JACKSONVILLE – Perhaps there's just a disconnect.
Or perhaps people aren't paying attention.
Whatever the explanation, starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II doesn't much care what observers say about the Jaguars as the 2020 regular season approaches.
"I feel very confidently in everybody's desire to win," Minshew said via videoconference Thursday after the Jaguars' final practice before Saturday's cutdown to 53 players.
And what of observers who feel differently?
"More than anything, I think it shows that people aren't watching us closely," he said.
That was essentially Minshew's outlook throughout this past offseason, and it remains his stance as the Jaguars continue preparing for the '20 season in the wake of the team this week trading defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings and waiving running back Leonard Fournette.
Asked early in the week about the notion of the Jaguars "tanking," Head Coach Doug Marrone noted that he likely wouldn't be employed following the season in such a scenario.
Minhsew on Thursday echoed that sentiment.
"People see it from afar, and they say, 'Oh, they're losing their biggest names,''' Minshew said. "That's not how we feel. If we're tanking, Coach Marrone, [General Manager] Dave Caldwell and me are probably going to be out of jobs. A lot of those other guys in the locker room are not going to let that crap happen. That's absolutely not anything we envision happening."
Minshew on Thursday also discussed Fournette's release, saying he spoke to the two-time 1,000-yard rusher after the news Monday. Minshew also said his reaction to Fournette's departure was like that of most observers.
"I was very surprised," Minshew said. "Leonard's been a face-of-the-franchise-type guy for a long time. I think we all hate to see him go. I'm excited for what he's going to do, but I'm also excited for the opportunity he's leaving behind."
Chris Thompson, who has rushed for 1,194 yards and five touchdowns with 1,772 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in seven NFL seasons, is the most-experienced Jaguars running back. Second-year veterans Ryquell Armstead and Devine Ozigbo and rookie free agents James Robinson and Nathan Cottrell also figure to play a role, with Robinson having rushed for 4,444 yards and 44 touchdowns at Illinois State.
"The guys we have in our running back room right now have stepped up in a big way," Minshew said. "They aren't the names that Leonard is, but I think they're guys who are very hungry and they're going to be very good for us this year."
The high-profile departures made an already young team even younger – and caused many national observers already skeptical about the team's chances to become even more so.
Minshew, a second-year veteran, called the Jaguars' youth "a double-edged sword."
"Experience really does help you learn," he said. "I know from my last year getting those reps is better than any classroom learning or practice learning that you could do, but I'm also very excited. With that youth comes a lot of energy, a lot of excitement – and not much ego.
"I think everybody's coming together in a great way. More than anything, I'm just excited to get everybody out there for the first time and really see what we've got."
*Minshew cited the Jaguars' wide receivers as a specific reason for his excitement, emphasizing that the entire group "really stepped up" during 2020 Training Camp. "Top to bottom, we've got a lot of guys that we all feel comfortable putting out there to play," he said. "I'm really excited. I have faith in every single one of those guys and whoever we have with us on Sunday is really going to help us." …