JACKSONVILLE – Next up for Jake Luton: More challenges.
Not just on the tundra but for the long-term, too.
That doesn't just mean facing the Green Bay Packers Sunday at historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., – on the so-called "Frozen Tundra" – it means the upcoming challenge of facing different defensive looks and schemes based on his own strengths and weaknesses.
Such is the upcoming terrain for the Jaguars' rookie quarterback.
"I'm focused on myself, focused on our team," Luton said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-7) prepared to play the Packers (6-2) Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I stepped back out on the practice field today and I felt a lot more confident. I thought practice went really well and I'm really just trying to build on what I did on Sunday."
What Luton, a sixth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, did this past Sunday impressed many observers and the Jaguars coaching staff. He threw for 304 yards and a touchdown and ran for another touchdown in a loss to Houston in his NFL debut.
"I thought it was really incredible," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said Wednesday.
Gruden said Luton, who replaced injured Gardner Minshew II, was particularly impressive considering he got few first-team repetitions in practice during the season and in training camp.
"I thought for his first game ever – with limited reps [as a professional] – I thought he did an outstanding job,'' Gruden said. "Not many guys in their first game, with that limited exposure, can step into the fire like that and perform like he did. Obviously, there are some throws I'm sure he wished he had back and some opportunities that were missed.
"But overall, the way he was on the sideline, the poise, the control he had at the line of scrimmage, using the play clock, changing protections from time to time … I thought [he] was great. Now, it's just a matter of continuing to build and continuing to get more and more reps.
"As far as Jake's concerned, I think there's a lot to like."
Luton said he wants to work on getting through his reads quicker, as well as the finer points of his footwork.
"Hopefully, we'll build on that this week," he said.
Luton drew praise from Head Coach Doug Marrone for his poise and maturity before and during that game. And this week?
"He's the same," Marrone said. "He has a business-like approach. He doesn't like a lot of b.s. He just wants information. He's going to take the information and see where he's going. It's a day-to-day process and we're just trying to keep the progression going, see where he can go and see how many steps he can take."
A huge part of that process is crucial for any young NFL quarterback – i.e., playing games after defensive coordinators have game planned against them based on previous NFL performances. Packers coaches will have a game's worth of video to plan for a Luton-quarterbacked Jaguars offense.
"The first time you get in there, if you're decent you have a pretty good chance to do well," Marrone said. "The more you're on film and people see you – and start studying you – then you have to really continue to work. You can go in there sometimes and have a little bit of success, but once people really start watching you, you have to make sure your game's pretty tight not to give anyone an advantage."
Said Gruden: "Teams will get the film on him (Luton) and they'll study him, they'll study our scheme and it's our job to try to put him in positions that are not easy to see or read."
Marrone left no doubt about one quarterback issue Wednesday: Minshew won't play again until fully healthy. Minshew, who played through a right thumb injury for multiple weeks in October without the team's knowledge, is not yet throwing. Marrone said no decision on playing time or quarterback starting status will be made until he does. "Right now, I want to see Gardner be able to throw first," Marrone said. "Because if he's not throwing the ball well because of the thumb, well then, that decision's easy." Marrone was asked if he was concerned about Minshew trying to return too soon. "I think he's already done that once, not reporting the injury," Marrone said. "I told him, 'Look, when we go out there next time and you tell me you're ready, we're going to put you out there on the field and we're going to look at it. If you're not, or I feel you're not or talking to Jay and [Quarterbacks Coach] Ben [McAdoo] and watching it with our eyes, then we're not going to play you until you're 100 percent healthy.' I wanted to make sure he understood that 'Hey listen, you need to get healthy.' That's the No. 1 thing because I think it's shown when you come back and he's had this injury, it's not good for anyone, including himself."
Rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (hamstring) was among five Jaguars players practicing limited Wednesday with the others being safety Josh Jones (chest), guard Andrew Norwell (calf), linebacker Kamalei Correa (hip) and safety Andrew Wingard (core muscle). Linebacker Dakota Allen (ankle) was among six players missing practice with the others being nose tackle Doug Costin (concussion), tight end Tyler Eifert (neck/scheduled day off), center Brandon Linder (hip/scheduled day off), Minshew and running back Devine Ozigbo (hamstring). Marrone said Costin has been ruled out for Sunday after making his first NFL start against Houston.