By: Hays Carlyon
Jaguars first-round rookie cornerback CJ Henderson found quarterback Gardner Minshew and hugged him in celebration at midfield.
Welcome to the new version of Jaguars football.
The Jaguars young nucleus played like seasoned pros in a thrilling 27-20 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.
Josh Allen. DJ Chark.
Laviska Shenault. James Robinson.
K’Lavon Chaisson. Jawaan Taylor.
Can you see the core the Jaguars are building?
The Colts sure can. They should be incredibly nervous.
Those eight players have logged a combined five seasons in the NFL. Only Chark has two.
What a day. What a future.
The kids carried the team.
Minshew was sensational, making NFL history as the first quarterback in NFL history to throw three touchdowns and complete 95 percent of his passes. That’s not a typo. Minshew completed 19 of 20 passes. He threw for 173 yards with a passer rating of 142.3. Minshew also ran for 19 yards.
Henderson made a spectacular debut. The ninth-overall pick in the draft made multiple huge plays, but the biggest sealed the victory. The former Gators standout broke up a fourth-down pass from Philip Rivers to T.Y. Hilton at the Jaguars 20-yard line with 44 seconds to play.
Henderson also intercepted Rivers, broke up three passes and was credited with five tackles, including a physical stop on third down that prevented a first down.
Henderson wasn’t the only rookie that made a huge impact.
Shenault, selected in the second round, caught a 15-yard touchdown from Minshew to tie the game at 14 midway through the second quarter. He ran for the final 10 yards on the score, showing his strength and speed. Shenault caught three passes for 37 yards and carried twice for 10 yards.
Minshew also credited Shenault’s presence on his 6-yard touchdown pass to Chark for the first touchdown of the Jaguars season. The Colts reacted up when Minshew faked a screen to Shenault, allowing Chark to get open in the back of the end zone.
Undrafted rookie running back James Robinson showed impressive vision and athleticism, making the Colts respect the ground game early. Robinson ran for 61 yards in the first half. He finished with 62 yards, but made a fantastic 28-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter. The gain was the longest of the day for the Jaguars. Robinson hurdled over a Colts defender to get an additional 16 yards on the play.
There were other important contributors as well. Safety Andrew Wingard picked off Rivers.
Defensive tackles Abry Jones and rookie DaVon Hamilton made big run stuffs.
Linebacker Myles Jack had 11 tackles and a sack.
New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden appears to be a tremendous upgrade over John DeFilippo.
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell appears to have brought in a special rookie class and coach Doug Marrone got the young roster ready to win a big game.
Sunday couldn’t have gone better. The Jaguars were an eight-point underdog. The last time the Jaguars won at home as such a sizable underdog was over Baltimore in 2011.
The Jaguars are undefeated and in first place in the AFC South.
I can’t wait to see what comes next week in Tennessee.
This city needed a spark. The youngsters have provided it.
Jaguars fever is back.
Hopefully, it is here to stay.
(You can email Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)