NFL London: Jaguars bring Minshew mania to Wembley for Texans clash

Jacksonville have been regular UK visitors, but haven't always been a headline grabbing offence - that was all before Gardner Minshew

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Kyler Murray was picked No.1, Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins also went in the first round. Drew Lock followed to the Denver Broncos in the second. However, if you were asked before Week 1, who would be the first rookie quarterback to throw a touchdown pass, how many fans, experts or even team officials would have mentioned the name Gardner Minshew II?

If you just put your hand up, you are a liar.

Going into the opening weekend, no preview or team guide had given him more of a mention than: Pick 178, Sixth Round.

And why would they?

Nick Foles had just signed a $88 million, four-year deal from the Philadelphia Eagles to be the new franchise QB in Jacksonville. Then, 10 minutes into the opening fixture with the Kansas City Chiefs and seconds after the Duval fans were given a glimpse into their potential future – a tremendous lofted bomb to DJ Chark – they were brought crashing down to earth.

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 08: Nick Foles #7 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in action during the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at TIAA Bank Field on September 08, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

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Sent to the ground by Chris Jones, Foles had to leave the game and was later diagnosed with a broken left clavicle. Enter Gardner Minshew. 42 minutes later a legend was born. Halfway through the fourth quarter, the rookie hit Dede Westbrook from 15 yards for his first NFL touchdown.

Fast forward another week and we were treated to images from his final year in college of a moustache sporting, shiny shirt wearing, porn star looking throwback to the days of the Bunny Mansion. This was clearly no ordinary rookie. They’d go on to lose a close one to this week’s opponents, Houston, before beating the Titans and Broncos. And although not the toughest opposition, both the Bengals and Jets also felt the wrath of Minshew.

Murray and the Cardinals will pick up a lot of the media attention as he is the No.1 pick. Even Josh Jacobs, running back for the Oakland Raiders and playing for a big market team, is a more marketable product in the black and silver, but the Washington State graduate who should be the favourite to win this year’s prize for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

He’s currently third-favourite in Vegas for the Offensive Rookie of the Year gong. That’s from being unpriced when the season opened, and 18/1 after Foles went down. Statistically, there’s no reason why the Cards QB should win the award. He does have 253 more yards, but Kyler has attempted 56 more passes. The Cards rookie has four fewer touchdowns, two more interceptions and has been sacked eight more times.

Only the Saints, sporting one of the best and most improved pass defences in the league, have stopped Minshew from throwing a touchdown. He is only 25 yards away from surpassing the 2000 yard mark, he has 13 touchdowns and just TWO interceptions.

TWO!

And he’s making plays like this:.

As it stands he has more passing yards than Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. More touchdowns than Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott and Jared Goff, plus he has fewer interceptions than Drew Brees, the current Superbowl champion Tom Brady and Sunday’s opponent, Deshaun Watson.

Let’s not talk about his completion rate of 61.9%, he’s ranked 10th lowest in the NFL, but nobody is perfect. He’s fun, he’s a character, he makes things happen and he looks like he was born in the 1960s. Minshew has gone from draft nobody to a franchise saviour.

It’s ridiculous that anyone is even mentioning the prospect of Foles coming back as the Jags starter.

Big Nick Energy isn’t enough to carry a team. Last season Foles played five games for the Eagles. He threw seven TDs, was picked off four times and was sacked nine. His yards per completion record was just over 10 yards. Minshew, in his first season in the NFL, is up at 12.2 yards per completed. FOR THE BLOODY JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS.

This is not with the Eagles OL protecting him, or Alshon Jeffrey or Zach Ertz running routes. Gardner is making stars of Chris Conley and D.J Chark.

Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Dak Prescott are the last three QBs to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, with running backs dominating in recent years. It is so much harder for play-callers to come from the college game, learn a new offence and deliver results within such a short space of time. In his rookie year, Dak threw for 3667 yards and 23 touchdowns in 16 games. Minshew’s numbers put him in line to better the Dallas Cowboys star.

When the Jaguars run out at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, they’ll have their rookie quarterback as the starter. He is the future, and if they have to swallow their pride on the Foles contract, so be it. It won’t be the first or last time an NFL team has had to endure a big contract.

*cough* Blake Bortles *cough*

Only three teams have conceded more passing touchdowns than the Houston Texans. Only the Cardinals – who have played a game more – have allowed more yards in the air. Visiting the UK for the first time, Bill O’Brien’s team are without two of their best pass rushers, two out of their three best cornerbacks and their starting free safety. This is the perfect stage for the rookie to grab all the headlines with the world media watching.

The Jags may not leave London victorious, with Minshew yet to beat a team with a winning record. However, this is not a tale where we are close to the last chapter. This is the start of something special. Win in Jacksonville’s second home and the legacy of Gardner Minshew II will only grow and grow.

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