The Jaguars have a remarkable opportunity ahead of them in 2020. As a franchise coming off two of the most disappointing seasons in its history, your Jacksonville Jaguars have a chance to create a culture; to build an identity.
And it all centers around a sixth-round pick. A QB that wasn't big enough; wasn't athletic enough; didn't have a strong enough arm.
That's right. The Jaguars can (and should) build around Gardner Minshew's strengths this offseason. But they can do even more than that. Gardner Minshew is the perfect human to create a culture around in Jacksonville. He's a blue-collar guy, an ideal fit in Duval county.
He's a fiery, hard-working underdog with a huge smile and a team-first attitude. Precisely the type of foundation that the Jaguars' culture should be built upon.
ASIDE: Yannick Ngakoue also fits that mold and should be another building block for the franchise on the defensive side of the ball. Are you listening to me, Dave?
No quarterback in the NFL was more successful on passes over 20 yards down the field. And Minshew excels at creating in the midst of chaos. With the ability to improvise and find great success down the field, the Jaguars should form their identity around Minshew's unique skill set.
They can become a vertical passing offense that thrives amid pressure and excels when the script goes out the window. And when teams decide to sell out to stop the pass, the Jaguars should be willing and able to punch them in the mouth with Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, and company.
But how can the Jaguars accentuate Minshew's elite skills in order to build a strong offensive system and identity?
It starts this offseason with free agency and the draft.
The Jaguars' roster has plenty of holes. On the defensive side of the ball, tackle, linebacker, safety, and cornerback depth are all legitimate issues. But instead of prioritizing all those needs (no, I'm not suggesting the front office completely ignore defensive needs), the Jaguars should focus on building a major advantage — design an offense that can win in the modern NFL for years to come.
The teams left standing in the NFL playoffs all have holes. But they all boast offenses that feature steady to elite QB play in a system that highlights the QBs strengths, and a supporting cast that gets the job done.
The Jaguars MUST get Minshew some help up front. Jacksonville's offensive line struggled in pass protection last season, especially at the guard and left tackle positions. Improving in those areas will help Minshew's development as a pocket passer.
The Jaguars also need to figure out how to get production down the seams from the tight end position. Whether that be from Josh Oliver and James O'Shaughnessy, a potential free agent, or a rookie, the Jags have to find a tight end that can make plays down the middle of the field.
And whoever is drawing up the plays (OC John DeFilippo and the Jaguars "mutually agreed" to party ways on Monday) needs to use Minshew's incredible touch and timing down the field to the team's advantage. The Jaguars should run a TON of plays in 2020 where outside receivers get to run deep down the boundary, while one to two receivers stay available for dump-offs. The receivers also need to be explicitly trained to run with Minshew. If the play breaks down, they've got to be able to find an opening on the field.
Finally, and I do believe this is the essential piece to the puzzle: the Jaguars need to add another wide receiver, opposite DJ Chark, that can be a LEGIT starter. A receiver that knows how to get open early, make contested catches, and also make plays deep down the field. Several receivers fit that mold in the upcoming NFL Draft. Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb are the most polished. But later on, the Jaguars could add impressive wideouts like Tee Higgins, Laviska Shenault, Henry Ruggs, and Jaelan Raegor. The best offenses in recent history have all had multiple big-time playmakers.
Giving Gardner Minshew a high-level wide receiver on both sides of the field would do wonders for his game. I'm especially fond of CeeDee Lamb. He wins in so many ways and would immediately draw the attention of opposing defenses. He can win quickly with sudden footwork and physicality, allowing Chark to focus on creating separation deep down the field. But Lamb also knows how to win deep and would be able to excel down the field, thanks to his size and body control. Being able to deploy Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook, and Keelan Cole (If he's re-signed) as ancillary weapons would be top-notch.
The decision-makers at the top of the organization, Dave Caldwell and Doug Marrone, need to prioritize building an offensive identity around Garnder Minshew. Attack defenses deep down the field and let Gardner Minshew make off-script plays. This doesn't really fall in line with Doug Marrone's traditional philosophy — the Jaguars' HC once famously said he would run the ball on every play if he could. But Marrone has shown the ability to adapt and grow as a coach. To get the most out of his fiery young QB, Marrone needs to do just that this offseason. Put the pieces together around Gardner Minshew (and Yannick Ngakoue) and let the mustachioed young passer become the face of your franchise and the centerpiece for your new blue-collar, team-first culture.
Of course, Minshew has plenty of work to do himself. But what rookie QB hasn't needed to improve after 12 starts?
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