JACKSONVILLE - Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 20-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Thursday …
1.Minshew Mania is for real … Gardner Minshew II is more than a growing phenomenon; he's a good quarterback. The sixth-round rookie from Washington State has thrown five touchdowns with one interception in 11 quarters quarterbacking the Jaguars, and he made multiple big-time NFL throws Thursday with eye-catching accuracy and timing. His 22-yard pass to second-year wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. that gave the Jaguars a 14-0 lead and firm control of the game was stunningly good. Most importantly, Minshew showed Thursday he can win. The phenomenon continues to grow.
2. … maybe really for real. Just two weeks ago, no one – including the Jaguars – knew if Minshew could be the backup. He has shown remarkable poise, accuracy, decision-making, pocket presence … it's actually hard to think what he hasn't shown. Even his much-criticized arm strength has been much less of an issue than expected. We know he can be good. The question is how good.
3.Sacksonville is back. Thursday night revived memories of 2017, and with reason. The Jaguars registered nine sacks in a dominant defensive effort against Tennessee Thursday, their most since the 2019 season and the third-most in franchise history. This was a suffocating rush, and the type of performance on which the Jaguars can build.
4.The Jalen saga continues to be a thing – but not a distraction. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey didn't discuss his much-discussed request to be traded following Thursday's game, and there have been no reports that he has changed his mind. There have been reports that Owner Shad Khan wants to sign Ramsey to an extension and that Head Coach Doug Marrone doesn't want him traded. How this ends is anyone's guess, but know this: "Distractions" are overblown in the NFL. This team played its best game in a long time Thursday. And the furor around Ramsey didn't bother them a bit.
5.Todd Wash can coach. The Jaguars' defensive coordinator was loudly criticized after a 40-26 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1. The defense has allowed 20 points in the last two weeks, with one touchdown on an 11-yard drive against Houston in Week 2 and another with the Jaguars leading by seventeen points in the fourth quarter Thursday. Things have been quieter in the last two weeks. Funny how that works.
6.Dawuane Smoot is contributing big-time … Coaches talked throughout training camp and preseason of the third-year defensive end's improvement – and while many observers wondered if he would make the team, his roster spot never was in doubt. He registered his first two sacks Thursday, and figures heavily into the line rotation.
7. … and so is Taven Bryan. Remember the preseason? When bashing Bryan was Pastime No. 1 for Jaguars observers? The second-year defensive tackle has gotten serious penetration in recent weeks, and he got his first sack on Thursday. He still needs to improve, but he's making an impact.
8.Calais Campbell sure isn't done. There were whispers (and tweets) in Weeks 1 and 2 critical of the veteran defensive end, and he was disappointed in his performance after a few missed tackles in a Week 2 loss to Houston. The perennial Pro Bowl selection registered three sacks Thursday and was un-blockable much of the game. #notdoneyet
9.The running game needs serious work. Forget the statistics: 66 yards, 15 carries. Running back Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars' struggled mightily much of the game, and Fournette had rushed for minus-three yards on 14 carries before a 69-yard run in the fourth quarter. Fournette struggled to make defenders miss at times, but you're not in negative yardage in the fourth quarter if the blocking is effective. Head Coach Doug Marrone said this will be a focus moving forward. This has to get fixed. No schedule is navigable with no running game.
10. … but the offensive line deserve credit, too. The line struggled to run block, but Minshew threw 30 times and was not sacked. That's a good game by any measure.
11.Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. is taking a real step. It's past time wondering if he will take a Year 2 step. He has done that. The question now is how good he can become. Indications are "Very."
12.The holding calls are a bit much. The NFL has reemphasized holding penalties this season, and the effects are being seen leaguewide. The Jaguars' 10 holding penalties lead the NFL, but six teams have at least seven, so that lead isn't safe entering the weeks ahead. Either way, the league may be overdoing this emphasis. It's a bit much.
13.The Jaguars are very much in it. The Jaguars entered Thursday trying to avoid an 0-3 start. Not only did they avoid it, they are assured of entering Week 3 no worse than a game behind in the division. The way Minshew and the defense are playing, the Jaguars absolutely have a real chance to stay in the division race.
14.Minshew Mania is real. Is this repeating No. 1? Darned right it is. Long live the 'Stache.