Preseason Takeaways: AFC South Week 2

By Anthony Wood

As the regular season draws ever nearer, the starters are starting to appear for each of the AFC South’s sides. While the results of each game at this point are all but irrelevant, the next two or so weeks may prove pivotal for many of these young men in their pursuit of the NFL dream.

1. Gardner Minshew trending up for Jaguars

Week 1 was somewhat of a baptism of fire for rookie Gardner Minshew. It was the equivalent of throwing a non-swimmer in at the deep end. The Baltimore Ravens defense was solid and should be given a great deal of credit. However, combine this with some less than perfect accuracy and some poor decision making at times, and Minshew ultimately completed just seven of 14 passes for just 46 yards.

Of course, this is just preseason game one and so nerves will have played a huge part in that, not to mention that the offensive line was extremely inconsistent in protection.

Thankfully he did improve on Thursday. He finished their Week 2 24-10 loss to the Eagles with 19 completions on 29 attempted passes, and 202 passing yards to his name.

Once again, sub-par offensive line play at times did not help the youngster. However, overall he looked far more confident in the passing game, making some nice throws to the likes of James O’Shaughnessy and C.J. Board.

His pocket awareness could do with some work. He was hit as he threw in the second quarter and the ball was recovered by the Eagles defense. There were other occasions where he should have gotten rid of the ball a little sooner. But ultimately these are all issues that should be resolved with experience.

The biggest takeaway was that Minshew showed why the Jaguars brought him in. Something the team’s website didn’t hide from after the game.

No bigger Jaguars story emerged Thursday than rookie Gardner Minshew II solidifying his role as the backup quarterback. Even when struggling in Preseason Week 1 at Baltimore, he was the best option to backup starter Nick Foles. But his poise and resiliency showed against Philadelphia, and his 19-of-29 passing for 202 yards could have been better if not for a few dropped passes.

Personally, in the future, I would like to see more of him running the ball, but perhaps its best he walks before he runs. Keep an eye out on the moustache in Jacksonville, he could prove to be the long-term answer they’ve been waiting for.

Week 3 picks Thursday

2. QB Controversy in Tennessee? Not so much

When the Tennessee Titans brought in veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill from the Miami Dolphins, it seemed that they were bringing in someone to challenge Marcus Mariota for that starting spot. However, Tannehill is likely acting as cover at the QB position this season. Then after this season, Mariota’s contract year, is over and they move onto a new QB.

In this start, Mariota looked solid. He completed six of nine passes for 63 yards and a touchdown during the 22-17 loss to the New England Patriots. Meanwhile, Tannehill did have some moments but he completed just seven of 11 attempts for 84 yards and a touchdown. The difference between these two QB’s is relatively negligible at this point, but Mariota still seems the odds on favourite to start this season.

However, if Mariota keeps doing things like this in the preseason we may see Tannehill sooner rather than later.

3. Colts backups shine

Indianapolis may have been without their talisman at QB in the shape of the neck-beard wonder Andrew Luck, however, all three of their backups showed that they are more than capable to take the reigns of Frank Reich’s offense if given the opportunity.

Jacoby Brissett was calm and consistent as always, completing eight of 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Phillip Walker went a slightly less impressive 10 of 17 for 109, while Chad Kelly closed out the game in style very nearly leading the team to a comeback win. Ultimately, they fell just three points short in this 21-18 loss to the Cleveland Browns, with Kelly finishing 12 of 17 with 115 yards and a touchdown.

Brissett will be the backup come Week 1 barring any last-minute catastrophes, but when it comes to that third spot it is still all to play for these last two games. Kelly has the advantage right now, and if he can stay on the straight and narrow I’d suggest be will remain on their roster for the time being.

4. Houston's offensive line, improves?

Yes, you read that correctly, the Houston Texans offensive line allowed just one sack and four QB hits during their 30-23 victory over the Detroit Lions. While a lackluster Lions pass rush had something to do with this, it cannot be ignored that the offensive line that allowed a league-leading 62 sacks in 2018 is showing signs of improvement.

Deshaun Watson was given plenty of time in the pocket during his one and only series of the preseason so far, with starting guard Zach Fulton doing well at center in place of the injured Nick Martin, while rookies Tytus Howard and Max Scharping both held their own at guard.

One concern for the Texans will be the health of Howard who broke a finger during the game. Thankfully for Texans fans, he should be back for Week 1.

5. Buddy Howell lights up NRG

The Houston Texans running back situation became slightly clearer when they traded for Duke Johnson of the Cleveland Browns. Johnson will back up Lamar Miller in 2019, and as a result, the competition for that final spot has heated up even more. Josh Ferguson, Taiwan Jones, and undrafted rookies Karan Higdon and Damarea Crockett are all vying for that final roster spot.

However, it was yet another back who stole the show. Buddy Howell, who was primarily a special teamer for the Texans last season, shone when finally given his chance at the tail end of the game.

Howell took his opportunity and ran with it. More specifically, he ran 15 times for 84 yards and a touchdown. This position just got a whole lot more complicated for Bill O’Brien.

Anthony Wood



Image Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports