Minshew’s secondary, running backs and future
JACKSONVILLE, Florida – We continue our week-long look at the biggest questions the Jaguars face as the 2021 season approaches. This week: How high school seems to be improving with a handful of new faces, how James Robinson and Travis Etienne will be used together and whatever the future holds for Gardner Minshew.
Let’s start with the defensive backfield.
Last year, the Jaguars’ regular high school starters were CJ Henderson, Sidney Jones, Josh Jones and Jarrod Wilson. This year, only Henderson appears to be in line to start on opening day.
During his rookie year, Henderson flashed early, then struggled as the season wore on – and the team fought around him. The Jaguars will be looking to see what kind of turnaround the former Florida first-round pick can make this year.
The Jaguars switched to free agency to bring in Rayshawn Jenkins – former Chargers goaltender – and former Seahawks corner Shaquill Griffin. The two former junior football teammates reunite in Jacksonville and are expected to start for the Jaguars on day one. In between, the Jaguars have invested $ 45 million in guaranteed money. They will need to provide a major upgrade.
The Jaguars also passed a second-round pick to Tyson Campbell, the former Georgia cornerback. He is expected to be the nickel of the Jaguars, a position he rarely played in college.
The whole squad is expected to return a very revealing statistic from last year: the Jaguars leader in interceptions? Linebacker Joe Schobert.
In some areas it’s a question of whether the Jaguars have enough talent and experience to improve. In the running backs, it’s more about whether they can use the talents of the players in the room to their potential.
Last year, as an undrafted rookie, James Robinson was a breath of fresh air in an unforgettable season. Robinson had the best rookie season for an undrafted backer in NFL history. He ran over a thousand yards and made sure no one was pinned for Leonard Fournette. Will he be able to continue in his second season in the league? Robinson impressed last year’s coaching staff with his maturity and professional approach, but those coaches are gone. The perspective of Urban Meyer and the Robinson Company is still a work in progress.
The Jaguars used their second of two first-round picks on Clemson’s Travis Etienne – No.1 – with the hope that he will be used both in the running game and as a catcher out of the backfield.
The team also added Carlos Hyde, a former Meyer runner at Ohio State who is making a comeback in Jacksonville. How the Jaguars will use running backs is a big question. The most important thing is still whether there are enough shots to get the most out of Robinson and Etienne in particular.
Around this time last year, Gardner Minshew had just completed a rookie season that rocked the NFL with Minshew-mania. Nick Foles had been traded and the team appeared to be his. Then after a win on day one they never won again and Minshew was in and out of the starting lineup.
Enter Trevor Lawrence.
There is a school of thought that Minshew would make a great backup. He has a very good spirit for the game and his scrambling ability can cause problems for teams. You can’t fault him for all of 2020, but he has certainly taken a step back. The X factor here is what kind of backup Minshew will it be? Is he the type to take on a mentoring role with Lawrence, or will he be competing, trying to regain his starting role – something that seems unlikely.
I can tell you this, he’s the unnamed best quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the Jaguars court – at least from what we’ve seen during off-season practice.
Is Minshew more useful as a backup or as a commercial bait that could bring back a late pick to the team? I’m thinking of the latter, but we’ll see how Urban Meyer plays it. The move will likely be the first big choice for Urban staff this preseason.
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