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Are the Jaguars putting too much on Gardner Minshew?

Jaguars offensive coordinator understands he could be more balanced.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When you quarterback has thrown 40+ times in each of the past four weeks it raises some red flags. That’s what’s happening right now with Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II, is the team putting too much on his plate?

Since week one, Minshew has thrown the football 176, or an average of 44 passes thrown per game over the past four weeks. That’s extensive, especially for a team that has always prided itself on being a balanced offense. In week one, the only week the Jaguars have won thus far this season, Minshew threw the football just 20 times.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has seen the discrepancy, and while the Jaguars have trailed late in the past four games, the team has still shown a lack of urgency in running the football.

“I think we’ve won one game and he threw the ball 20 times, really probably about 27 or 28 times because he had a couple scrambles in there and a couple sacks, so that’s the ideal number for us,” Gruden told members of the media on Wednesday when asked if Minshew throwing 40 or more times a game is putting too much on his plate.

“Unfortunately, score related, we weren’t good enough on offense in the first two or three quarters to keep the game close where we didn’t have to throw ball.”

Against the Houston Texans last week, the Jaguars were down 13-7 heading into the fourth quarter, however, after two touchdowns by the Texans offense, Jacksonville found themselves in a situation that called for passing. Against the Miami Dolphins, the Jaguars’ offense was never able to rebound, down 28-7 heading into the fourth quarter.

“That kind of skews the numbers, but in a perfect world this offense is built on balance and 25 to 30 times is the target number, in my opinion.”

While the Jaguars have been behind, there have been opportunities for James Robinson, the team’s featured tailback, to get the ball more, and Gruden admits he hasn’t done a good job of keeping the offense balanced, particularly while using the run game.

“Every week our design is to go in there and run the football, pound the football,” Gruden says. “Unfortunately I’ve done a poor job of sticking with it, so it’s something we have to, obviously, get better at and be aware of the game, the situation, and all that.”

Over the first five weeks of the season, Robinson has carried the football 73 times for 333 yards and three touchdowns. While he is averaging 4.6 yards-per-attempt, he has yet to carry the ball more than 17 times in a given game, and carried the football just 11 times in the team’s 31-13 loss to the Dolphins in week three.

“Obviously, sometimes late in the third quarter, fourth quarter, if you take out that part of the game in the last two or three weeks, it’s hard to run the ball, but we do have to do a better job early in games to try to maintain the run and keep our linemen pounding the rock a little bit and keeping the pressure off Gardner [Minshew II].”

While the Jaguars must figure out a way to climb out of late-game deficits during a given week, and passing the football is one of the quickest ways to do that, the team does need to continue feeding the football to its playmakers. Players such as Robinson and Laviska Shenault Jr., while both rookies, have been the most productive on the team.

The question is, then: Can the Jaguars trust Minshew to throw the football 40+ times a game and carry the team to a victory?

“I think depending on the game situation, sure,” Gruden said when asked. “I think he can do it without a doubt but I think every time you throw it, you’re taking the ball out of James Robinson’s hands or maybe Laviska [Shenault Jr.]’s if he’s in there or Chris Thompson.

“I think we have a pretty good running game as well, so there’s a lot of situations and a lot of plays that we have that we like to design for certain guys and obviously James running the football has not been used enough for us to be successful, without a doubt.”