JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 27-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 of the 2020 regular season at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday
1.Credit to the quarterback. It's hard to overestimate how much credit quarterback Gardner Minshew II deserved on a misty day at the 'Bank Sunday. The Jaguars didn't just win the regular-season opener, they did so as a heavy underdog against a team many believe will contend for the AFC South title – and they did so coming from behind throughout the game. Minshew was so consistent Sunday it was easy to miss how well he was playing – and then in the fourth quarter you realized he only had one incompletion, which came on a well-thrown pass that rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. should have caught. Minshew finished Sunday a remarkable 19-of-20 passing for three touchdowns, with his final touchdown – a 22-yarder to wide receiver Keelan Cole – giving the Jaguars a late fourth-quarter lead they never relinquished. One game doesn't make Minshew the franchise quarterback of the future. That will be decided over the course of a long season. But considering the doubters around him and the team entering the season – and considering the circumstance facing the Jaguars Sunday – it was a remarkably promising and impressive start.
2.James Robinson was ready. This was evident early, and it's a good sign for the Jaguars: rookie running back James Robinson is capable of being an NFL starting running back. More than that, he has a chance to be really good. Robinson, who signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft, was impressive enough in 2020 Training Camp that the Jaguars waived Leonard Fournette and made Robinson the Week 1 starter. While pregame storylines focused on Robinson being a mild-mannered rookie, he provided a hint of what was to come Sunday when he humbly talked about having good vision and the ability to make defenders miss. He showed that early and often Sunday, rushing for 62 yards on 16 carries — and helping give the Jaguars some early footing to stay in the game against a Colts team that was moving well offensively early. He also turned in highlight play when he hurdled a defender on a 28-yard swing pass midway through the fourth quarter. The Jaguars did more than get a victory Sunday. They showed they have a starting running back.
3.A really promising start for Henderson. This was true about a slew of rookies for the Jaguars Sunday, but cornerback CJ Henderson showed everything a highly drafted rookie could show in his NFL debut. The No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Henderson not only registered his first career interception Sunday – a play that led to a first-half touchdown – he had three pass breakups, including one on a pass from Colts quarterback Philip Rivers to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on 4th-and-4 to clinch the victory with :44 remaining. Henderson said afterward he expected more from his NFL debut, declining to specify what he meant by more because he figured if he shared that with the media it would never happen. Whatever "more" is, what Henderson gave Sunday was more than enough. He has the look of a player who can more than handle the lock-down corner role. That's why the Jaguars drafted him. To see him show it so early is a very good sign.
1.Minshew + Gruden = Success. Minshew was sensational Sunday and so was offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who put together a plan that had receivers running wide open. Gruden clearly spent the entire quarantine devising a way to maximize what Minshew does best, and he was as much a star of this game as his quarterback. But Minshew is so cool, calm, gritty, smart and tough you just can't count him out. His numbers tell the story, but so does his presence in the pocket and the way he kept coming after the Colts. I was thoroughly impressed with a guy who I want to say is just a guy, but is clearly much more than that. He has a long season ahead, but he is ahead in the standings after Week 1.
2.Young guys flashed all over the field. You can make a case for any number of young Jaguars players being a really good addition to this team: Robinson, Shenault, Henderson, defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson, nose tackle DaVon Hamilton, wide receiver Collin Johnson. It's a really nice young roster with plenty of upside. They also have a long season ahead, but they showed they can be playmakers and reliable players, which is more than we knew about them before the game began – and a quality that Head Coach Doug Marrone craves. Henderson in particular impressed me with both his coverage skills and his open-field tackling. He is a really, really good young talent and a guy they can build around in the secondary. In fact, he was more impressive in his debut than another first round cornerback we all remember and thank for the extra draft choices and cap room. I choose Henderson as my Young Gun of the Game for the interception that turned off the Colts' momentum and for the coverage on Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on Indianapolis' final two plays of the game – but you can make the case for any of them and I would understand your reasoning.
3.The run defense is better. It had a few shaky moments early with missed tackles, but the defense settled in with linebackers Myles Jack and Joe Schobert leading the way. I thought Hamilton was a big factor in the second half, throwing his big body all over the place – as was Abry Jones. The Colts ran for 396 yards in two games against these Jaguars last season, but on Sunday they managed just 88 yards – including 76 yards on 20 carries by their running backs for an average of just 3.8 yards per carry. Again – and this will be a theme for weeks to come – they have plenty of work to do.