While the Jacksonville Jaguars won’t play franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence in Thursday’s Hall-of-Fame game, the former first overall pick is still in the beginning stages of a serious rise to prominence after a rookie season to forget.
Let’s just get it out of the way. Trevor Lawrence’s rookie campaign in the NFL was terrible. He was in the bottom half of the league in completion percentage and QB ratings. Lawrence threw five more interceptions than touchdowns and led the Jaguars to a 3-14 record. For a player with the massive hype that led to his selection as the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, his debut season was pretty bad.
However, a lot of that was not his fault, and there are some major reasons why the former Clemson star is primed for an absolutely monster sophomore season in the NFL.
Going from Urban Meyer to Doug Pederson is a massive change
Urban Meyer may very well have been the worst coach in NFL history, and that is saying something because there have been some serious laughing-stock head coaches in the league. Despite a legendary run in college football Meyer’s tenure in Jacksonville was filled with some of the most absurd decisions by an NFL head coach.
Meyer hired a strength trainer with an ugly pass, signed Tim Tebow to be a tight end, philandered, called his assistants losers, and even kicked a kicker. While new head coach Doug Pederson rubbed some of his bosses the wrong way in Philadelphia and doesn’t have a perfect history, he is still light years better than Meyer.
Beyond the things that led to Pederson’s dismissal from the Eagles, he is a Super Bowl-winning head coach that has done wonders with several QBs at the NFL level. That can’t be understated considering the potential Lawrence has yet to unleash. The team’s starter going from a clown-show of a head coach to a legitimate QB guru will be a massive benefit to the 22-year-old.
Jacksonville Jaguars spent big to give Lawrence some help
The Jaguars entered the offseason with a huge amount of salary cap space and general manager Trent Baalke spent nearly all of it. And much of the large sums of money Baalke dealt out were to improve the offense.
A major hindrance to Lawrence’s growth last year was the fact that the offensive line was often not very good. To address that weakness, the team added five-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro Brandon Sherff. Now, Lawrence should have a bit more time when he drops back in 2022.
The pass game weapons the QB had beyond Marvin Jones, Jr. was nothing to be impressed by either. So Baalke spent a bunch of money to bring in talented wideouts in Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and landed a major receiving upgrade at the tight end position with former Giant Evan Engram.
This doesn’t mean Lawrence has an elite receiving corps. now but it is still night and day compared to his options in 2022.
Trevor Lawrence’s learning curve was painful but productive
While Lawrence made a lot of mistakes early in his rookie season, what young quarterback doesn’t have the same growing pains? Without a doubt, he was spoiled by wealth a wealth of weapons at Clemson that made his job very easy and did not force him to work through progressions or hone his skills at reading defenses.
However, as he was thrown into the fire with a weak offensive line and limited first options, he did get notably better as a pocket passed. In September, his completion percentage was 57% and he had a 66.4 rating. However, in his final games of the season in Janauary, he upped his completions to 67% and his rating rose to 83.7. That my friends is serious progress.
Travis Etienne Jr. will make Lawrence’s life much easier
A major piece missing from the offensive puzzle in 2021 was fellow first round pick Travis Etienne, Jr. The 25th overall pick missed the entire season due to a foot injury, however, he will be back in 2022. While James Robinson was very solid filling in for Lawrence’s college teammate, Etienne, Jr. is expected to carry the bulk of the run game load this season.
To lose out on a first-round talent and a player you have a long history with was a major setback for Lawrence last season. Now, a dangerous talent returns to the backfield to give the offense another layer and essentially make Lawrence’s job a bit more easier than it was in 2021.