Gardner Minshew and rookies come up big as Jaguars upset Colts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars made the decision to go young in 2020 and kept 16 rookies on the opening day roster. In the Jaguars’ surprising 27-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, several of those rookies made key contributions.

Running back James Robinson, receivers Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson, and cornerback C.J. Henderson all had big games or made critical plays at critical times.

Robinson rushed for 62 yards on 16 carries –- though 61 of those yards came in the first half -- and Shenault caught three passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. Johnson contributed a 14-yard catch on a third-and-8 play that continued a drive that eventually tied the game at 17 in the third quarter.

But it was Henderson, the ninth overall pick back in April, who might may have made the most significant impact. His second-quarter interception set up the Jaguars’ first touchdown that tied the game at 7. He had another pass breakup in the second half, then made one of the game’s biggest plays when he broke up Philip Rivers’ fourth-down pass to T.Y. Hilton with 54 seconds to play.

That came after he left the previous drive to be evaluated for a concussion.

The key to being a good player in the league is consistency, so these guys will have to show they can do it over and over again, but there should certainly be a lot of optimism surrounding one of the youngest rosters in the NFL.

QB breakdown: Gardner Minshew II must absolutely love playing in season openers. The second-year player threw just one incompletion Sunday, going 19-of-20 for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Add in what he did in last year’s opener when he came off the bench for an injured Nick Foles (22-of-25 for 275 yards and two TDs with one interception) and Minshew has completed 91.1 percent of his passes for 448 yards and five TDs and one interception in the two Week 1 games. The only pass Minshew didn’t complete against the Colts was a ball thrown slightly behind Shenault. Shenault got both hands on the ball but got his arm knocked away and couldn’t hold on.

Pivotal play: Minshew might never throw an easier TD pass than the go-ahead score to Keelan Cole with 5:56 to play. Cole simply ran through the middle of the field from the left side of the formation and no Colts defender picked him up. All Minshew had to do was loft a soft 22-yard pass, and Cole caught it around the 2-yard line before easily walking into the end zone. WR D.J. Chark played a big role in the play, though, because he ran a post that took Colts CB Rock Ya-Sin out of the play. Safety Khari Willis stayed in close to cover Shenault in the flat, which left Cole wide open.

Promising trend: It looks like the Jaguars might have their lead back in Robinson. He had a very good camp and was impressive enough that general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone felt comfortable cutting Leonard Fournette, who had accounted for 1,674 yards of total offense in 2019. Veteran Chris Thompson said Robinson had the best vision of all the Jaguars' backs, and Robinson showed off some of that with some nifty cut-backs to avoid tacklers, especially in the first half. He also got the sparse crowd energized when he vaulted a tackler on a 28-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter. With Devine Ozigbo on IR with a hamstring injury and Ryquell Armstead still on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Jaguars have to feel good about what they saw from Robinson.