JACKSONVILLE – Gardner Minshew II knows of what he speaks.
Minshew, who played with confidence throughout much of a memorable 2019 season, saw a bunch of young players do the same thing Sunday – and with what Minshew considered pretty cool results.
"When they are playing with confidence, you love a young team that plays with confidence," Minshew said Sunday in the wake of a 27-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the 2020 regular-season opener at TIAA Bank Field. "They have the energy.
"They got that swag about them."
The Jaguars' 2020 draft class on Sunday showed swag in a big way:
*James Robinson, who became the fourth undrafted rookie running back in NFL history to start Week 1, rushed for 62 yards on 16 carries – and also had a 28-yard reception.
*CJ Henderson, the No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, registered his first career interception – a play that led to the Jaguars' first touchdown. He also defensed three passes, including a pass breakup on a pass from Colts quarterback Philip Rivers to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on 4th-and-4 with :44 remaining to clinch the victory.
*DaVon Hamilton, a third-round nose tackle, registered two tackles and helped solidify a run defense that struggled early before holding the Colts to 88 yards rushing.
*Laviska Shenault Jr., a second-round wide receiver, caught three passes for 37 yards and a 15-yard touchdown that came in the second quarter and tied the game 14-14.
*K'Lavon Chaisson, the No. 20 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, registered two tackles. He had an interception in the second half negated by a penalty on defensive end Dawuane Smoot.
"I think, we as a whole, we all wanted the same goal – just have a lot of energy and not have that many mistakes," Robinson said. "Coming in as a rookie, a lot of people think you'll have a lot of mistakes, but I think all the rookies that played today were great."
The rookies had impact beyond the statistics, particularly Shenault. Not only did his touchdown reception keep the game close at halftime, Minshew said the Jaguars' first touchdown – a six-yard pass from Minshew to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. – worked "because they [the Colts] were worried about Laviska catching the ball when we were pumping it down to him."
"I'm very excited for him," Minshew said of Shenault. "I think he's going to continue to work and stay humble and I think he's going to do really good things for us."
And Minshew said the class' performance could have a positive effect moving forward.
"You always say 'I know I can play in this league', but until you do it…you know…" Minshew said. "I know this time last year that was the time when I was really like 'I really can do it.' Our guys have that same confidence where they know that they belong here, and not only do they belong, but they can be really good players for us."
Robinson's debut wasn't just productive. It also had an element of the spectacular, with Robinson hurdling a defender during his 28-yard reception in the fourth quarter. The play led to the Jaguars' go-ahead touchdown – a 22-yard pass from Minshew to wide receiver Keelan Cole – but Robinson's mid-play leap was a major post-game topic. "It was kind of funny, after a big play like that, you jog to the ball and look back to see if there are any flags," Minshew said. "I think [right tackle] Jawaan [Taylor] and [center] Brandon [Linder] were like 'Who the hell is this kid?'' They were astounded and I was too." Head Coach Doug Marrone watched all of Robinson's plays at Illinois State during training camp as he and the Jaguars made the decision to keep him and waive Leonard Fournette. But while Marrone absolutely had confidence in Robinson, he admitted Sunday: "I didn't think he had that in him. So, I'm not going to test all that in practice." …
Middle linebacker Joe Schobert on if offseason talk by observers of the team "tanking" served as motivation Sunday: "When you get on the field, I don't think anybody said anything about it. You're in a one-track mindset. … Coach Marrone did a great job of not putting a ton of pressure on that kind of stuff that was said, but kind of allowing us to build that chip ourselves, allowing us to get a team-first mentality in the locker room – like the only people that matter are the people in the locker room and build a culture about that, and you saw that on the field today."
Minshew on the Jaguars' defense: "They really closed the game out. They iced the game and won it for us. That's what a team win is all about."
Minshew on "tanking" talk: "I don't care what you all talk about. We're going to do what we do: try to win one game a week. That's all we can do. We're very excited about this start."
Minshew: "I think one of the things that served us well today was that we all have so much belief in each other. Whether it is me in them or them in me, when you have that, you can trust people to do their jobs."