It wasn’t always pretty, but with a stiff arm, spin move and an impressive early-game passing touchdown, Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Jake Luton looked just fine on Sunday in his first-career start, playing in place of an injured Gardner Minshew II.
Where have we seen this story before? While Luton may not have completed 88% of his passes the way Minshew did in his NFL debut last season, he did throw for 250+ yards and had two total touchdowns coming in for the injured starter on Sunday.
In total, Luton completed 26 out of 38 of his passes for 304 yards, one touchdown and one interception, an admiral performance from a sixth-round draft selection that was cold and active for the first time this season.
“It felt really good to get out there,” Luton said in postgame. “I felt like we played really hard and I’m really proud of how we played. I wish we could have finished it off, but it was awesome just getting out there.”
The Jaguars were narrowly defeated by the Houston Texans 27-25 on Sunday, a day that seemed to go the Jaguars way until it simply didn’t. While it would be expected that Luton was nervous to start his first NFL game, or play in his first NFL game in general, he says the nerves were felt during his first practice this week more than anything.
“Once I got out on the field, it’s football,” he said. “It’s the same 100-yeard field I’ve always played on. We practiced it all week, all the plays and stuff, so I felt confident and comfortable and never felt overwhelmed with the moment.”
It was clear Luton wasn’t overwhelmed with the moment nearly right away. After receiving the football first, the Jaguars ran three plays to begin the first quarter, a run, and two passes. After his first pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage, Luton threw a beautiful 73-yard touchdown to receiver DJ Chark Jr, who posted his best statistical game of the season.
The touchdown to Chark “helped a lot,” Luton said.
“It was awesome. It’s a play we’ve been working on this week and he [Chark Jr.] did a great job. He beat him pretty bad and I just had to give him a good ball that he could run through and make a play, and he finished it off. I was really excited; it was awesome.”
After the game, Chark commented on the rookie quarterback, stating that he never looked nervous, and tipped a cap to his starting quarterback.
“Jake [Luton], he stepped into a divisional game and he never showed any nerves,” said Chark. “He just played football and did what was asked of him. He wasn’t afraid, he was fired up out there, he was excited. It’s good, definitely, for your first start in the NFL and not expecting it to come the way it did. Hats off to him for that.”
While the Jaguars were not able to scratch out a victory against their divisional opponent, the second-to-last play of the game for the Jaguars offense might have been the most memorable.
On first-and-10 from the Texans 13-yard-line, Luton would scramble for a 13-yard touchdown, stiff arming a Texans defender on his way to the end zone with a spin move at the end to avoid another tackle for good measure.
It was the stiff arm, Luton said, that he will really remember from the game on Sunday.
“I think with the spin move, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was trying to make something happen, so probably the stiff arm.”
For now, Luton will remain as the team’s starting quarterback with Minshew still out due to injury (right thumb). Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said following the game that Minshew isn’t throwing just yet, and did not give any indication of when that would come.
“I got asked on the radio show which I do prior to this—Gardner [Minshew II] right now is not throwing, so there’s no decision, really, to make right now,” said Marrone. “So, I’m not really looking at the future because it’s going to take me a while to get over this one. I’m kind of pissed.”
Luton had at around 30 family members travel for the game on Sunday, he said, all from Seattle, Washington. Perhaps soon they’ll be able to see another game of his as the team travels to Green Bay next week to face the Packers before returning home against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 22.
“I have an awesome system that supports me and this just shows it,” he said. “I’m as far away from home as I could be and they dropped everything on the drop of a hat to come support me, so I couldn’t be more grateful for my family.”