JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence is definitely in the right frame of mind and in a much better situation to become the next quarterback to make a significant jump in their second season.
Lawrence has more playmakers around him, is in a stable environment and says he feels more confident and comfortable than he did last year as a rookie. Plus, he’s healthy and isn’t wondering what to expect at the same time he’s trying to figure out how to adapt to life in the NFL.
So should the expectation be that Lawrence will light it up in 2022?
“That’s the goal: to make a significant jump in Year 2,” Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said. “I think building off of last year, the fact that he played the entire season, we can build off that and really expect a sky’s the limit mentality with him. He’s in the same frame of mind as well. He wants to take that next step, not only in his growth but leading this football team.”
Pederson is one of the main reasons to think Lawrence can make that happen. He turned Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate and won a Super Bowl — outdueling Tom Brady and Bill Belichick — with Nick Foles. He’s also a former NFL quarterback and hired an offensive staff that includes three other coaches who were either college or NFL QBs: coordinator Press Taylor, quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy, and passing game coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
Having a normal, functioning head coach with NFL experience cannot be overlooked for the Jaguars, because that’s everything that Urban Meyer wasn’t in 2021. The dysfunction and turmoil Meyer created inside the organization, the questionable coaching decisions (such as Lawrence rotating first-team reps with Gardner Minshew in camp) and the distractions he caused off the field did not exactly provide a stable, nurturing atmosphere for anyone, let alone a rookie quarterback.
Lawrence muddled through a 12-touchdown, 17-interception season, though he capped it with his best game in the finale against Indianapolis. He was hurt by the fact the Jaguars dropped the most passes in the NFL (39), but he also played badly at times. At times he looked like the generational prospect he was regarded as being, but not consistently enough to win more than three games.
“There’s a lot of motivation [for the team],” Lawrence said. “Obviously, individually, personally I want to prove that I belong here and that I’m the player that I believe I am and this organization believes that I am.
“As a team I think we have a lot to prove. Just didn’t have a great year last year and I know the guys in this locker room are ready to prove some stuff this year. Having that motivation and then just having this new opportunity to get a clean slate. Everybody starts at the bottom and having a chance to work your way up. That’s a special opportunity that we’ve got this year. We’ve got a good enough group to win as many games as we want to.”
The addition of receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram in free agency as well as running back Travis Etienne returning from a season-long Lisfranc injury gives Lawrence more playmakers. The signing of All-Pro right guard Brandon Scherff will help shore up the offensive line. What also can’t be overlooked is Lawrence’s comfort level. The experience of knowing what to expect in terms of the offseason and daily schedule, how he manages his body and the mental grind of a long season, as well as being completely healthy (he had surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder in February 2021) are the main reasons. And that has his confidence up, too.
“Having that timeline from last year helps a lot,” Lawrence said. “Last year I really didn’t have any idea and I was coming off surgery, so it was just a weird year. So I feel great. My body feels really good. Shoulder feels great. Feel like I’m throwing it the best I have in a long time, so I feel good.
“… No matter how well or poorly you played in the previous year in some games it doesn’t really matter, you still have that experience to draw from so you have a little more confidence. I think leadership, too. That helps because you’ve been here for a year. Everybody’s situation’s different, but I know I definitely feel more confident and comfortable this year than I did last year.”
Certainly Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson must have felt the same way heading into their second seasons, as well. The Jaguars are hoping for a similar surge.
“I don’t like to compare that [him to other quarterbacks],” Pederson said. “Working with Trevor, getting him where he needs to be — again, it’s an exciting time for him, us as a staff, to really embrace him and the team and all the pieces we have around him.”