Trevor Lawrence Begins to Fulfill Potential

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence
Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 15 - Rumblings of Trevor Lawrence's arrival began to stir in Week 2. The prince who was promised surgically picked apart Gus Bradley's Colts defense, completing 25 of 30 passes for 235 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and a sweet, sweet victory, the first of the post-Urban Meyer era. Lawrence looked as decisive and accurate as he had ever been, even dating back to his days at Clemson. At least for the moment, it felt like the shackles were off and Lawrence was ready to take the leap to stardom.

That wasn't the case. Not so soon, anyway. Lawrence and the Jaguars, a young team still reeling from the damage left by Meyer's short stint, beat the Chargers the following week before suffering a five-game skid. Over those five games, Lawrence tossed four touchdowns with five picks and completed fewer than 60% of his passes, a product of some of his own growing pains stacked on top of a declining offensive line and a pass-catching unit as frustrating as any. The flashes were still clear as day, but the consistency, at least in terms of production, was not.

Since Week 9, Lawrence and the Jaguars have corrected the course. The Jaguars have gone 3-2 while Lawrence has completed over 70% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions. That stretch of promising play came to a head against the Titans this week. In a convincing 36-22 win, Lawrence set career highs in both total passing yards (368) and yards per attempt (8.76). He also facilitated the second-highest team passing DVOA (94.8%) of his 30-game career, trailing only that Week 2 Colts game. The performance was just as impressive, if not better, on film as it was by the numbers.

After a decent first quarter, you could see Lawrence start to turn it on with this third-and-6 throw midway through the second. The Jaguars lined up Christian Kirk (13) and Zay Jones (7) tight to each other to the left side of the formation to run a go ball and an out route just past the sticks. Ideally, the tight alignments and Kirk's go route clear out room on the sideline for Jones, which is exactly what happens. Titans nickel Amani Hooker (37) plays Jones with sticky coverage, though, and presents a tight window despite all the green grass. From the far hash, Lawrence drills the throw anyway, putting a ton of heat on a ball placed high and away for only his guy.

A few drives later, Lawrence ripped a short seam-bender to Evan Engram. It's not a mind-boggling throw by any means, but it's an impressive display of timing and velocity to fit the ball past the linebacker yet under the driving safety. Lawrence's quick release—a shocking trait for a nearly 6-foot-6 passer—plays a part in that. Those are the snappy in-structure traits and throws that help separate the competent from the commanding.

What's more is that Lawrence doesn't always just drop back, set, and fire the way, say, Jared Goff might. He knows when he needs to take extra steps, when to throw defenders off the trail just a little bit. On this play, the Jaguars have an over-the-ball route from the tight end and a curl route to the top of the screen. Lawrence opens with one long drop step, a slightly more elongated action than normal that helps time up a potential throw to the tight end. It also serves to hold the safety rotating down into the flat for just a split second. Whether that part is calculated or not is hard to say for certain, but it has an effect on the play. The moment of hesitation, paired with Lawrence's outside ball placement, made sure the throw to Jones was uncontested. Lawrence's understanding of those tidbits of nuance—the timing of each route and ball placement relative to coverage—are highly encouraging from a young player.

Lawrence wasn't just fishing in the 1- to 10-yard area, of course. It takes more than that to ascend into the spotlight. Lawrence also made a number of high-difficulty throws, some down the field and others in a frenzy outside the pocket. This game, more than any other of his, married the expected with the exceptional.

As outstanding as Lawrence was in college and at points this season, deep-ball accuracy has typically been his weakest trait. He's not awful down the field, but for a quarterback otherwise gifted across the board, his deep ball has been lackluster, even in college. Throws like the one above are a step in the right direction towards fixing that perception. Lawrence guides this deep post throw to Zay Jones perfectly, adding just enough arc to lift the ball over both defenders while keeping enough heat on it to make sure the ball arrives in time and leads the receiver properly. Jones doesn't come down with the ball, but you can't really place a throw 55 yards in the air much better than that.

