Minshew-mania has come to Charlotte. Jacksonville Jaguars now-starting quarterback Gardner Minshew is the human embodiment of the Panthers old Hulkamania font. He does jock strap workouts in the locker room wearing aviator shades and rocks arguably the league’s best mustache.
He’s also a pretty good football player. The Jaguars lost their big free agent signing Nick Foles to a broken collarbone during the team’s second drive of the season. Instead of folding like a steel chair, the Jaguars have kept their heads above water by leaning on their rookie sixth round pick. He’s done well, completing 69.42% (nice) of his passes while tossing seven touchdowns to just one interception. He’s even contributed with his feet, accruing 82 yards on the ground.
But Minshew hasn’t faced a defense like this yet. The Carolina Panthers rank second in the NFL in yards per play allowed thanks to their incredible pass defense. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging just 5.2 yards per pass attempt against this unit while being sacked a league high 18 times.
The Panthers are very banged up on defense, but they should still be a force on Sunday. Here’s what they need to do to beat the Jaguars:
- Repeat the last two weeks’ performances on another mobile quarterback. Did you see this play from Sunday? Minshew is slippery in the pocket, much like Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson. The Panthers did well keeping those guys in check, and they’ll have to do the same this week. As an added bonus, Minshew, like Watson last week, tends to hold the ball for awhile. His average time to throw is 2.84 seconds, ninth longest in the league. For comparison, Deshaun Watson ranks fourth with an average 2.92 seconds between snap and throw.
- Tackle well. This has been an issue at times, particularly in the secondary, where the Panthers seem to forget that they’re allowed to use their arms to bring down ball carriers. Minshew throws short quite a bit. The Panthers can’t let those short completions turn into big gains.
Tackling also comes into play with the running game. If the Panthers don’t tackle well, Fournette might break one of his patented 75 yard runs outside of his dozens of two-yard carries.
- Don’t fret about the run defense. I know there are some people that are concerned about the Panthers lowly run defense, especially considering what Leonard Fournette did to the Broncos last week (225 yards rushing). I’m here to tell you, it’ll be okay. Fournette is not a consistent runner at all—his yards per carry averages are heavily influenced by a sparse few explosive runs. Look no further than Week 3 against the Titans. Forunette’s final line looks respectable, 15 carries for 66 yards, but that includes a 69 yard scamper in the fourth quarter. He literally went backwards with his other 14 carries.
The Panthers just need to prevent the explosive run. They’ll get plenty of stuffs on the other Fournette carries, which will open the door for them to pin their ears back and get after the passer in later downs.
The Jaguars offense isn’t a pushover. Minshew has been good, and he has a deep, athletic receiving corps to get the ball to. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers will probably struggle to move the ball against a tough Jaguars defense. This game has all the same ingredients as last week’s, meaning we’re poised to get another defensive slugfest.