Jaguars’ explosive offense eyes opportunity against Dolphins

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In a shortened week of preparations, the Jaguars appear to have the ideal opponent for Gardner Minshew and the offense to continue rolling in Thursday night’s primetime affair in Jacksonville.

The Miami Dolphins’ defense has been unable to provide much resistance to keep teams from piling up yards and points. Miami was carved up for the second week in a row Sunday when quarterback Josh Allen and Buffalo Bills racked up 528 yards in a 31-28 victory.

In Week 1, New England rushed for 217 yards against the Dolphins that led to a 21-11 win.

Now, the Jaguars get their opportunity to do the same, possibly.

“Hopefully we can keep that consistency going,” Coach Doug Marrone said. “You have to be able to challenge people on the outside or in the middle of the field and right now we have guys playing at a high level.”

The Jaguars’ offense has flourished behind Minshew’s accuracy and the big-play combination of DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and rookie running back James Robinson after two games.

The Jaguars put up 30 points on Tennessee last week in a three-point loss on the road, and they overcame a slow start to beat AFC South rival Indianapolis 27-20 in Week 1.

Jacksonville has now entered the must-win portion of its schedule, facing both winless Miami (0-2) and Cincinnati (0-2) on back-to-back weeks. If they beat the Dolphins and Bengals, the Jaguars would have a 3-1 record after the first quarter of the season.

It would be a record few imagined considering they were projected to be one of the league’s worst teams. Last month, tanking speculation persisted to improve their chances of selecting Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 draft.

Instead of tanking, the Jaguars appear to be a young team to reckon with because of their high-powered offense. The Jaguars trailed the Titans 14-0 in the first quarter before storming back to tie the score at 30 late in the fourth quarter before losing on a field goal with just under two minutes remaining.

“I think every time we step out there, we’re always trying to prove what we are,” Minshew said. “But more than anything, we really don’t have to prove it to anybody else, we believe in our locker room. And as long as we have that and people in our locker room believe, then that’s our main concern.”

On third downs, the Jaguars have been able to extend drives, and they have scored on six of their seven opportunities in the red zone. It’s the first time since 2000, the Jaguars have scored at least 27 points in each of their first two games.

The Jaguars’ 57 points total after two games ranks tied for the seventh highest in the league. Like against both Indianapolis and Tennessee, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s plan will likely evolve around Minshew’s attacking the Dolphins man-to-man coverage with his accurate passing.

“I think this is a conceptually based offense really and coverage dictates where the ball goes a lot of times,” Gruden said. “We like to spread the ball around. All the guys show a skill set that they can do it and it’s good to see that they’re all producing when their number is called and it’s nice to know that if it goes to your third or fourth progression, it’s a heck of a player getting it.”

Shenault’s versatility as both receiver and a ballcarrier, Chark’s ability to beat coverage, and Robinson’s effective inside running are essential elements to Gruden’s offense.

Jaguars undrafted rookie running back James Robinson has been a key player in the team’s explosive offense. Bob Self/Florida Times-Union.

Against Tennessee, Robinson rushed for 102 yards and caught three passes for 18 yards. He is only the fifth undrafted player since 1970 with more than 200 scrimmage yards (210) through the first two career games.

Robinson has taken advantage of good offensive line play that has been able to clear running lines for him. However, starting center Brandon Linder is expected to miss Thursday night’s game because of a knee injury he sustained against Tennessee. Tyler Shatley, who filled in nicely last week, is expected to start.

Minshew is seeking his third game in a row at TIAA Bank Field, which dates back to the last season, with three touchdown passes and a 100.0 or better quarterback rating. Minshew’s 75.4% completion rate after two games is the fourth-best in the NFL. Minshew’s six touchdown is tied for second, ranking only behind Seattle Russell Wilson’s nine.

The Dolphins have allowed 328 rushing yards in their first two games to rank 29th in the league. And they rank 30th in total defense, surrendering 440 yards a game, including 276 passing.

“We’ve got to play better and that’s really what it boils down to,” Miami coach Brian Flores said. “We need more pressure on the quarterback. I think every team is looking for that. They have several other guys who can make plays. We’ve got to do a good job with all of them.”


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