Lawrence's ability to work himself out of jams was just as dazzling. Take this third-down conversion, for example. When Lawrence hits the top of his dropback, he doesn't yet know how the Titans' nickel defender is going to sort out the two receivers to the bottom of the screen. If Lawrence throws immediately, he risks the nickel falling off the vertical receiver immediately and driving on the whip route. At the same time, the Titans are looping a defensive end to the right guard's (Brandon Scherff, 68) inside shoulder, which triggers Lawrence to relocate a few steps to the outside. In doing so, Lawrence not only finds a cleaner throwing platform, but gives the whip route runner, Jones, time to clearly separate himself from the nickel, who ended up jamming the vertical receiver a beat too long.

On the following third down, Lawrence had to fully go into creation mode. With a little help from Travis Etienne slowing down the blitzing defensive back, Lawrence springs into a scrambler's mindset, rapidly scanning for an answer. Lawrence soon realizes he actually has time and space to work with despite the initial pressure. He then takes full advantage of that to fade off to his left and find Jamal Agnew up the sideline against Bud Dupree. Lawrence rightly digs in his golf bag for his back-shoulder club and nails the shot, giving Agnew a good opportunity amid chaos.

Lawrence didn't leave his creation abilities for passing plays, either. To finish off this same drive, Lawrence ran in what looked like a zone read carry for a touchdown after stiff-arming linebacker Dylan Cole on the way to the edge. Lawrence and head coach Doug Pederson later explained it was not, in fact, a zone read play. Lawrence was supposed to hand the ball off to his running back, but said he saw the linebacker crashing hard inside from the edge and took off himself. Should he have done that? Probably not! But there's a brilliance with many great players that is rooted in doing things you're not supposed to do and making it work anyway. Lawrence needs a lot more of those exceptional rule-breaking plays to be held in that light, but the creativity and talent are there.

To that same point, Lawrence needs a lot more of these games before he can truly be considered one of the NFL's best. One game, or even a few, doesn't put him on a pedestal just yet. He has been flashing all of these traits for nearly two years now, however. The past month or so has been a culmination of those flashes becoming consistent, reliable tenets of his game. Whether that's a product of his own growth, becoming more comfortable in the system, budding chemistry with his handful of new teammates, or the more likely combination of all three, Lawrence is taking clear strides towards making good on his billing as a generational prospect.


6 comments, Last at 14 Dec 2022, 6:22pm

#1 by ImNewAroundThe… // Dec 14, 2022 - 11:01am

Not horrible coaching and patience can do wonders

Points: 7

#2 by KnotMe // Dec 14, 2022 - 11:38am

Considering Mac Jones is the opposite case (went TO horrible coaching), we have pretty good case study that yeah, coaching matters for young QB.  

Points: 6

#4 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 14, 2022 - 1:18pm

My favourite moment from Monday night was Jones telling Patricia, in no uncertain terms, to "f*** off".

The young man is clearly astute enough to recognize that his NFL career is being sunk by being tethered to a guy who was terrible as a HC, not particularly any good as a DC, and has shown nothing to suggest he'll even be competent as an OC-except-by-name.  Belichick's obstinance in sticking with an offense that has been broken since training camp is fascinating.  Maybe he's just being realistic that changes mid-stream will make things worse for 2022, but it's hard to believe he can look at an offensive playbook that offers 700 varieties on how to make a 3-yard gain and think this is going to get it done against better quality opponents.

Points: 1

#5 by t.d. // Dec 14, 2022 - 3:01pm

the Jags are a true #1 receiver away from being genuinely interesting (Kirk, Marvin Jones, Zay Jones are fine secondary targets, but nobody's going to mistake them with JaMarr Chase or Justin Jefferson);  though the tight end situation was dire coming into the season, it was hard to get excited by the pickup of Evan Engram (seen too much of his play with the Giants), but he's been a pleasant surprise;  the cupboard wasn't as bare as it was for Justin Fields before the season, but I might prefer Chase Claypool to any of our guys right now (and shifting guys like Mooney one step down the depth chart makes them more qualified for their new roles).  Seems like both the Bears and Jags are trying to emulate the Bills' development plan with Josh Allen, adding pieces as the qb gains experience and is more equipped to use them, and it doesn't seem like a terrible plan

Points: 0

#7 by ImNewAroundThe… // Dec 14, 2022 - 6:22pm

They did trade for Calvin Ridley. Kirk overpay isn't looking that bad so far tbh. Ridley can only help.

Points: 2

#6 by Raiderfan // Dec 14, 2022 - 3:04pm

“Lawrence opens with one long drop step”

Tua calls that a three step drop.

Points: 0

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