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Jaguars vs Cowboys recap: How strong is Nathan Rourke’s case for QB2?

Jaguars first-year quarterback Nathan Rourke dazzled in his NFL preseason debut. But will it be enough to earn the backup spot?

Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we have ourselves a good ol’ fashioned QB controversy.

No, I’m not talking about the position of starting quarterback; Trevor Lawrence has that honor locked up for (hopefully) many years to come. I’m referring to the QB2 position, which appeared all but guaranteed to six-year veteran CJ Beathard after the Jaguars re-signed him in February to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million.

Enter Nathan Rourke.

If you hadn’t heard of him before yesterday’s game, you certainly have now. Rourke made NFL headlines in preseason Week 1 with one of the best QB plays you’ll see this season - or any season, for that matter - spinning his way out of four would-be sacks to throw a 25-yard TD dart to RB Qadree Ollison.

Rourke’s sharpness was not limited to this one circus play, however. Throughout the second half, Rourke dazzled fans with consistent accuracy, poise, athleticism, and a penchant for making plays, including multiple sack evasions for positive yardage and two shovel passes to an open RB while being taken to the ground. Despite a couple of dropped passes by his receivers and a blatantly missed holding call on TE Gerrit Prince, Rourke finished the day 9 of 17 for 153 yards and 1 passing TD while adding 20 yards and a TD on the ground. Not too shabby.

While the NFL may be new to Rourke, stardom is certainly not. Rourke has spent the last few seasons as the starting QB for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Last season, Rourke broke the CFL record for completion percentage (78.7%), earning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian award despite missing half the season. His professional success followed a similarly accoladed college career, which included two Jon Cornish Trophies, awarded to the top Canadian football player in the NCAA.

After his CFB success, Rourke drew interest from eight separate NFL teams and was ultimately signed by the Jags in January 2023. Throughout training camp, Rourke has drawn praise from offensive coordinator Press Taylor, making plays with both his arm and his legs. Still, he has been playing primarily as the QB3 behind Lawrence and Beathard.

However, that may change. Beathard has been a remarkably average-at-best backup QB these past few years. Last year, his regular season stats were both limited and lackluster, as he completed 7 of 11 passes for 35 yards and an interception. In last week’s preseason game, he was 6/13 for 80 yards and 0 TDs after starting for half of the first quarter and all of the second quarter. Long story short: if Lawrence goes down and Beathard is forced to step in, the Jags are royally screwed.

While head coach Dough Pederson has spoken highly of Beathard’s mentorship of Trevor Lawrence, it may be time for a change. Rourke’s preseason week 1 performance demonstrated that he is here to compete, and he’s done a pretty phenomenal job of it thus far. With two weeks remaining before rosters are trimmed to a final 53 and the NFL regular season officially kicks off, Jags fans can expect many more snaps for Rourke and an entertaining battle for QB2.

By the way, did I mention THIS PLAY?

Nathan Rourke, welcome to the NFL.