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Wednesday Update: A challenge offensively

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II, left, talks with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden after a series during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

JACKSONVILLE – It has been a season of adjustments.

They have been big adjustments – at the sport's most important position, quarterback. Unsurprisingly, Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said that hasn't made the season easy.

"It's hard," Gruden said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-12) prepared to play the Baltimore Ravens (8-5) at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., Sunday at 1 p.m. "It has been quite the challenge to know what these cats are comfortable with and what they can execute."

Second-year veteran Gardner Minshew II, the Jaguars' starting quarterback in Games 1-7, will start Sunday. That follows a three-game stint with veteran Mike Glennon as the starter, which followed a three-game stint with rookie Jake Luton as the starter. Luton replaced Minshew after Minshew played through a thumb injury before the Jaguars' Week 8 bye.

That means Minshew will be the Jaguars' fourth starting quarterback of the season Sunday, the third in five games.

"You sit in meetings and people understand what we're talking about on a chalkboard and a film projector," Gruden said. "But when they get out there live, how much is too much and what can they handle and what can't they handle?

"That's been the biggest challenge for me. You want to simplify some things, but you also want to try to have some creativity, some different formations and some different concepts - but probably, I put too much on their plate, all of them.

"Trying to make sure these guys are comfortable – that's the No. 1 thing with Gardner this week."

Minshew, who has completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 2,033 yards and 14 touchdowns with five interceptions this season, is the most mobile of the trio – and Gruden said Wednesday that factors into game-planning and play-calling.

"They should all be able to run a lot of the same stuff," Gruden said. "You have to be a little more aware of what Gardner can do with his legs. He's a little more athletic, so there might be some more things that get him outside the pocket so to speak – more so than maybe Jake or Mike, who aren't quite that athletic. We try to cater to his strengths and go from there.

"The big thing with Gardner is a different style. He moves around a lot back there in the pocket, so our receivers have to get back used to that for off-schedule plays. It's just a matter of getting back used to him and calling plays for him to get him back comfortable in the pocket."

Gruden discussed the impact of off-schedule plays – i.e., plays made when the quarterback leaves the pocket.

"You just hope they happen positively in our favor for us," Gruden said. "You see some of the great ones – [Green Bay Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers and [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback] Patrick Mahomes … I don't think they plan those off-schedule plays, but they happen, and they usually happen in a favorable manner.

"Hopefully, our receivers understand Gardner sometimes will break the pocket. We have to do a better job around him to get open and escape … scramble drill. Whatever you want to call it, we have to get open for him and our line has to continue to try to work and stay on their blocks.

"A lot goes into that, but hopefully our guys will all understand that and react."

Gruden was asked if that can be practiced.

"You never know what's going to happen," Gruden said. "You'd like to have great protection, great routes and deliver the ball on time. That's what our goal is, but obviously that doesn't happen every play or hardly ever, sometimes. We have to do a good job of trying to adjust.

"Our guys just have to understand that if they don't get the ball at a time in the play that they have to abort and make something happen."


Gruden on wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., who has caught 45 passes for 591 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games this season after catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in a 2019 Pro Bowl season: "We've tried to target him and it just hasn't happened – whether it's a protection issue, whether he's been covered, whether it's been a poor throw, whatever. It just has not happened the way we anticipated it happening in training camp. He had a great training camp. He's a great player. We just have to try to continue to figure out ways to get him the ball. … And he's got to continue to work on his craft as well. Everything goes hand in hand. The production hasn't been there, really for anybody, from a standpoint of what we expect. We just have to continue to demand more. Hopefully, we'll get more."

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