JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 2019 preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons at TIAA Bank Field Thursday
1.Gardner Minshew got another extended look Thursday. Was it enough to secure the backup quarterback job entering the season? That’s a question. Minshew, after struggling in the preseason opener, looked more poised and confident as the preseason continued. But the rookie sixth-round selection failed to lead the offense on a touchdown drive in four preseason appearances. Head Coach Doug Marrone talked this week of liking a lot about Minshew’s development while at the same time wanting to see more from Minshew’s game opportunities. Minshew’s performance Thursday – 11 of 26 passing, 79 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions – didn’t bolster confidence. The tricky part about Minshew is we haven’t seen him with the starters, so it’s difficult to assess how he would do if needed in the regular season. The question isn’t whether the Jaguars like Minshew; they do. But is he a better option than a quarterback who might come available this weekend? Stay tuned.
2.This was a good night for running back Ryquell Armstead. It wasn’t easy finding positives for the Jaguars’ offense throughout this preseason. But Armstead rushed for 40 yards on six carries and catching a pass for 10 yards – and the fifth-round rookie from Temple showed serious aggressiveness, power and speed. Those were the traits the Jaguars liked – and the traits the reserve running backs lacked last season. Armstead missed time in training and preseason with injuries, including a concussion that kept him out of a Preseason Week 2 loss to Philadelphia. But when healthy he has shown signs of being a very good complement to starter Leonard Fournette.
3.We’ll end this preseason-finale quick thoughts with a few thoughts on a few players who played Thursday. First thought: Defensive tackle Taven Bryan responded to a difficult Preseason Week 3 game with a better game Thursday. He got penetration on a second-quarter series before registering a sack on the ensuing series. The oft-scrutinized 2018 first-round selection still must improve consistency, but he will – and should – be on the roster. “That’s obviously a step in the right direction,” Marrone said. “Now, you’ve just got to keep going … you’ve got to stay hungry. You’ve got to get better and better each day. I was happy. I think it was a step in the right direction.” Second thought: The sixth wide receiver position probably will come down to Tre McBride and C.J. Board, with special teams the likely deciding factor. Third thought: Swing tackle Josh Wells started for the Jaguars and could be a difficult decision as the team reduces the roster Saturday. The sixth-year veteran has played well when healthy, but has sustained multiple injuries throughout his career. He would appear to have the edge over left tackle Leonard Wester, but the team seems comfortable with Cedric Ogbuehi as the swing tackle. Wells likely will play in the NFL this season, but you wonder if it will be in Jacksonville.
1.Gardner Minshew will be in Jacksonville but I'm not sure if he's going to be the No. 2 quarterback or No. 3. Doug Marrone told the preseason television crew that Minshew had work to do against Atlanta to prove he deserved the back-up spot. I didn't see him grab the brass ring. To be fair he didn't get a snap in the preseason with the No. 1 offensive line or Leonard Fournette or Dede Westbrook. But while he had a few ups he had more than a few downs. I totally get keeping the kid and developing him. I think he's got a certain moxie about him that is important for a back-up quarterback to have. He's tough, mobile and having talked to him throughout the preseason he clearly loves playing football. I don't know whether there is a better option at No. 2 or if the Jaguars even have enough salary cap room to sign such a player but if Dave Caldwell is completely comfortable with Minshew as his back-up my name is Steve Young.
2.Can we please learn to be patient? Taven Bryan isn't a complete football player, yet. He is everything you want a defensive tackle to be below the neck and far from what they're looking for in the mental side of the game. But that is what coaches are for. Bryan may not pan out but you don't give up on a 6-5 300 pound man who is as strong and moves as suddenly as he does. He played one year at Florida, was moved outside as a rookie and is learning another position this season. Should he be better? Maybe? I recall a time not too long ago when first round picks weren't expected to start as a rookie...it's possible Bryan was over-drafted but if you're willing to give up on a player with his measurables so quickly then you're overreacting.
3.The Kansas City Chiefs will be here a week from Sunday. Be prepared to feel disrespected if you're inclined to such thoughts. Patrick Mahomes is the darling of the NFL and for good reason and Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid has built an offense worthy of admiration, even awe. The Chiefs will be favored by Las Vegas and picked by pundits all over the country but it doesn't matter what is said before the game. Finally...it's time to decide on the field. I can't wait for September 8.