JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 28-11 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday
1.Nick Foles left Doug Marrone little choice. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone replaced starting quarterback Nick Foles with rookie Gardner Minshew II at halftime Sunday – a move that followed a flurry of first-half mistakes by Foles and no first-half points for the Jaguars. Foles’ three first-half turnovers led to 22 Buccaneers points, and the offense had struggled enough in Foles’ three recent starts that the move felt inevitable. It wasn’t fair to blame Foles for all that ailed the Jaguars Sunday; a sack-fumble that led to a touchdown by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White would have happened to many quarterbacks. But Foles in three weeks since replacing Minshew never gave the offense the anticipated lift – and he never showed the quick release, consistency or experienced decision-making he showdescription
ed during training camp after signing as an unrestricted free agent from Philadelphia. Whether this is the end for Foles as the Jaguars’ quarterback remains to be seen, though it seems likely. But for Sunday, Marrone had little choice but to make the change.
2.It must be Minshew now, right? Marrone was non-committal Sunday about who will start moving forward, saying he planned to speak with both quarterbacks Monday. It would be a surprise for a couple of reasons if it wasn’t Minshew. One, the rookie undeniably gives the offense – and team – energy Foles hasn’t given them. Two, it’s difficult to return to a veteran starter once he is benched for a younger quarterback; that truism could be tested considering Foles has started just four games in Jacksonville, but the sense here is it will hold true in this case. The sense here also is there’s no great option for the Jaguars. While Minshew is the more exciting player, defenses took away his strengths late in his starting stint earlier this season, and he struggled in his last start – a pre-bye week loss to the Texans in London. He appeared Sunday to still be working through some of that; defenses undoubtedly will continue playing single-high safety and taking away the sides of the field – as well as rushing him to force him to throw to the middle of the field. Still, Minshew’s excitement and potential appears likely to give him the edge here, and I expect that’s what Marrone will announce Monday.
3.Josh Allen remains a bright spot. On a day where positives for the Jaguars were scarce until the fourth quarter, rookie defensive end Josh Allen continued to be perhaps the brightest spot of a difficult season. He set the rookie record for sacks on Sunday with nine and set up the sack with a big-time play by chasing Buccaneers running back Dare Ogunbowale down from behind to hold what looked like a long gain on a screen pass to a six-yard gain. Allen after the game appropriately downplayed the rookie record, acknowledging that setting it was among his goals for the season but making clear he didn’t want to set it during a loss. The Jaguars have had a lot go wrong this season, and it’s clear they won’t come close to living up to expectations in the present. One positive so far this season is that Allen absolutely appears like a player around whom they can build for the future.
1.It’s his job now. The fans were chanting for the return of back-up quarterback and cult hero Gardner Minshew before this one even began so I was curious to see if and when the call would build to a crescendo. There were nine minutes to play in the second quarter when it got loud enough that even the Buccaneers fans were joining in. Foles opened the game with a terrible interception which Tampa turned into a 7-0 lead. Three plays later Shaq Barrett sacked Foles who fumbled which rookie linebacker Devin White scooped up for the touchdown and the two- point conversion made it 15-0. Foles’ third turnover on the Jaguars third drive, this time inside the Tampa 20-yard line also turned into a touchdown drive and a 22-0 lead before the midway point of the second quarter. The only noise from the home crowd louder than that was the cheer that arose when he took the field to begin the second half. He got them in a position to make it a one score game before the interception in the end zone which Dede Westbrook probably should have caught. There is something about the kid and one thing’s for sure. There’s no going back, now.
2.He can’t do it all by himself and this roster needs work. I’m not pointing at replacement players such as Andrew Wingard, Donald Payne or Nick O’Leary but when you’re left to line up with those guys it’s a problem. The high dollar left guard is only okay and they’re just getting by on the right side, there’s way too much pressure right up the middle no matter who the quarterback is. Plus, there is no tight end or fullback and this team wants to run the offense through a power running back. On defense the line isn’t the same without Marcel Dareus or Malik Jackson and Myles Jack doesn’t look like a $15-million-dollar linebacker. The secondary doesn’t have a marquee performer and while I still believe Ronnie Harrison could turn out alright, he wasn’t enjoying the kind of breakout season the Jaguars had hoped he would have in July. This roster needs an overhaul.
3.But there’s no denying the kid is the better option at this point. Let’s face it, this was a rough week before the horrible first half performance. You didn’t need to read between the lines when Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin addressed the media on Wednesday and Thursday. The real issue as I see it was an overwhelming sense of apathy in the stands and around the stadium before half-time. Minshew is an exciting player who took the offense and lit a fire despite the overwhelming obstacle of being down 25-0 when he took the field. He’s mobile and smart as hell and most importantly the fans love him and believe in him. It wouldn’t matter if he couldn’t play but it’s clear he has the tools to become a good and maybe a very good player. The apathy at halftime was replaced by hope at the end of the game and that is critical for the franchise. You can’t have fans leaving without hope for the next Sunday and thanks to the bold move returning Minshew to the line-up there is hope and energy for the Chargers next week.