While the entire NFL faces an uphill battle in combating what is essentially a watered-down offseason program due to the lack of in-person meetings and practices, they are using various methods to teach their players, and the majority of players are taking it into their own hands via separate group meetings.
It all starts at the top with Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback, who is entering his second season with the team, and first season as the team’s unquestioned starting quarterback. With the Jaguars installing a new offense, the leadership Minshew and the team’s veterans on offense will pay dividends to their advancement, especially during a pandemic without the ability to enter the team’s facility at this time.
Last week, Minshew spoke about the various methods in which he and some of the offense have been able to get together to discuss what they’ve learned, and how they can continue to get better virtually using Microsoft Teams, a video conferencing service, in lieu of actual on-field activity. Minshew and other players are able to use a virtual whiteboard, accessible by everyone in the call to draw plays and their specific position.
“I will call out a play and like whoever is in for that play will just draw their assignment and we just kind of go around and talk about it,” Minshew told members of the media last week. “What are you thinking here? What do you like against cover two? How are you running this? I think it is a good way, it is one thing to learn it on paper but to hear the call and then know what to do right there, I think it has been a good way, got to make the best of a bad situation.”
With the Jaguars and their coaches only allowed minimal availability together during virtual meetings, this activity is not set up by the coaching staff, but by the players themselves. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone spoke about the team’s initiative last week, speaking about the chemistry it could build for a team.
“You read about these quarterbacks that get together with their receivers and work on things extra during the offseason. That’s separate. These players, we’re not on these calls when that’s going on,” said Marrone. “They’re getting together on their own, and it sounds like they’re going through where they’re calling plays, they’re discussing it, they’re working. I like that because obviously you have our players, they’re talking to each other, they’re trading some chemistry, and I think it creates accountability amongst themselves.”
The Jaguars are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, drafting 12 players this season along with signing 18 more rookies in undrafted free agency. The team has had to replace several veteran players over the offseason with younger, potentially better, players. But with the replacement of veterans oftentimes comes less accountability and maturity. The Jaguars, led by Minshew, do not appear to be lacking that.
With the addition of tight end and running back, the Jaguars have two players with years of experience under Gruden and his offensive system - that’ll be important as they transition through this confusing offseason.
“I think that will help us,” Marrone said of players who already have knowledge of the system. “Really, the only position that we do not have [with experience in the system] is really the offensive line when you think about it. Receiver, we have people that have experience in the system. At quarterback, we do. Running back, tight end – the offensive line is the group that does not have that veteran that has been in it, but there are a lot of similarities.”
While the offensive line will be an important group to watch moving forward, they are not lacking in actual NFL experience. Brandon Linder, Andrew Norwell, and AJ Cann all have over five years of experience, and tackles Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor have played at least a year protecting Minshew.
It cannot be overstated how important Minshew’s ability to take initiative during this time will be, and he seemingly has no issue asking for help when needed, attempting to get ahead of the entirety of the offense, which Marrone says is vital for an offense.
“With Eifert, I call him, with these scripts and I ask him on every play, ‘Alright what are you thinking here? You know what, what are you expecting?’ How do you like to do this? And just kind of just picking his brain for as much information,” said Minshew. “Similarly, with who also has played with Coach Gruden, just kind of hearing their thoughts, seeing it through their eyes and I think it has been a valuable experience for the both of us.”
While young, the team seems prepared to handle the rigors of applying a new offense without many players who have knowledge of the system. It is obvious that Minshew, who has played in over five different offenses since the start of his collegiate career, grasps the maturity and wherewithal to withstand the rigors applied to him as a starting quarterback.
The Jaguars are heading in the right direction, at least for now.