JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The start to the 2019 season was not what the Jaguars hoped for.
Their response has been everything coach Doug Marrone could ask for.
Riding the hot start of rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II and the best showing by a Jaguars running back since 2000, Jacksonville has won back-to-back games and finds itself in a four-way tie for the AFC South lead.
It's been an unusual path to get there, but this has been a resilient bunch.
"Again, it's a team that there's been a lot it has been through. From OTAs to minicamp to training camp, there's been a lot," Marrone said. "There's been a lot of fluctuation offensively with [Nick] Foles then Gardner [Minshew II]. Offensive line, things of that nature. I would say that if I had to put a stamp on what the identity is right now is a team that showed some resiliency, that has really blocked a lot of things out and really tried to focus on doing what we're asking them to do."
Its comeback win on Sunday at Denver was the latest positive for a team that had every reason for implosion after starting out 0-2.
Quarterback Nick Foles broke his collarbone in Jacksonville's season opener. The Jalen Ramsey drama has dragged on for two weeks. The defense has been hot and cold.
But the Jaguars continue to respond.
"I think that [we're] a team that is playing together, meaning there's a confidence about the phases, being able to contribute to help one another out," Marrone said. "If one's down the other one can step up. I think that's important."
Minshew was very good against the Broncos, rallying the team back from a 17-3 hole with a pair of touchdown passes in the third quarter. News4Jax sports analyst and former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell has been impressed with Minshew's poise, and moxie, since the rookie from Washington State soaked up playing time in the preseason.
The ability to enter the regular season and play like this is something that Brunell didn't see coming, but expects to see now.
"He burst on the scene, the city has embraced him, he's playing very, very good football," Brunell said. "Up to this point, I've been pleasantly surprised at how he's been able to manage the game and the decision making and the way he's played. I am a firm believer in this young man right now to the point where I expect him week in week out to go out there and make plays to win the football game."
Minshew's 8-yard touchdown pass to Ryquell Armstead on a third-and-5 showcased just how strong Minshew's field awareness is. His second scoring pass was an 18-yarder to James O'Shaughnessey that put Jacksonville up 20-17. Minshew drove the Jaguars from their own 25 to the Denver 15 in eight plays to set up Josh Lambo's game-winning field goal.
Of course, it wasn't all Minshew.
Fournette, the third-year running back who hadn't produced a 100-yard rushing game since November of his rookie season, turned in the second-best rushing game in franchise history. Only Fred Taylor's 234-yard game against Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, 2000, was better.
Doing that behind an offensive line that has flat out struggled most of the season showcases just how special this unit could be if it manages to erase some of the notable struggles.