Gardner Minshew aims to solidify spot as Jaguars franchise QB

All nestled into Duval with a lucrative contract and thoughts of a solidified future, Nick Foles was all set to be the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise quarterback.

Those best laid Jaguars plans didn't even last a week, as Foles was injured in Week 1 and a few weeks later Minshew Mania began running wild.

And here we are once more as another season is set to unfold for the Jaguars and the question of whether a franchise QB is in the building remains. This time around, a rebuilding roster surrounds a mustachioed, scrambling, slinging second-year signal-caller named Gardner Minshew with a headband above his brow, a little bit of magic and a whole lot more potential in his arm and a shot to answer the seasonal quandary in Jacksonville.

Thus, entering the 2020 campaign, the Jaguars are asking themselves if Minshew is merely a starting QB or the franchise quarterback of the future?

A franchise since 1995, the Jaguars have had just two Pro Bowl quarterbacks -- Mark Brunell (three times) and David Garrard, per NFL Research. Garrard's 2009 Pro Bowl trip was the last for the franchise at the position. Perhaps conversations about Pro Bowl tickets are a bit premature when the baby steps of maintaining a successful starting quarterback from one season to the next would seem to be the most prevalent.

Minshew is set to be the third Week 1 starter for the Jaguars in as many seasons, with the Blake Bortles experiment having finally expired in 2018 and Foles' franchise bid having never got off the ground last year.

A 6-6 record as a starter was had by Minshew in 2019 and so too was the most productive season for a Jaguars rookie QB. At season's end, Minshew had six victories, 3,271 passing yards, 233.6 per game, 21 touchdown throws and a 91.2 quarterback ranking. All of those numbers were the most for a Jacksonville rookie, per NFL Research.

Minshew's numbers were impressive outside of northern Florida, though, and his performances had merit beyond just the charisma that captivated NFL fans.

Perhaps most impressive, Minshew became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to average 230-plus yards per game, while throwing for more than 20 touchdowns and less than 10 interceptions in a season (according to NFL Research). He's one of only four rookie QBs in NFL chronicle to have more than 20 touchdowns and less than 10 picks (he had six).

A sixth-round rookie out of snowy Washington State who provided the majority of the excitement in an otherwise forgettable season in Jacksonville, Minshew's numbers are likely to be surprising to many.

According to Next Gen Stats, Minshew tallied an NFL-high 123.3 passer rating on deep passes in 2019, having thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions on such plays. Long of arm, he was also fleet of foot as evidenced by his NFL-high 50 scrambles and his 350 rushing yards on scrambles, via Pro Football Focus, which were second only to the league's most valuable player.

When Minshew takes the field in 2020, he'll have the added promise of throwing to tight end Tyler Eifert and rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault, while D.J. Chark will look to become the first receiver in the franchise with back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns since Jimmy Smith in 2004-05, per NFL Research.

In the franchise's history, Jacksonville has selected three quarterbacks in the first round: Byron Leftwich, Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles. None of them worked out particularly well. So a sixth-round pedigree should matter not.

Surprisingly, the Jaguars selected another PAC-12 quarterback in the sixth round this past draft with Oregon State's Jake Luton.

Minshew is the starting quarterback for the Jaguars heading into 2020; that much is clear. He's the Jacksonville quarterback for the immediate future, but the prevailing question is whether Minshew can become the Jaguars' QB1 for the long run in Duval.

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