Jags want 'big jump' from Minshew in second season

With the Jaguars finally announcing the trade of Nick Foles to Chicago, Jacksonville is officially Gardner Minshew's squad.

After a stellar rookie campaign, in which the quarterback seemingly spun magic to get out of trouble and make plays each snap, Minshew heads into 2020 holding the starting reins. The sixth-round pick also carries much higher expectations than at the start of last campaign.

"Obviously, we want to see a big jump," coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday of Minshew, via the team's official website. "We're excited for him. It's a great opportunity. He's not going to change the way he is. He's a hard-working kid who has a lot of potential. We've got to make sure everyone around him is doing their job and doing it at a high level."

Minshew took over for Foles in Week 1 and splashed big plays in a loss to Kansas City. Most shrugged at the sixth-round rookie's performance, noting the inconsistencies that come in reading too much into an opening-week performance. Then the rookie continued to dazzle. Minshew Mania was born.

Despite some midseason struggles and a brief benching in favor of Foles, Minshew was a breath of fresh air in Jacksonville. The signal-caller displayed a knack for escaping trouble at the last moment -- key behind the Jaguars' woebegone offensive line -- and pinpoint accuracy, especially on the move. He might not have a howitzer for an arm, but Minshew's Russell Wilson-esque ability to make things happen when the plays broke down was a thrill to watch.

Handing him the keys to the car, the Jags now need Minshew to smooth the ride in Year 2. Reading defenses and understanding what opponents are trying to force him to do will be big in Minshew's second season.

Learning Jay Gruden's new offense will be more challenging given the COVID-19 lockdowns that threaten to eat up the bulk -- if not all -- of the offseason.

Marrone said the Jags will start in virtual classrooms, which will allow Minshew and others to dive into the new playbook.

"When Phase 1 [of the offseason program] actually opens up, then we'll be able to get our players material that they need," Marrone said. "Obviously, there are going to be some new things that we're going to have to learn.

"Gardner works at a very high level, so I'm not concerned about that. He's working extremely hard. He's doing everything he can safety-wise. I think we've just got to get him in here and start practicing at some point and see what he can do as far as with him and Jay and the system -- and what he likes, what we've got to get him better at, improve at, then really work him on the things he did well -- and really fine-tune a lot of those things."

Minshew is set to be the starter in 2020. With only Josh Dobbs sitting as a backup, what type of third signal-caller Jacksonville acquires the rest of the offseason -- sturdy vet? fellow youngin with a few seasons under his belt? highly drafted rookie? -- will tell the tale of whether the Jags are as confident about the long-term future.

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