As Jaguars.com's John Oehser framed it: "The young quarterback is doing fine."
Head coach Doug Marrone made that much clear when discussing rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew
Monday, a day after a 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Minshew, making his sixth NFL start in place of injured starter Nick Foles
(broken clavicle), wasn’t perfect Sunday. He completed 15 of 32 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, and the offense was shaky at times close to the red zone.
But Minshew improved to 3-3 as an NFL starter, and Marrone on Monday made clear he continues to like the sixth-round selection’s development.
“He’s progressing well,” Marrone said.
Minshew, after throwing nine touchdowns with an interception in his first six games, has thrown one touchdown with an interception in the last two weeks. Marrone said Monday defenses are game-planning new ways for Minshew in recent weeks, and that the rookie is handling that NFL growth process well.
“We’re starting to see a lot of different things – and his reaction to it,” Marrone said. “He’s getting better experience with it, being able to handle it. I think those things are going well. … There’s a lot on his plate. There are a lot of things going on during the course
of a game.
“There are things we’re working on and seeing that we can’t really prepare him enough for. He just has to go out and react to it.”
Minshew’s performance Sunday came a week after his toughest game in the NFL – a 13-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints in which he passed for 163 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
“He’s getting better and better,” Marrone said. “I thought he looked much more comfortable yesterday at times than he did the week before, so we’re headed on the right track.”
Minshew, after losing three fumbles in a 34-27 loss at Carolina in Week 5, has not had a fumble in either of the last two games.
“He’s doing a much better job protecting the football, even though at times there are things we still have to work to improve on,” Marrone said. “He’s done a nice job. I’m really happy with the way he’s progressing.”
The Jaguars outgained the Bengals 460-291 Sunday but struggled close to the end zone. They scored touchdowns on one of six drives inside the Bengals 20, getting stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first quarter and kicking four field goals.
“Situationally, I always thought that was one of the tougher things for young quarterbacks coming in – especially right from college,” Marrone said. “Things happen so fast and so quickly down there.”
The Jaguars’ lone “red-zone” touchdown Sunday came on a two-yard pass from Minshew to wide receiver Keelan Cole
, with Minshew completing a pass to wide receiver Chris Conley
for a two-point conversion on the ensuing play.
Marrone said red-zone efficiency was a major topic early Monday.
“We had a long talk about that,” Marrone said. “I think first it starts with me. I’m going to put a little bit more time and get little bit more reps in there. … We just have to get with him [Minshew] and see what he likes as far as concepts.
“Once we get those concepts, we have to hit all the different coverages and things he can see down there. I have to do a better job, which I will, of making sure we spend time in it. Then we have to do a good job of picking the things from a quarterback standpoint that he feels comfortable with.
“We just have to make plays down there. We hit a couple yesterday and had some other opportunities, but it wasn’t as smooth as you would like. We’re going to put more time in that and some more time into third down.”
Meanwhile, as ESPN's Mike Clay notes, after seeing a total of 11 targets during Weeks 1-2, Dede Westbrook
has handled six-plus targets in five consecutive games, including eight-plus during four of those five affairs. Westbrook has a catch of at least 23 yards in all five games and sits 19th among receivers in fantasy points during the span.
According to ESPN's Al Zeidenfeld, the Jets are allowing 8.7 slot completions per game. Westbrook ranks ninth in the league in slot catches, sixth in slot yards and sixth in slot points this season among wide receivers. He's also seventh overall in the NFL in targets since Week 3, which is more than either Julio Jones
or Travis Kelce
Overall, Westbrook has been on the field for 85 percent of the Jaguars' snaps and is handling a career-high 24 percent target share.
As Clay suggests, Westbrook and teammate D.J. Chark
Jr. are both viable weekly fantasy starters -- although we need to keep an eye on Westbrook's health after he's missed the first two days of practice this week
Meanwhile, Leonard Fournette
continues to get the volume fantasy owners are after.
Per Zeidenfeld, we can feel pretty confident that we'll get 25-30 touches from Fournette, as the Jaguars are both favored and at home, going up against the Jets, who have allowed a rushing touchdown on 5.9 percent of carries this season, tied for the worst mark in the league.
They also have allowed the second-highest percentage (30.3 percent) of red-zone carries to be converted to touchdowns.