By Mark Blumenthal
So why did you come to Jacksonville‘s T.I.A.A. Bank for Sunday? Wasn’t for the eats, beer or the possible upset of the Kansas City Chiefs, was it?
Admit it — you wanted to see Nick Foles calling signals for the Jaguars as the new starting quarterback, the man who brings a championship pedigree from that win over Tom Brady the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis with the Philadelphia Eagles?
You wanted to see the real deal.
Turns out the Jaguars fans saw the real deal alright … from the standpoint of this guy sure gets hurt and never goes from start to finish on a roster without getting hurt.
Only two drives into the game, Foles found himself out of the everyday workings of the team as former Kansas City Chiefs teammate and defensive tackle Chris Jones planted Foles hard enough to break his left collarbone, sidelining him for a while, maybe months.
Hey, at least on that play he broke it he was delivering a pretty-looking touchdown pass to budding wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr.
The rest of the 95-degree afternoon, the show belonged to backup Gardner Minshew III, who had his best outing since his drafting from Washington State. Minshew actually put up impressive numbers, going 22-of-25 passing for 275 yards and two touchdown passes, one of 15 yards to Dede Westbrook and one of 21 yards to Chris Conley.
“I think what you have to understand is it’s very difficult for any backup quarterback to go out there because they don’t take any reps during the week,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said afterward. “He went out there against Kansas City’s defense and performed. We didn’t have any delay of games, we didn’t have things of that nature. He ran the two-minute (drill offense).”
At the end of the day, Chiefs quarterback and 2018 league Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes was his own pesky self, going 25-of-33 passing for 378 yards and three touchdowns, two long scores to Sammy Watkins of 68 and 49 yards and the third to Watkins for the mundane but effective three yards.
“They’re pretty damn good,” Marrone said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They’ve done that to a lot of football teams.”
The Jaguars, though, don’t have a quarterback anywhere near Mahomes’ overall talent and the one guy who was brought in to make some magic for the team is now gone for quite sometime.
“What are you going to do? You’ve got to lead,” Marrone said discussing Foles’ injury. “It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, woe is me,’ and all that s–t. But I’m fired up for the challenge. Obviously, it’s unfortunate. I feel sh—y for him. The guy’s put a ton in (to the season). At the end of the season, I really feel like we’ve got to step up and go. It’s a great challenge. I’m fired up for this team. We’ll get this team ready to go and we’ll win football games. We’re going to work our back in and somewhere during the year, Nick will be come back and rejoin our team if he’s OK to do that.”
The collarbone injury was the same collarbone side as was the case in 2014 when as a quarterback with the Eagles he got hurt in a game against the Houston Texans, which happens to be the Jaguars’ next opponent on the road next week.
“This one was worse,” Foles said comparing th is broken collarbone to the one five years ago. “But at the same time, I’m optimistic that it will heal quicker and I look forward to getting out there with the guys, but at the same time, Gardner did a great job out there stepping up.”
With each preseason game Minshew played, he got better. And finally behind the first-team offensive line (sans a couple of key blockers, including left tackle Cam Robinson), he showed people what he was made of, including a beautiful down-and-out strike to Chark for 69 yards.
“I had a lot of confidence with them,” Minshew said. “(Center) Brandon Lindner made sure I was comfortable. They trusted me and I trusted them and that’s where you start to make it work.”
From this point until Foles feels better and can properly return to the job, it is Minshew who will get the call and lead.
And if all goes right, fans will be there for the real reasons at T.I.A.A. Bank Stadium.
The play of the Jaguars. The eats, drinks and the opponent really should be secondary.
By Mark Blumenthal