After a solid first two weeks of the season, it seemed that the Jacksonville Jaguars had better days ahead of them compared to what many thought going into the season. Following this, Jacksonville has now gone 0-5 in the easiest stretch of their schedule, losing by a combined 70 points. These embarrassing performances can be attributed to many different problems but, the regression of Gardner Minshew throughout this span is easily the most concerning aspect.
Minshew’s solid rookie season was enough for him to become the unquestioned starter going into the year, and after two weeks of the season, many were in full belief that he would be the franchise quarterback for years to come. But this most recent stretch has easily been the worst football Minshew has played, and in a quarterback-driven league, if you don’t have a franchise quarterback, you are not setting yourself up for sustained success. It was reported that Minshew has been playing through multiple fractures and ligament tears in his thumb. However, this does not tell the full story of the issues Gardner Minshew is dealing with.
The Regression of Gardner Minshew Is the Biggest Issue the Jacksonville Jaguars Face
Aggressiveness and Footwork Issues
Minshew’s struggles have been all around, but one of the key components that has changed him as a player is his lack of aggressiveness throwing the football. Last season, Minshew had no issue constantly throwing downfield without getting himself into turnover trouble. However, this year he doesn’t trust himself or his receivers nearly as much downfield, in contested catch situations, and in tight-window throws. Even worse, Minshew has made a habit of instantly looking at his checkdown instead of running through his progressions despite there being no sense of urgency to get the ball out that quickly. Though this may get the ball to James Robinson more often, Minshew is leaving better opportunities on the field. Minshew once showed an excellent balance of aggressiveness while still protecting the football; this needs to be rekindled for him to have a future in Jacksonville.
Another critical issue for Gardner Minshew has been his footwork. When under pressure, he is rarely setting his feet but instead takes steps backward and throws off his heels. Minshew is doing this to give himself a little extra time against incoming defenders. However, it leads to all sorts of accuracy issues and creates other problems with his lower-body mechanics. Minshew’s footwork on throws outside the pocket has also suffered this year, and clean pockets have not been much better. He’s having issues stepping into throws, his stance is getting too wide at times, and will make unnecessary steps in his drops; all leading to accuracy issues. Overall, Minshew’s footwork has become way too sloppy, and the negative effects are spilling into all facets of his game.
Pocket Presence and Extending Plays
As said before, Minshew’s footwork is now causing problems in virtually all aspects of his game; the best example being his pocket presence. Though Minshew has had spurts of consistent play from the pocket, he is usually at his best when the play breaks down, outside the pocket. However, he’s looking to leave the pocket far too often now, even when there isn’t much pressure from defenders. Leaving clean pockets is a horrible tendency to have and only makes his job that much harder.
Minshew’s regression in his footwork and pocket presence has also created considerable problems in his ability to extend plays, which at one point could be considered the biggest strength of his game. Minshew was able to feel when pressure was coming effortlessly. He also knew how to make subtle steps to give himself extra time to throw. However, these instincts don’t seem nearly as impressive compared to last year. Another cause of this is that Minshew is making a bad habit of watching pressure. Thus, he is not keeping his eyes downfield and is minimizing his chances to make a play. Additionally, Minshew’s lack of aggressiveness and overall accuracy problems have hurt his ability to extend and create plays.
Is the Thumb Injury to Blame?
It’s worth talking about Minshew’s recent thumb injury. X-rays revealed that he has multiple fractures and a strained ligament in his throwing hand thumb. This injury may have had an effect, but it should not be used as a scapegoat for his recent regression. Minshew has still had constant issues in things such as footwork and pocket presence; this cannot be answered by a thumb injury despite some wanting to blame his recent performance on it. Additionally, Minshew didn’t feel any discomfort until Week 5 against the Houston Texans. However, his regression started to show in Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins.
Though this article may seem like one giant hate piece on Minshew, it should always be noted that Minshew was a sixth-round pick at the end of the day. Everyone is quick to talk about Tom Brady going in the same round, but the fact of the matter is that there are almost no successful quarterbacks going that late. Gardner Minshew should still be looked at as a home run pick considering where he was drafted. Minshew being the future quarterback in Jacksonville isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility though, but his chance is diminishing every day. At this pace, Minshew’s inconsistent spurts of greatness aren’t enough to justify him being the starting quarterback next year if his regression doesn’t turn into progression quickly.