Gardner Minshew has a golden opportunity this Sunday in Oakland. The rookie sixth-round pick took Duval and the rest of the NFL by storm early in the 2019 season. He set multiple rookie records and guided the Jaguars to a 4-4 record as the starter. But in recent games, Minshew hasn't been quite as spectacular as he was to start his young career. Last week, Minshew wasn't terrible, but he did little to elevate the offense and missed some throws he'd like to have back. But such is life as a rookie QB in the NFL — even for the best young QBs, there are sure to be plenty of highs and lows. Overall, Minshew's numbers are fairly impressive. He's completed 61.5% of his passes and has thrown 15 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
Now, as the hapless Jaguars travel to the Golden State, Minshew has a chance to continue to show that he deserves a shot at the starting QB job in 2020 and beyond. Whether or not he has his favorite receiving threat, DJ Chark remains to be seen — Chark is dealing with an ankle injury, and his status is still up in the air. But Minshew should be able to put this Jaguars' offense on his back, so to speak, against a Raiders' defense that has a long, long way to go.
The Oakland Raiders' defense is among the league's worst. At 28.2 points per game allowed, they've surrendered the fourth-most points in the league. And the Raiders' pass defense is their Achilles heel. Opposing QBs are averaging 8.6 yards per pass, the worst mark in football. Want to get even more excited about a seemingly meaningless contest? The Raiders has given up 30 passing touchdowns in 2019, the third-most in the NFL.
The Raiders' defense is significantly better against the run than they are the pass. So getting Leonard Fournette and the running game going may be difficult. But as many teams have shown so far this season, you don't need to run the ball to have success against the Raiders.
With a favorable matchup, the expectation should be for Minshew to have an impressive performance. He doesn't need to light the world on fire this week to prove his worth, but he needs to look competent. He needs to elevate the play of those around him, hit the easy passes, and make some big plays down the field. Jaguars' offensive coordinator John DeFilippo should open it up a little bit and allow Minshew to take some more shots.
Of course, even if Minshew does play well, it's possible — likely even — that mental errors will negate his positive plays. Leading the league in penalties, the Jaguars' offense has been as penalty prone as they come. But fortunately for Minshew and the Jaguars, the Raiders' defense enjoys committing penalties in bunches. They've picked up the second-most defensive holding and pass interference penalties this season.
If Minshew has a big outing, it'll be a step in the right direction for a young QB that's still trying to prove he can be the long-term solution in Jax. Forget about wins and losses, the rest of the season is about Gardner Minshew's development.
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