The Jacksonville Jaguars put the drama of this week behind them in earning their first win of the 2019 NFL season Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans.
Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew played flawless football in his second career NFL start. The pass-rush tandem of Calais Campbell and Josh Allen was on absolute fire in the 20-7 win.
On the other side, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was bruised and battered throughout the game. It led to yet another troubling performance from the former No. 2 overall pick.
These are among the biggest winners and losers from Jacksonville’s 13-point victory over Tennessee.
Winner: Calais Campbell
Titans backup left tackle Dennis Kelly had no shot against Campbell. Kelly is starting in the stead of the suspended Taylor Lewan. Leaving him out on an island proved to be an utter failure for offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and Co.
Campbell recorded a whopping five quarterback hits to go with four sacks in an absolutely dominating performance from the underrated 33-year-old Pro Bowler. This comes after Campbell failed to record a single sack and had just one hit over the first two games. The pass-rush tandem of Campbell and rookie Josh Allen (more on him later) is looking tremendous.
Loser: NFL officiating
Roughing the passer penalties are getting absolutely ridiculous. Just one day after New York Jets safety Jamal Adams blasted the NFL over being fined $21,000 for a “late hit” on “Monday Night Football”, the officials were at it again. This time, Titans linebacker Kamalei Correa was flagged for a late hit on Gardner Minshew.
Of all people, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady took to social media to blast the league over these weak calls. When Mr. Brady is taking time out of his day to call you out, something is obviously wrong. All said, the two teams combined for 18 accepted penalties in the first half before things calmed down after intermission. It was ugly.
Winner: Gardner Minshew
Minshew Mania. That’s all the rage in Duval right now. Since replacing an injured Nick Foles under center in Week 1, the rookie sixth-round pick has been absolutely legit for the Jaguars. Minshew got off to a red-hot start against Tennessee Thursday. The football world took notice.
Once the first half was complete with Jacksonville up 14-0, the Washington State product had completed 13-of-18 passes for 125 yards with two touchdowns. He finished the evening connecting on all but 10 of his 30 passes without throwing an interception. Great stuff from Minshew Thursday night.
Loser: Leonard Fournette
The Jaguars’ brass talked all summer about how this former top-five pick was in great physical condition and had his head in the game after a disastrous sophomore campaign. Through the first two games of the season, Fournette averaged a somewhat decent five yards per touch.
Unfortunately, the young back did not have it Thursday night. Fournette put up -9 yards on five attempts in the first half. In fact, he stood at -8 yards on 11 attempts before a 69-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville is going to need more from Fournette moving forward.
Winner: D.J. Chark
After struggling to catch passes from Blake Bortles as a rookie last season, this former second-round pick has elevated his game big time with Gardner Minshew tossing him the rock as a sophomore. Chark entered Thursday’s game having caught 11-of-13 targets for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Those were among some of the most impressive early-season numbers for a receiver in the NFL.
The LSU product added four catches and 75 yards with a touchdown on five targets in Jacksonville’s win over Tennessee Thursday evening. It sure does seem that the Jags have found a tremendous young battery mate of Minshew and Chark, who are both flying under the radar.
Loser: Marcus Mariota
It’s about that time. Mariota is no longer a starter-caliber quarterback in the NFL. That’s the sad reality of the situation after struggling through the past two-plus seasons. It got so bad in the first half of Thursday’s game that fans were actually calling on the Titans to bench Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill.
When all was said and done, the former No. 2 overall pick completed 23-of-40 passes for 249 net passing yards. Most of that yardage came in fourth quarter garbage time. These numbers don’t justify the Titans having confidence that Mariota can be the long-term solution under center. Heck, it would be smart for Tennessee to give him a clipboard for the remainder of his contract year.
Winner: Josh Allen
Allen had put up a couple quarterback hits in his first two games this season. However, the rookie top-10 pick didn’t have a single sack during this span. That changed against Marcus Mariota and Co. Thursday evening. Coming off a Week 2 game that saw him play 92-plus percent of the Jacksonville’s defensive snaps, Allen recorded his first career regular-season sack.
The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year was in Tennessee’s backfield on a consistent basis throughout the game. If the Jags can continue to get this type of production from the rookie, it’s going to loom large moving forward on the season. That’s especially true given how pedestrian the AFC South has proven to be thus far.
Loser: Adoree’ Jackson
This former first-round pick is a fine cover guy in the secondary. However, he simply needs to be removed from punt-return duties. Mistakes from Jackson on special teams came rearing its ugly head early in Thursday’s game.
An early muffed punt led to the Jaguars’ first touchdown of the game and helped them open up a 17-0 lead before Tennessee attempted to make a game of it in the fourth quarter. It’s the second consecutive week that a special teams miscue from Jackson has led directly to seven points for the opposing team. Tennessee simply does not have the margin for error. It can’t be giving away points like that.