PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
If there was ever a time that covering the NFL Draft was useful then this year was it.
When the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted QB Gardner Minshew III in the sixth round, 178th overall, everyone in the building raved about the Washington State product who worked under the tutelage of offensive guru Mike Leach.
Leach has worked wonders at Texas Tech and he's repeated his success for the Cougars.
The Jaguars gave Minshew plenty of playing time during the pre-season to keep starting QB Nick Foles healthy for the start of the regular season.
Great logic for a guy that signed a four-year $88 Million Contract on March 13, 2019.
It worked early in the game as Foles threw a 35-yard TD pass to DJ Chark Jr. 5:23 into the game. Foles left the game completing five of eight passes for 75 yards and a score.
But the downside of the touchdown was Foles got knocked out of the game as he suffered a broken collarbone in his left shoulder. Jacksonville is expecting him to return by Week 11.
Who would have expected the opening weekend in Jacksonville to see a battle of young QB's in a shootout, the most unlikeliest of one?
But that's what we had, Minshew III vs Mahomes.
Minshew kept Jacksonville in the game as the Jags trailed 23-13 at halftime.
The rookie went into the intermission by completing all of his nine passes for 128 yards.
Minshew continued his accuracy in the second half as he became the first NFL player since 1991 to complete his first 13 passes.
The streak of 13 passes is the third longest in franchise history.
You talk about a hot streak, this was it!
On a day where the temperature was 91 degrees at kickoff, according to First Coast News, the temperatures reached above 120 degrees and the Jacksonville Fire Department reported 86 medical calls were made from TIAA Bank Field and 18 people were taken to hospitals.
But not Minshew III. He stayed hot all afternoon.
In the Press Box there were comparisons to New England Patriot future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady. In 2000, the former Michigan Wolverine was selected in the sixth round, 199th overall by New England and has six Super Bowl Championships.
The Patriots are favorites to win their seventh title.
Perhaps at this stage that may be a bit premature however, the draft position will always be linked to Minshew.
When the contest was over, it was Mahomes who led the Chiefs to the opening season 40-26 triumph and his favorite target was Sammy Watkins, who played his collegiate ball at Clemson.
Mahomes, last years MVP, completed 25-33 passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns which led to a passer rating of 143.2 for the team coached by Andy Reid.
Meanwhile, Watkins caught nine passes for 198 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Minshew finished the game completing 22-25 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and one interception with a 122.5 passer rating. His interception was a pass that was tipped twice, simply bad luck.
You talk about an impressive debut, this was it!
Head Coach Doug Marrone raved about his rookie signal caller.
"I think that Gardner (Minshew), I feel better about him now, today, after Week 1, than I did during the pre-season," Marrone said. I think that's fair to say. I think the work during the preseason was able to get him ready for things like this.
"I don't know, I'm hoping that's the case. I think 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. He didn't take any reps against Kansas City's defense and went out there and performed."
Here are some other facts about Minshew's debut.
He became the most accurate single game passer in Jaguars history among players with at least 25 pass attempts with his 88.0 completion percentage.
His 88.0 completion percentage was the highest for any player with at least 15 attempts making their NFL debut in NFL History.
His 275 passing yards were the most ever by a Jaguars player making his NFL debut, and the fifth most by a Jaguars rookie in a single game.
Get used to seeing second year wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., who turned in a career performance against the Chiefs, catching four passes for 146 yards (36.5 rec. avg.) and one touchdown from Foles. Among players with at least four receptions in a game, Chark's 36.5 yards per-catch average is the highest in a single game in franchise history.
This marked Chark's first 100 yard performance and the first by a Jaguars receiver since Week 4 of the 2018 season against the New York Jets.
Chark was responsible for three of the Jaguars four longest offensive plays on Sunday, a 69-yard reception and two 35-yarders, one of which was a TD.
In many instances, a team should be quite concerned losing a starting QB in the opening week especially when it rests its players during the preseason to avoid injuries.
However, because Jacksonville's football operation appears to have found it's Hidden Gem in the off-season, this organization has a future building block in Minshew.
Moreover, he'll have Foles on the sidelines mentoring him as he gets on the job training.
Jacksonville enters tomorrows road game at the Houston Texans as 8.5 point underdogs.
Houston has game film on Minshew, while the rookie has practices with the first team this week.
Jacksonville has additional playmakers it can turn to with running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed 13 times for 66 yards, in addition to catching four passes for 28 yards.
The LSU product has now eclipsed 1,500 career rushing yards (1,545).
Add wide receivers Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole and tight end Geoff Swain and Minshew will have some offensive support.
Conley made his Jacksonville debut as he was signed as an unrestricted free agent on March 16, 2019. The five-year veteran caught six passes for a career high 97 yards and one touchdown.
Conley's previous career-high for receiving yards was 74, set on November 19, 2018 against the Rams as a member of the Chiefs. Conley now has seven career TD passes.
I'll be watching this game closely as we get set to cover Thursday's Nationally Televised Home Game against the Tennessee Titans at 8:20 pm on The NFL Network.
This could be Minshew's coming out party as 31 NFL teams could be scratching their heads as to the prospect that got away.
But it was neat observing first hand about "The QB Duel We Didn't Expect" yet getting a glimpse of potentially more encounters, Minshew vs Mahomes, the race to their first Super Bowl Championship.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.
He is the Founder and CEO of The South Florida Tribune, plus the Co-Host of The Sports Exchange on the weinetwork.com that airs Tuesday and Thursday 5-7 ET.