Amid skid, Min­shew back as start­ing QB

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS TUESDAY - By Mark Long

JACK­SONVILLE — The Mis­sis­sippi Mus­tache is back in Jack­sonville’s start­ing lineup.

Rookie sen­sa­tion Gard­ner Min­shew will start Sun­day when the reel­ing Jaguars host the Los Angeles Charg­ers. He re­places in­ef­fec­tive and highly paid quar­ter­back Nick Foles fol­low­ing the team’s fourth con­sec­u­tive lop­sided loss.

Coach Doug Mar­rone made the an­nounce­ment Mon­day, one day af­ter a 28-11 home loss to Tampa Bay in which the Jaguars (4-8) man­aged 242 yards, turned the ball over four times and were flagged a sea­son-high 16 times for 125 yards. It was Jack­sonville’s 18th loss in its past 24 games.

“We feel with Gard­ner’s mo­bil­ity and elu­sive­ness, it gives us a bet­ter chance of win­ning with the way we’re play­ing right now be­cause we’re all not do­ing a good enough job,” Mar­rone said.

Asked whether the job would be Min­shew’s for the re­main­der of the sea­son, Mar­rone said, “We’re plan­ning on him play­ing.”

It was the ob­vi­ous move fol­low­ing Sun­day’s de­ba­cle against Tampa Bay. Foles ended Jack­sonville’s first three drives with turnovers that the Buc­ca­neers turned into touch­downs. Mar­rone benched Foles at half­time, trail­ing 25-0.

Mar­rone said Foles han­dled the de­mo­tion like a pro.

“It’s bru­tal; it’s tough,” Mar­rone said. “He’s a com­peti­tor. He worked his [butt] off to come back. He’s a great pro, so he’s go­ing to do ev­ery­thing he can to help us win. And at the same time, he’s got to be ready in case there’s an in­jury. I think the world of him. I think he’s a re­ally good quar­ter­back. He ob­vi­ously can win in this league. But we have to have some help around him.”

Min­shew, who went 4-4 as the starter while Foles re­cov­ered from a bro­ken left col­lar­bone suf­fered in the opener, ral­lied the team and had a chance to make it a seven-point game in the fourth quar­ter on Sun­day. But his would-be TD pass slipped through Dede West­brook’s hands and re­sulted in an in­ter­cep­tion.

Min­shew fin­ished 16-of-27 pass­ing for 147 yards, with a touch­down to West­brook and the in­ter­cep­tion. He was sacked twice and fum­bled on the team’s fi­nal play.

Foles com­pleted 7-of-14 passes for 93 yards and was sacked three times. The 2017 sea­son Su­per Bowl MVP has thrown for 661 yards, with two touch­downs, two in­ter­cep­tions, two fum­bles and eight sacks in three games since com­ing off in­jured re­serve.

He doesn’t look com­fort­able in the pocket and play­ing be­hind a shaky of­fen­sive line high­lights his lack of mo­bil­ity.

“They’re part of it when you look at pro­tec­tions,” Mar­rone said. “But it’s re­ally a lot of things. You’ve got to get open. You’ve got to pro­tect. We’ve got to be able to run the ball bet­ter. There’s a lot of things that come into it. It’s not the way we want to be play­ing.”

Min­shew, mean­while, ex­tends plays with his legs and does some of his best work while im­pro­vis­ing. A sixth-round draft pick from Wash­ing­ton State, Min­shew has thrown for 2,432 yards and 14 touch­downs. Turnovers have been the main is­sue: he has five in­ter­cep­tions and 12 fum­bles (seven lost).

The Jaguars signed Foles to a four-year $88 mil­lion con­tract in free agency that in­cluded $50.125 mil­lion guar­an­teed. It made sense for them to go back to the for­mer Philadel­phia backup once he was healthy, if any­thing, just to see what he could do.

Switch­ing back to Min­shew could com­pli­cate the sit­u­a­tion mov­ing for­ward.

Foles’ con­tract pays him $15.125 mil­lion in 2020 — fully guar­an­teed — and he will count nearly $22 mil­lion against the salary cap. That’s a huge pay­out for a guy not guar­an­teed to be the starter. Cut­ting him would cost the Jaguars nearly $34 mil­lion against the cap and trad­ing him would cost nearly $19 mil­lion.

PHE­LAN M. EBENHACK/AP

Jaguars quar­ter­back Gard­ner Min­shew looks down­field while scram­bling Sun­day against the Buc­ca­neers in Jack­sonville. Min­shew went 4-4 as the starter ear­lier this sea­son.

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