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Former WSU standout Gardner Minshew making himself more difficult to bench in Jacksonville

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II (15) throws a pass against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II (15) throws a pass against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gardner Minshew is making himself more difficult to bench.

The rookie sensation threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 29-15 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday, fueling speculation about his future as the starter.

Nick Foles returned to practice this week and is eligible to come off injured reserve in time to play at Indianapolis on Nov. 17. That means Minshew has one more guaranteed start: against AFC South rival Houston next week in London.

If Minshew plays like he did against the Jets (1-6), how could coach Doug Marrone possibly pull him?

“Why would I go through scenarios in my mind and waste my time with scenarios when I have to get ready for another game?” Marrone said. “If we didn’t have a bye after the Texans game, I think somewhere along the line next week, I would start going through that in my mind.

“Does that make sense to everyone? Because I’m going to have to make a decision, but since we have the bye, there’s so many things that can happen between now and then, whether injuries come into play with either quarterback or whatever may happen. So, for me, I’m not going to waste my time.”

Minshew looked calm and comfortable in the pocket and had his second-highest passer rating (119.6) of the season.

He was sacked twice, but also scrambled for 28 yards and three first downs. He clearly has more mobility than Foles, and considering he’s been sacked at two times in five straight weeks, that could come in handy moving forward.

Minshew completed 22 of 34 passes, with TDs to Keelan Cole, Chris Conley and DJ Chark.

The pass to Chark was his best of the day and sealed the victory. Minshew rolled right on third-and-goal from the 8, pump-faked twice to move defenders and then hit Chark in the front corner of the end zone.

“Kind of just blacked out on that one,” Minshew said.

Some of his teammates were in disbelief as the whole thing played out.

“That was crazy because I was yelling, ‘Throw the ball, throw the ball!’” center Brandon Linder said. “I didn’t know what was happening and then I saw that. That son of a (expletive), Minshew. That’s crazy. He’s a gunslinger.”

Linder and left tackle Cam Robinson just looked at each other after the play and started laughing.

It was Minshew Mania at its finest, the mustachioed maestro finding a way to make something happen.

It also gave Jacksonville a better-than-usual performance in the red zone. The Jaguars entered the game ranked last in the league in red-zone efficiency.

They scored twice on four trips inside the 20-yard line against New York, making them 3 for 12 over the last three games.

“It’s big. Definitely sick of hearing about the red-zone stuff, so we’re trying to score touchdowns as best we can,” Minshew said. “It was really good to do that and give us a little more cushion.”

Minshew’s day followed his most inconsistent performances of the season.

He completed less than 50% in games against New Orleans and Cincinnati, making many believe the Jags would switch back to Foles without much fanfare.

But now?

“I really haven’t thought about it,” Marrone said. “The reason why is because I don’t have to, and I don’t want to. I’ll deal with it when it happens. And that’s the truth. Everything I say is the truth.”

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