The Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence experiment has found itself in quicksand entering Week 3 in Jacksonville. A tandem looked upon to rejuvenate a franchise with just one playoff appearance since 2007 has found itself back at square one with two consecutive losses to start the season. By no means does a lack of initial success denote that the duo won’t ultimately succeed, as rebuilds are known to take time, but the way in which Meyer has deployed his first-year quarterback has raised questions.
A prospect heralded for his combination of both arm strength and ball placement coming out of Clemson, the Jaguars have inadvertently, so it seems, placed Lawrence on an island where the pressure to gain chunks of yards on each and every down has become the turn-key to an unstable offense that has developed in Jacksonville. In fact, Lawrence has found himself among some of the bigger names in the game through just two weeks of play.
Alongside Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers, Lawrence has thrown nearly 30% of his 84 total pass attempts 15-plus yards downfield, higher than Brady (25.58%) and Wilson (24.07%). But the aforementioned Canton-bound quarterbacks are established, proven throwers at the NFL level, not a 21-year-old signal-caller in a new offense with a shaky offensive line, average boundary weapons, and a head coach begging for fans’ mercy just two games into his tenure.
Early on, the Jaguars have left Lawrence out to dry.
Of his 84 attempts, which currently slots him with the sixth-most of any quarterback, 36% of those passes have been deemed uncatchable, a league high. Compared to his fellow classmate in Mac Jones, who sports a league-low of 6%, you could easily draw your attention to Lawrence’s lack of accuracy and inability to deliver downfield, but focus should turn to Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in how they’ve structured their offense around Lawrence’s ability.
In back-to-back weeks, the Jaguars have run the ball just 16 times each against the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos, a league-worst by nearly two carries. It’s simply not enough work for James Robinson and Co. And while the amount of carries could be deemed skewed due to Jacksonville often finding themselves having to pass to keep themselves in games, the current onus of Lawrence to not dink-and-dunk his way to yardage but to sit and exhaust his reads within an occupied backfield has been the overpressing theme early in his career—a recipe destined to fail considering the Jaguars’ current arsenal of weaponry and lack of punch within their front five. While D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones have proven to be Lawrence’s favorite targets early and often, when Lawrence has turned elsewhere, he’s often met with shaky hands, as Jaguars pass-catchers currently lead the league with a total of seven dropped passes through two weeks. That, along with his current average depth of target of 10.2 yards presents a staggering uphill climb for Lawrence to succeed.
Moving forward, while check-downs and a shallow depth of target is by no means a sexy way of living with a gun-slinger like Lawrence running the show, it should provide a sense of rhythm, consistency, and most importantly, longevity toward exponential progression for Jacksonville’s most prized asset. While Zach Wilson endures his bumps, Justin Fields preps for his first start under center, and Jones remains perched upon his training wheels ahead of his return to Foxboro, a change in game plan for Lawrence at the onset of his career could, and should, invite increased optimism toward the current organizational track in Jacksonville.