Just where Nathan Rourke fits with the Jacksonville Jaguars will be apparent after this weekend.
The Jaguars wrap-up the NFL regular season Saturday hosting the Miami Dolphins and coach Doug Pederson told the media Monday that he’ll likely share the second-half snaps between incumbent backup C.J. Beathard and Rourke, the quarterback born in Victoria and raised in Oakville, Ont., who parlayed a stellar season last year with the B.C. Lions into a contract with Jacksonville.
The Jaguars’ first-unit offence, featuring third-year starting pivot Trevor Lawrence, will get the opening half against Miami, according to Pederson.
Rourke, 25, made all the highlight reels a couple of weeks ago when he bobbed and weaved his way through multiple Dallas Cowboy defenders and then fired off a touchdown pass as he was being pulled to the ground to Qadree Ollison. Rourke has had a strong showing overall in his two pre-season appearances, going 19-of-29 for 274 yards with that one TD and no interceptions, along with running for 34 yards on 12 carries, with one major.
Even with all that, Pederson downplayed over the weekend after a 25-7 pre-season win over the Detroit Lions the idea of Rourke being in a duel with Beathard for the second-string spot, telling reporters there: “C.J. is our No. 2 and Trevor is No. 1.”
NFL teams have until Aug. 29 to get down to their 53-man opening day rosters. Only 12 of the league’s 32 teams kept three quarterbacks on their active rosters last season, with the other teams opting to slot an extra pivot on the practice roster.
That could change this season, though, with the NFL agreeing in May to allow teams to dress a third quarterback that doesn’t count against their 48-man game day roster.
Rourke would have to be waived and would be free for other NFL clubs to pick-up before he could go on Jacksonville’s practice roster.
Pederson did speak about Rourke in high regard after the Detroit game.
The Jaguars currently have only the three quarterbacks in camp.
“I just like his poise, his poise in the pocket,” Pederson told reporters after the Detroit game. “I’m sure there’s some throws he wants back, but for the most part he’s an accurate thrower. He made a heck of a throw, a couple of back shoulder throws on the sideline, a slant throw on a third down, and the toughness aspect of it. He’s not afraid to pull the ball down and run. Those are all things that I appreciate about him and the effort and leadership that he provides.”
Beathard is 18-of-33 for 218 yards with one TD and one interception so far this pre-season. Beathard, 29, has played in 25 career regular-season games during his time in the NFL with 12 starts, and Jacksonville sees him aiding the progress of Lawrence, 23, the franchise quarterback they used the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on.
Jacksonville signed Beathard to a two-year contract extension in February, keeping him from becoming a free agent in March.
“I like the way C.J. operates,” Pederson told reporters when the whole idea of a duel for the backup spot came up. “I like the way his mental capacity is, the way he thinks, he sees the field extremely well and he’s tough. You saw some of the athleticism today, the movement skills and stuff with him. He throws a really good football, and he played well today. He does a nice job for us.”
Monday, oddly enough, was the anniversary of the Lions announcing that Rourke required surgery due to a Lisfranc sprain in his right foot that he suffered in an Aug. 19 game against Saskatchewan. He came back for the regular-season finale on Oct. 28, and guided the Leos to a win over Calgary in the West semifinals before they fell to Winnipeg in the West final.
Even with missing all that time, Rourke was named the CFL’s most outstanding Canadian for the season, becoming the first quarterback to take the honour since Gerry Dattilio of the Montreal Alouettes in 1980.
Rourke had led the Lions to an 8-1 start before he got hurt. He topped the CFL in passing yardage (3,281) and TD passes (25) at the time and had been named one of the league’s top three performers in six of those nine weeks.
He worked out for 12 NFL teams before signing with Jacksonville in January.
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