When an NFL team needs to play their backup quarterback, it’s either the start of a difficult stretch of play or a blessing in disguise. And for the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s certainly the latter. Gardner Minshew has gone from sixth-round pick and potential backup to intriguing starter who should have the Jaguars questioning just what to do once injured starter Nick Foles returns. Minshew stepped right in for Foles, who lasted only 11 snaps back in Week 1, and he’s consistently moved the ball with impressive downfield accuracy and poise in the pocket. Both traits were on display last season when Minshew was at Washington State, but even his biggest supporters could not have predicted his immediate success. Here’s a look at what we saw from Minshew at Washington State and how he’s already exceeded his sixth-round expectations.
Coming out of College
After two modest years at East Carolina, Minshew transferred to Washington State to take over one of the most prolific passing offenses in 2018, replacing four-year starter Luke Falk. While the offense generates gaudy stats due to high-volume passing and an excellent scheme, the PFF system is able to sort through the noise to isolate the QB’s contribution to that production. During Falk’s four years, he posted passing grades of 82.8, 79.8, 74.3, and 68.9, all while averaging nearly 3,600 passing yards and almost 30 touchdowns per season. Enter Minshew, whose 88.4 passing grade is the best we’ve seen from a Washington State signal-caller since we started grading in back in 2014. Minshew put up the usual big numbers, throwing for 4,770 yards and 38 touchdowns, but it was his downfield passing that separated him from previous quarterbacks under head coach Mike Leach. Minshew graded at 94.4 on passes thrown 10-plus yards down the field, far better than what we saw from Falk or his predecessor, Connor Halliday.
When stacking Minshew up against the rest of the draft class, he had the second-highest percentage of catchable passes at 10-plus yards (71.8%) and the second-highest percentage of catchable passes at or beyond the sticks (74.4%). Overall, Minshew had the second-best grade in the draft class on passes thrown beyond the line of scrimmage (91.4), and his 88.4 passing grade ranked fifth-best in the draft class among FBS quarterbacks.
Despite the strong production, there were still plenty of questions about Minshew around draft time. His arm strength is below NFL standards and plenty of his passes, while on target, seemed to lose steam by the time they got to the catch point. There was also the question of whether or not he was a one-year wonder. How did he go from middling quarterback at ECU to star at Washington State? For these reasons, Minshew dropped to the sixth round. But in the early going, much of his college production has translated well to the NFL. Let’s have a look.