Diamonds in the rough


Allen prepares to take the field during a Carolina practice.

Melvin Harris, Contributor

Backup players get all the time in the world to practice, improve their game, etc. However, when their name is called, will they step up to the challenge or fold under pressure? In the cases of Gardner Minshew and Kyle Allen, both have been ready to play and both are exceeding expectations. 

In Week 1 Nick Foles, who the Jacksonville Jaguars gave a 4 year/88 million dollar contract to, injured his collarbone and is expected to return around Week 11. 

Insert the Jags 2019 sixth round pick out of Washington State Gardner Minshew.

It was not to long ago when the Jaguars were in the AFC Championship game versus the New England Patriots.

Their defense has been a top five defense in the league the past two seasons. So the only problem that Jacksonville faces is their offense. It was not to long ago when the Jaguars were in the AFC Championship game versus the New England Patriots with Blake Bortles at the helm.

Once Minshew got his chance, he hit the ground running. In his first start against the Houston Texans, Minshew threw for a touchdown and had a quarterback rating of 97.2. 

Despite the close loss, fans remained optimistic about the rookie. He then followed up with a better performance against the Tennessee Titans, throwing two touchdowns and leading the team to the first win of the season. He followed that win with another win against the Denver Broncos. Minshew threw for 213 yards while completing 19 of 33 passes for two touchdowns and no turnovers.

Minshew has been in the spotlight before. At Washington State Minshew put up big time numbers, throwing for over 4,000 yards, 38 touchdowns and leading his team to a top 10 ranking in the final AP Poll of the 2018 season. He also finished fifth in the Heisman voting. 

From one cat to another, Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen has big shoes to fill in Carolina (temporarily) in place of the 2015 NFL MVP Quarterback Cam Newton, who is sitting out due to a nagging foot injury.  

Allen had to come ready to play and he did as he led the Panthers to their first win of the season versus the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. The sophomore quarterback started off slow in Phoenix, not leading the team to any scoring drives in the first quarter. However, he began to pick up his play and had back to back quarters with 14 points. Allen ended the game with four touchdowns and also got the Panthers their first win. 

He followed that win with a 232 yard performance, completing 24 of 34 passes with no touchdowns or interceptions. He did however lead the Panthers to their second consecutive win on the road to improve the Panthers record to 2-2 on the season.

Unlike Minshew, Allen has a small sample size of playing experience. Allen appeared in two games and started the Week 17 matchup versus the New Orleans Saints when Newton didn’t suit up the final two games of the regular season. He also won that game which means he’s undefeated in his three NFL starts.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Allen’s 90.6 quarterback rating was the highest by any quarterback in his first two career starts.

If Allen keeps playing with this kind of productivity, Newton will have the luxury of not being rushed back in the lineup.

What lesson can be learned from these outstanding backup quarterbacks? Stay ready, because the opportunity could be right around the corner.