JACKSONVILLE – Dede Westbrook couldn’t hide his smile.
He didn’t bother trying, and why would he? The Jaguars’ third-year wide receiver was discussing rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II, and its fun for a receiver to talk Minshew Mania.
“He’s a damned great quarterback,” Westbrook said as the Jaguars (2-3) prepared to play the New Orleans Saints (4-1) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. “Football’s fun, but whenever you’re able to go out there and compete the way that we are and the way we have been, it makes it that much more fun.”
We’ll cover more topics later in this Thursday Jaguars update, including injuries and running back Leonard Fournette’s thoughts on his playing the NFL team from his hometown – and his thoughts on this years’ team compared to last season. But Westbrook’s thoughts about Minshew were significant because the words didn’t sound like someone talking about a rookie quarterback.
“It’s going pretty great,” Westbrook said. “The great thing with Gardner is he pretty much keeps us all grounded and on our toes. For him to be so young, how he’s able to go out and lead us as he does … we never feel like we’re out of a game, because we have the potential to come back at any moment.”
Minshew entered the lineup after starter Nick Foles sustained a broken clavicle in the first quarter of a Week 1 loss against Kansas City. Westbrook and the rest of the Jaguars’ starters at the time had played sparingly with Minshew, who worked mostly with backups in preseason and training camp.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Westbrook said. “I worked with Nick all through training camp. From my experience with Gardner at the time, I didn’t have much of it. Whenever Nick went down, I was like, ‘Well, it’s going to be tough.’
“Obviously, not only did he surprise me; he surprised a lot of other people as well. He’s continuing to build off that. We’re continuing to build off that together. He’s doing a great job.”
Westbrook on Thursday spoke of a quarterback with field presence, huddle command and knowledge of the offense far beyond his experience.
“He’s very loud, very vocal,” Westbrook said. “The thing I like about him a lot is he pretty much tells you what you have without telling you. It’s one of those feels where you have to be in the huddle. If he calls a play, he’ll point his fingers to one side, tell you the play that way, then come back and say the play another way.
“It’s like you can’t have a mental error. Veteran quarterbacks do that. For him to be a rookie and go and take that role on the way that he does, it makes the game easier for us. I really appreciate him for that. It’s big time.”
Also, around the Jaguars Thursday:
*Minshew was placed on the Jaguars’ injury report Thursday with a minor groin injury, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey practiced on a limited basis with a back issue for a second consecutive day. Ramsey has missed the last two games with the injury. Center Brandon Linder and defensive end Calais Campbell both worked full, with Linder having missed practice because of a veteran’s day off Wednesday and Campbell having worked limited Wednesday for the same reason. Also limited in practice for the Jaguars Thursday were cornerback D.J. Hayden (foot), Ronnie Harrison (ankle) and tight end Josh Oliver (hamstring). Defensive end Lerentee McCray (oblique) missed practice and wide receiver Marqise Lee missed because of a scheduled day off. …
*Fournette held his weekly media availability, saying that despite being from New Orleans playing the Saints isn’t a huge deal. “I didn’t watch football like that growing up,” Fournette said. “I was outside, playing football and doing things like that.” Fournette also reiterated what he said following Sunday’s loss to Carolina – that he likes the team’s approach and that there is a different feel to this year’s team than last year’s 5-11 team that finished last in the AFC South. “This is a lot different team from last year, as you can see,” he said. “The vibe is just different from last year. Despite what we have everything going on right now, we’re playing for each other. That’s a good thing.” …
*Defensive coordinator Todd Wash also held his weekly media availability Thursday, saying he believes the defense will improve after allowed 285 rushing yards to Carolina. “It starts with the front seven, having some gap accountability – that was the big thing obviously last week,” Wash said. “We’ve got to have a stop-the-run mentality, but also a just-do-your-job mentality. Don’t worry about getting out and trying to make a play or whatever. Just do your job and we’ll be able to improve in the run game.” Wash was asked why he had confidence in the defense. “The guys in that room, to be honest with you,” he said. “They were hurting afterward. I told them, ‘We haven’t lost a lot of games defensively.’ We did last week. They take a lot of pride. The reason I believe we’ll come back and play well is the guys in that room.’’ …