Packers, Jags meet in battle of veteran, rookie QBs
Aaron Rodgers aims to continue his strong campaign when the Green Bay Packers host the beleaguered Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Rodgers passed for 24 touchdowns in the first half of the season to place him in position to surpass his career high of 45 set in 2011. He has completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 2,253 yards with just two interceptions.
Rodgers passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns during a 34-17 rout of the San Francisco on Nov. 5 to mark the fourth time this season he threw for four scores in a game. However, the 36-year-old veteran is more pleased with Green Bay’s 6-2 record at the halfway point.
“There’s nothing better than winning,” Rodgers said. “They all count, they’re all special.”
Helping Rodgers look good is standout wideout Davante Adams, who had 10 receptions for 173 yards and one touchdown against San Francisco. The contest marked the third time — in just six games — that Adams topped 150 yards.
The 27-year-old missed two-plus games with a hamstring injury earlier in the season but is fully healthy now. He’s caught 30 passes for 422 yards and six touchdowns over the past three contests.
After the big performance against the 49ers, Adams declared himself as the best receiver in the NFL. He has 53 catches for 675 yards and eight scores despite the time he missed.
“My whole mentality was to come in (this season) and elevate,” Adams said. “I still haven’t done everything that I can possibly do. I’ve got a lot to give.
“I’m relied on a lot in this offense, and I’ve got a very talented quarterback. I’m just in the business of maximizing stuff. I haven’t really taken a step back to look and reflect just yet, because I’ve only played six games, and I feel like there’s still a lot more to do.”
While the Packers appear on their way to a second consecutive postseason berth, the season has been a long one for the Jaguars (1-7).
Jacksonville was optimistic after opening the season with a 27-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts but has since dropped seven consecutive games. A leaky defense allowed 30 or more points in six straight losses before the Jaguars fell 27-25 to the Houston Texans last Sunday.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew II missed the Houston game with multiple fractures and a strained ligament in his right thumb. Minshew initially sustained the injury to his throwing hand in a game against the Texans on Oct. 11 but didn’t report it until after a game against the Los Angeles Chargers two weeks later.
Coach Doug Marrone expressed displeasure that Minshew initially kept the injury silent.
The ailment opened the door for Jake Luton to start, and the rookie took advantage against Houston. Luton will start again this week as Marrone said Minshew won’t return to the lineup until fully healthy.
“Right now, I want to see Gardner be able to throw first,” Marrone said Wednesday. “Because if he’s not throwing the ball well because of the thumb, well then, that decision’s easy.”
The sixth-round pick from Oregon State passed for 304 yards, one touchdown and one interception and also rushed for a score in his debut. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden termed the performance as “really incredible,” and Marrone was amazed with the 24-year-old’s poise and maturity.
“I thought for his first game ever — with limited reps (in practices) — I thought he did an outstanding job,” Gruden said. “Not many guys in their first game, with that limited exposure, can step into the fire like that and perform like he did. Obviously, there are some throws I’m sure he wished he had back and some opportunities that were missed.
“But overall, the way he was on the sideline, the poise, the control he had at the line of scrimmage, using the play clock, changing protections from time to time — I thought he was great.”
Luton is more concerned with the forthcoming challenge than looking back at his strong debut.
“I’m focused on myself, focused on our team,” Luton said Wednesday after practice. “I stepped back out on the practice field today and I felt a lot more confident. I thought practice went really well, and I’m really just trying to build on what I did on Sunday.”
Promising rookie receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (hamstring) was a limited practice participant on Wednesday. He is second on the Jaguars with 30 receptions. Safety Andrew Wingard (core muscle) was limited and could be activated off injured reserve after missing the past three games.
Standout Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (concussion/hand) missed practice Wednesday. Two-time Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari (chest) was a full participant and should return after missing three straight games.
–Field Level Media