Canadian QB Nathan Rourke ‘raised some eyebrows’ around the NFL: Jaguars’ Doug Pederson

Courtesy: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke made an impression on the Jacksonville Jaguars and the rest of the NFL with his preseason performance.

The 25-year-old QB completed 66 percent of his exhibition pass attempts for 348 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions while also carrying the ball 14 times for 39 yards and one rushing touchdown. He went viral in his NFL preseason debut against the Dallas Cowboys with a spectacular touchdown pass after he broke a number of tackles.

“We know that at that position, what he did in training camp obviously raised some eyebrows around the league for him and that’s a good thing,” Jags’ head coach Doug Pederson said.

Rourke’s efforts were not enough for Jacksonville to keep him on the team’s 53-man active roster to start the regular season. Instead, the Jaguars risked him being claimed or signing elsewhere by putting him on waivers. He cleared and the Jags signed him to the practice squad.

“He’s in that [quarterback] room for a reason. We wanted him back for his development, for his growth and it’ll be a great opportunity for him,” Pederson said.

“I think it’s important, especially since he went through all the offseason stuff, training camp with us, knowing our system and now he gets to go through a regular season with us.”

The Jaguars made it clear in August that Rourke was not competing for the backup job behind Pro Bowl quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Veteran C.J. Beathard was anointed as the number two after signing a two-year extension during the offseason. Pederson reiterated the ‘great opportunity’ his practice squad players have in Jacksonville to continue developing their crafts, especially Rourke.

“They’re constantly being evaluated. It’s not a sigh of relief that they’ve made it by any means. They are that ankle sprain or a knee sprain away from being activated or being picked up on another roster, so they gotta continue to work,” Pederson said.

When asked what position was the hardest to evaluate and make decisions on for final roster cuts, Pederson said quarterback with a smile. General manager Trent Baalke told Lawrence, who was the 2021 first-overall NFL Draft pick, he was “very close” and “on the bubble” which was of course followed by laughs.

“You’ve got 91 guys working hard, putting everything they’ve got into it, so it’s never easy to make those cuts. Some are easier than others but we had a good group, top to bottom, a very competitive group,” Baalke said.

“That day was hard, but we’ve got 53 of them signed up and another 17 (on the practice roster), so we’re sitting at 70 right now. We feel really good about it.”

The Jaguars won an AFC Wild Card playoff game last season and are favourites to win the AFC South Division this year. Lawrence has helped set Jacksonville’s expectations high and that could be an ideal situation for Rourke to be around and develop as he works towards his goal of becoming an NFL starter.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.