By: Hays Carlyon
Jaguars new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden sees three key things in second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew.
Those three things will be a major factor in whether the Jaguars can prove skeptics wrong and deliver a surprisingly successful season this fall. Gruden, the former Washington coach, spoke with reporters on Tuesday for the first time since joining the franchise on Jan. 22.
“He’s accurate, he’s tough and obviously he’s a great leader so he’s got the intangibles you want in a quarterback,” Gruden said. “Playing in the NFL is about taking advantage of your opportunities and Gardner did that. He’s a shining reason why once the opportunity presents itself, you take advantage of it. He did that, and he’s put himself in a great position to take the Jaguars and lead them into the future. He has shown a skillset where he can sit in a pocket, step up, make things happen outside the pocket. Now he’s got to get to know the team, get to know the offense a little bit so we can all gel together.”
Minshew threw 21 touchdowns last season, going 6-6 as a starter after being selected in the sixth round.
“I love Gardner’s competitive spirit,” Gruden said. “You could see it shine through on tape when he was in college and obviously last year in the games he got to play. Now it’s just a matter of him getting some general knowledge of our offense and me figuring out what he likes, what he doesn’t like, what makes him tick and go from there. I’m pretty easy to get along with, I know he is too so I think it will be a great relationship between the two of us.”
The Jaguars don’t have many proven commodities on offense, but third-year receiver DJ Chark is one of them. Chark gained 1,008 receiving yards on 73 catches with eight touchdowns last season in making the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Gruden clearly has big plans for Chark and believes he has the right attitude to be a huge success.
“We can do a little bit more with him,” Gruden said. “I’d like to get him inside and do some more things with him in the slot. He’s an excellent athletic specimen. The thing that I have come to know about DJ in the limited time I got to meet him was that he’s hungry. He wants to be great and when you have the athletic qualities that he has and then the desire to be great, he’s going to have a very bright future.”
The Jaguars backfield received an off-season boost in the signing of free-agent running back Chris Thompson. Gruden coached Thompson, a former Florida State standout, for six seasons in Washington. Thompson has run for 1,194 yards with five touchdowns in his career, while gaining 1,772 receiving yards with 10 scores.
“I can rely on Chris for sure,” Gruden said. “Chris is like another coach. He will correct me sometimes honestly. He’s awesome. He’s smart, very detailed in what he does. He’s the guy that really came from a practice squad and built himself into one of the best third-down backs in the league.”
Gruden still is playing a guessing game he doesn’t feel comfortable with as he prepares to revamp the Jaguars offense. Normally, teams would be well into the offseason program, but the coronavirus has kept the NFL in a virtual state.
That creates problems for any team dealing with installing a new offensive scheme. The season opener against Indianapolis is Sept. 13 at TIAA Bank Field.
“We have to get these guys on the field,” Gruden said. “From a knowledge standpoint, they’ll know the plays and the concepts, but then getting them out there and seeing them execute it versus some different looks and find out what they’re good at so we can best utilize their skillset. We’ve got to get out on the field soon.”
(You can email Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)