It took just one jarring tackle to alter the fortunes of the Jacksonville Jaguars and their quarterbacks, Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew II, last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
When Foles, who signed a four-year, $88 million contract as a free agent last offseason, sustained a broken left collarbone during his first-quarter touchdown pass to DJ Chark, the injury thrust the rookie Minshew into the spotlight. Foles underwent surgery Monday and was subsequently placed on the injured list, leaving Minshew to start for the Jaguars (0-1) Sunday against the Houston Texans (0-1) at NRG Stadium.
He'll do so without Foles there to lend support.
"The biggest thing he'd want me to do is go in there and win games, help this team win," Minshew said. "I'm going to do that to the best of my ability and do it for these guys."
Minshew produced an effort befitting someone longing to succeed, completing 22 of 25 attempts for 275 yards and two touchdowns in the Jaguars' 40-26 loss. The sixth-round selection out of Washington State didn't look at all rattled, and with Foles sidelined for at least half of the season, Minshew will be charged with maintaining the momentum he established in a pinch.
"That's a good experience, having him come in and do what he's supposed to do," Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee said. "Now he's got to really control the game, though. We're going to try and make it easy on him as far as going out there, make our assignments easy (and) get open."
The pledge Lee offered to ease the transition for Minshew resonated with the quarterback as he continued preparations for his first start. Part of the surprising success he enjoyed coming off the bench against the Chiefs was an opportunity to settle in with personnel familiar with the scheme.
"It's a lot easier when everybody else knows what they're doing," Minshew said. "You just kind of blend in. It's when everybody is kind of learning, everybody is looking around it's not great. They're awesome, and made it a lot easier for me."
The roster continuity that Minshew views as beneficial is what the Texans seek to develop with their offensive line.
The addition of left tackle Laremy Tunsil just prior to the start of the season provided the Texans an exceptional talent protecting the blind side of star quarterback Deshaun Watson. However, his late acquisition didn't allow the line the reps they needed to jell in advance of last Monday's opener against the New Orleans Saints that Houston lost 30-28.
With Tunsil making his debut with the Texans and right tackle Seantrel Henderson playing just his second game after suffering a season-ending injury in the 2018 opener, third-year center Nick Martin served as the starter with the most experience with the franchise. The Texans have high hopes for the unit, but Houston allowed six sacks against the Saints, and blending the front will take time. The Jaguars' assertive defensive line, even with Calais Campbell (foot), Yannick Ngakoue (hamstring) and Marcell Dareus (elbow) on the injury report, presents a serious test.
"I think on the offensive line, I think it's important," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said of developing continuity. "I think if you have guys that have played multiple years together up front -- I think it's hard to do in this day and age in the NFL to keep everybody together."
--Field Level Media