started Thursday and finished with three tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and a quarterback hurry. Marrone this week had commented that Bryan was in a “little funk’’ and that he needed to “strap it on” and get out of it. “The next day, when you watch the film, you’re pretty much still in it,” Marrone said. “If you’re not, then that kind of pisses you off – when a guy doesn’t play well and looks at it and is walking around like he doesn’t really care. But that’s not Taven. It was weighing on him, bothering him. You’re going to go out there, practice and work on technique and go out and do some good things. That’s the step in the right direction. Now you just have to keep going and stay hungry. You have to get better and better each day. That’s the way the profession is. If you don’t, it will eat you up. I was happy, it’s a step in a right direction that he needed and one we wanted him to take.”
Jaguars rookie running back Ryquell Armstead was a bright spot on a difficult night offensively Thursday, rushing for 40 yards on six carries and catching one pass for 10 yards. Armstead, a fifth-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, missed much of the on-field portion of the offseason program with a hamstring injury and missed Preseason Week 2 with a concussion. “He’s an intriguing guy,” Marrone said. “You could see the frustration in him, how pissed he was that he wasn’t out there. He’s one of those guys that looks like the more he’s out there, the more he’s around, the better he gets. So, he’s one of those guys that when you have him on the field and he’s available all the time, he’s going to be pretty darn good. If he’s a guy that’s hurt back and forth, it’s going to be tough.”