In what proved to be Trevor Lawrence’s first-ever regular-season loss in his football career, stemming as far back to his days at Cartersville High School, his three-interception performance in his NFL debut quickly shone the light on expectations we, the media, have set for highly-touted gun-slingers making the transition to the college game.
I’ll be the first one to admit I was wrong on Lawrence and the high bar I comfortably set when projecting his performance against the Houston Texans. With a lack of talent at all three levels of the defense, Houston looked to be a unit to be taken advantage of, which in turn, provided Lawrence with as easy a matchup he could have hoped for to kick off his tenure as the Jaguars’ signal-caller.
So we thought.
By no means was Lawrence’s stat line lacking in body, rather, his Jaguars found themselves trailing throughout the afternoon, leaving the onus on Lawrence to wrangle the Tyrod Taylor-led Texans back within reach. Totaling 51 attempts through the air, amassing 332 yards and three touchdowns, Lawrence showcased his pocket prowess and cannon for an arm, but his inexperience under live fire has caused us to turn the reel back just a tick on his projection in his first NFL campaign.
Facing arguably the league’s weakest secondary entering the season, Lawrence achieved a milestone he wished he would have avoided in his NFL debut, throwing not one, not two, but three interceptions; the first time in his football career it’s happened.
Down 10, this is ugly from Lawrence. However, as he continues to grow and the game slows down, this is a situation where Lawrence will look to drain the clock and bring his team into striking distance before the end of the half. He looks to play hero here on a substantial down and distance, leading to an easy interception for Texans safety Justin Reid. Mistakes will happen, as will many more, but attempting to throw arm-side against your momentum just isn't good processing from the former Clemson standout.
On the ensuing possession, Lawrence is again faced with a second-and-long, and once again he decides to avoid free yards via the checkdown. It comes with film work, it comes with live snaps, but this is fundamental from Lawrence where in time he will learn to take what’s given at the NFL level. As the play progresses, his throw shows a massive lack in velocity considering the concept. Considering the Texans are in zone, this has to be recognized pre-snap from Lawrence, where, if he does intend to make the throw, it would come prior to the wideout breaking to the outside with much more pace. All in all, however, the window was never there, and it was easy pickings for veteran corner Vernon Hargreaves.
His third pick of the day requires zero explanation as it looked to be more of a case of lack of rapport with his target Laviska Shenault Jr. than a breakdown in his process. An interception nonetheless, but it’s an easy fix.
This is the reason Urban Meyer and Jaguars brass selected Lawrence atop the draft. His ability to reset his frame in space while displaying extreme precision were traits heralded by scouts during the draft circuit. In what was his second of three touchdown passes, Lawrence’s 41-yard dart to D.J. Chark put his full array of talent on display.
From his vision in the backfield to avoid the edge rusher, to his quick footwork and balance to set up his delivery, it doesn’t get much better than this at the pro level. The ball placement alone is enough to gawk at, but the zip on the football Lawrence creates to hit Chark in stride prior to Reid’s arrival was marvelous.
So, let’s not overreact. It’s one week, and, on the bright side, Lawrence did amass more than 330 yards passing with three scores, resulting in an impressive debut nonetheless.
Although the schedule doesn't provide Lawrence any favors as Jacksonville prepares for the dynamic secondary of the Denver Broncos, the flashes were there in his first start, and that, for now, should be enough.