Gardner Minshew and the Jacksonville Jaguars are putting together something special, but so are Kyle Allen and the Panthers. In one of the most fun and evenly matched NFL games of the weekend, this battle of the big cats will hinge on the two noobs taking the snaps.
Gardner Minshew has been turning heads with his arm, not just his mustache. The sixth-round draft pick has gone from an afterthought to a leading offensive rookie-of-the-year candidate. After guiding the Jaguars to a nail-biting win over the Broncos last week, Minshew should be riding high on momentum.
GARDNER MINSHEW WHAT A PLAY 😤 pic.twitter.com/EmWMo5qcVI
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 29, 2019
The Carolina Panthers have their own impressive 23-year-old QB in Kyle Allen. Since Cam Newton went down with an injury, Allen ranks third in the NFL with a 118.3 QB rating, causing some to wonder if he should remain the starter when Newton returns. Minshew isn’t far behind at 106.9. While both quarterbacks have been stellar, Minshew has taken double the snaps as Allen this year, proving he can sustain his level of play. With rising star wideout DJ Chark by his side, Minshew has a slight advantage.
Kyle Allen ducked JJ Watt on 3rd down and made the throw for a 1st down. Holy cow.pic.twitter.com/2l5Y4qxpi0
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 29, 2019
Defense Will Be Key
Minshew, however, will have his work cut out for him against the best pass defense in the NFL. Led by defensive backs coach Perry Fewell, who coached the Jaguars to the elite pass defenses the past two seasons, this Carolina unit could wreak havoc. The Panthers also lead the league in sacks at 18. Luckily for Gardner Minshew, they will be missing a key cog in cornerback Donte Jackson. Starting safety Eric Reid is also questionable.
Perry Fewell as DB coach in Jacksonville:
No. 2 pass defense in 2018
No. 1 pass defense in 2017
And now the Panthers rank No. 1 in pass D.
But Carolina's secondary coach says Sunday's matchup is "just another game."https://t.co/VpGMFhG0cx
— Max Henson (@PanthersMax) October 3, 2019
Jacksonville will still be without their all-pro cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, who’s dealing with a back injury and a trade request. Their 21st ranked pass defense has cratered without the all-pro. The defense, however, is tied for sixth in the NFL in sacks, and with the Panthers missing two starters from the offensive line, look for them to blitz young Kyle Allen into costly mistakes.
The Tale of Two Running Backs
The Carolina Panthers sport the NFL’s leading rusher in Christian McCaffrey. The third-year running back is picking up where he left off last year when he scored 13 total touchdowns. McCaffrey will face a solid Jacksonville rush defense. They’re one of 12 teams to allow fewer than 100 rushing yards-per-game this year.
After registering 179 scrimmage yards (93 rushing, 86 receiving) and a rushing TD in Sunday’s win, Christian McCaffrey now joins Jim Brown as the only players in NFL history with three games of at least 175 scrimmage yards and one TD in their team’s first four games of a season.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 30, 2019
The Carolina rush defense, meanwhile, is allowing 130 rush yards/game, bad enough for 24th in the NFL. The Jaguars have a running game that can take full advantage. Leonard Fournette’s 225-yard explosion against the Broncos last week catapulted him to third in the league in rushing yards. Jacksonville averages nearly 30 yds/g more on the ground than the Panthers and their ground attack could be the deciding factor in this game.
Leonard Fournette trying to put the Jaguars on his back 😡
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 29, 2019
This evenly matched game could go either way but look for Jacksonville to take advantage of the Panther’s weak run defense. With Carolina’s secondary and offensive line hobbled, Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars should be able to eke out another win: