JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- New quarterback, same result.
But rookie sixth-round pick Jake Luton provided a definite spark and late-game surge that could potentially signal the end of Minshew Mania in Jacksonville.
Luton nearly rallied the Jacksonville Jaguars to tie the Houston Texans late at TIAA Bank Field, but his two-point conversion pass with 1:29 to play was rushed because of a blitz and went wide of receiver DJ Chark. The Jaguars lost 27-25.
It was the Jaguars’ seventh consecutive loss but the closest they’ve come to a victory since the season opener and they did it with a quarterback who hadn’t been active this season until Sunday and got the start because Gardner Minshew is out with a thumb injury.
In his first game action since his final game at Oregon State on Nov. 23, 2019, Luton completed 26 of 38 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He also ran for what could have been a game-tying touchdown, finishing it with a spin move against cornerback Keion Crossen near the goal line.
"I thought he made some really nice throws," head coach Doug Marrone said. "I’m sure there’s some he wants back. First time you’re starting and down by a score and two-point conversion and lead your team down the field and potentially tie the game with a two-point conversion, that’s a check mark. There’s a lot of check marks."
In announcing earlier in the week that Luton would start, Marrone said he wouldn’t guarantee that Minshew would regain his job when he got healthy. If Luton was playing really well, he could remain the starter.
Luton’s first pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage, but his second went for a 73-yard touchdown to Chark. Luton misfired on several other throws, including one that should have been intercepted, and did throw one interception, but he thrived in the two-minute drill late in the game. Luton drove the Jaguars 80 yards in seven plays.
That may be enough to hold on to the job for at least one more week even if Minshew is cleared.
Promising trend: Rookie CB Chris Claybrooks played his best game of the season because of the significant impact he made on special teams. He helped down two punts inside the 10-yard line (including one where he dove at the goal line to swat the ball back; Joe Giles-Harris downed it at the 6) and had a 39-yard kickoff return that set up Josh Lambo’s franchise-record-tying 59-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. That 39-yard return tied his season high.
Promising trend, II: The Jaguars narrowly avoided a piece of dubious NFL history by holding the Texans to 27 points. Had the Jaguars given up another score they would have become the first team to give up 30 or more points in seven consecutive games in a single season. They remain tied with the 1968 Denver Broncos and 1984 Minnesota Vikings at six in a row.
It’s a good thing, too, because there’s no telling how high the streak would have reached. There are still eight games remaining, and the Jaguars play Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger the next two weeks. Green Bay and Pittsburgh entered the weekend second and fifth, respectively, in scoring -- both at more than 30 points per game.
Troubling trend: WR Laviska Shenault battled injuries during his collegiate career at Colorado, and he’s had to do the same in his first season with the Jaguars. He’s been dealing with a hamstring injury since mid-October and it flared up again in the first half Sunday. He left the game and did not return. Shenault, who worked on the stationary bike trying to return, has been able to play through the injury without missing a game. He entered the game as the team leader in catches (29) and second in yardage (324) and caught one pass for minus-1 yards against the Texans. This appears to be something that’s going to be an issue for the foreseeable future because hamstring injuries can linger and get reaggravated if not healed fully.
Troubling trend, II: The Jaguars didn’t do any kind of "crazy stuff" -- which Marrone said during the bye week he was willing to try -- against the Texans, but the team did not start DT Taven Bryan. The 28th overall pick in 2018 has been largely disappointing in his two-plus seasons, but he had started every game this season until Sunday, when he had two tackles. Doug Costin, an undrafted rookie out of Miami (Ohio), started instead. The Jaguars have staunchly defended Bryan, who entered the game with 11 tackles for loss in 39 games, but not starting him is a sign of the team either trying to light a fire under him or that it may be ready to move on.