Atypical for a young quarterback — especially a sixth-round quarterback —, Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew II was forced into the starting lineup for Jacksonville much earlier than anticipated. Learning on the bench over the last few weeks, Minshew has been able to better focus on his craft, and because of proactive coaching, was able to stay ready whenever his name was called upon.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone operated his practice schedule in a unique way over the last few weeks. Typically, a backup quarterback rarely takes any repetitions besides the scout team. In an effort to not stunt Minshew’s development, Marrone decided add an extra period of seven on seven work to keep his young quarterback prepared which he feels allowed the team to see improvement out of the rookie.
“We wanted to do something at the end of practices, and on Thursday and Friday, we’d put stuff in there at the end of practice that we felt that he needed to get better on.”
“One of the things that I’ve always had an issue with, personally, in this league when I was a player, was a lot of times you’d get better during OTAs, and minicamp and training camp,” Marrone said on Wednesday when asked about Minshew’s improvement over the last few weeks while on the bench. “And then if you’re not a starter, and you’re running the scout team, you’re in the meetings, but there was a whole lot of responsibility on yourself to get better when I was [playing] back in the 80’s.”
The Jaguars were able to develop a plan to not stunt the development of their young quarterback. While he was able to get a grasp of the offense during the first nine weeks of the season, Minshew may not have improved as much without the extra repetitions he has received over the last three weeks of the season.
While Marrone understands coaches have a responsibility to get the starters ready to go for the week, he feels getting more repetitions for younger players in-season allows them to grow even more than during the offseason.
“I felt that there was always a cycle of lost development, so I always tried to build into the schedule where you can keep these young guys playing because if you don’t, when you start up again in the spring, you’re pretty much going to have the same player you had in the preseason, you really are.”
Minshew feels the extra time on the bench did help his development. Able to watch quarterback Nick Foles operate as the team’s starting quarterback was another way for him to learn. Minshew said on Wednesday that learning how Foles handled himself on the field as a leader and getting out of some bad plays helped him.
“A lot of times when you’re playing you have a million different things that you’re having to focus in on and you kind of lose some of the bigger stuff. I guess I should say some of the smaller stuff sometimes,” said Minshew. But when you’re out of that role, you can kind of step back and see the little details and it was a really good experience for me.”
A mentor to him, Minshew says he was while he was excited for himself, he was hurting for Foles after receiving the news that he’d be the team’s starting quarterback. Minshew remarked that they both want nothing but the best for each other and only want to win games no matter who is out there.
“I know every group of QBs says they’re tight, but it’s true. We care about each other. I know every drive he was out there I was praying [and] hoping he’d go score so all that booing and crap would stop. And I know he’s doing the same for me.”
Along with being able to understand the game from a different perspective, Minshew says the extra repetitions helped as well. Able to continue his development, instead of delaying it was always the Jaguars’ goal, and the team likely will reap the rewards through the last four games of the season and beyond.
“Yeah it was big,” Minshew remarked of the extra practice time. “You don’t get a lot of live reps at your own place when you’re the number two, so it was really cool for them to be able to do that for me and help me continue to get better.”