After a year under the shadow of Urban Meyer’s chaos, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is starting to look like the “generational” quarterback talent that was promised.
Through three games, the 2-1 Jaguars are already two-thirds of the way to matching their win total in 2021 after a couple of astonishingly decisive upsets over the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. Lawrence has been a big part of that, bouncing back in his second year with better play, more confidence, and higher production output. That’s been great to see after such a letdown of a rookie year that saw the highly touted prospect look like anything but what the Jaguars had hoped for.
Even going back as far as his first season in college, Lawrence was always hyped as one of the best quarterback prospects the NFL had ever seen. Before he had stepped foot on the field for an NFL game, Lawrence was touted as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck or even Peyton Manning. That’s a whole lot of pressure to be putting on a 21-year-old, first overall pick in the draft or not.
Of course, we all saw how much Lawrence struggled early and often throughout his rookie season. In his first three professional games, Lawrence had completed just 54% of his pass attempts with seven interceptions to five touchdowns and a passer rating of 60.3. He had been sacked five times and lost three fumbles as well.
By the end of the season, he was tied for the league lead in interceptions in 2021—ironically that tie was with eventual Super Bowl champion Matthew Stafford—with 17 in 17 games. Unlike Stafford however, Lawrence only threw 12 touchdown passes all year and completed fewer than 60% of his passes. The Jaguars finished the year with just three wins and locked themselves into the first overall pick for a second straight season.
It was hard to give Lawrence too much flack for the poor performance in his rookie season. For one thing, it was just that, his rookie season. There were some bumps that needed to be smoothed out with more development at the pro level. That was pretty hard to do well while having to deal with a head coach like Meyer. It’s hard to overstate how big of a distraction Meyer was all season. There was bringing in former quarterback Tim Tebow to try out as a tight end, giving extra snaps and carries to a clearly declining Carlos Hyde, kicking kickers, and… that incident at a bar in Ohio after the Jaguars’ fourth straight loss to open the season.
After Meyer was fired and Doug Pederson brought in to replace him, the hype train for Lawrence was back up and moving. Pederson, after all, was something of a quarterback whisperer that had gotten the most out of quarterback Alex Smith during his time in Kansas City and then Carson Wentz when he got to Philadelphia. What Pederson would be able to do with a quarterback with as high a ceiling as Lawrence’s in Jacksonville was exciting to think about.
So far, so good. Three games into his second year, Lawrence looks like a significantly better player.
For one thing, he’s completing far more of his passes, with his 69.4% completion rate already among the top 10 of all NFL quarterbacks. Not only are his stats looking up, but the improvements Lawrence has made with his accuracy are tangible and visible with some of the throws he’s made this year.
DIME by Trevor pic.twitter.com/wZs9aUChMg
— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) September 25, 2022
That increased accuracy has also come with fewer interceptions. After throwing an average of one interception per game as a rookie, Lawrence has thrown just one in 2022, tied for the fewest of any NFL starter so far this season. Sure, it was an ugly one, but it was in a moment of desperation late in the game and a teaching moment for Lawrence—you can’t often get away trying to play hero ball in the NFL.
.@_Dfoe5 keeps his feet in for a BIG takeaway as the ⏰ winds down.
— NFL (@NFL) September 11, 2022
He’s also avoiding sacks at an even better rate than he did last year. After already leading all rookie quarterbacks in sack % (5%) last year, Lawrence is leading the NFL with his 1.8 sack % in 2022 with only two sacks taken in three games. Part of the credit belongs to an improved offensive line, but a lot of it is actually because of Lawrence’s incredible processing ability that allows him to get rid of the ball so quickly.
On both that RPO and that dime of a touchdown pass linked above, Lawrence gets the ball out in less than 2.5—really less than 2.2, if we want to trust my skills with a stopwatch—seconds. That gives the defense absolutely no time to get pressure on the young quarterback. It wasn’t only against the Chargers that he was processing that quickly either. He made some similar quick throws against the Colts in Week 2 and even against the Commanders in the Jaguars’ Week 1 loss.
Trevor Lawrence going through his progressions at the speed of light pic.twitter.com/P4nQSn5xmh
— Tyler (@eleet_sports) September 23, 2022
Lawrence just looks so much more comfortable and impressive in year two than he did in his rookie season and the Jaguars are starting to reap the benefits. They’re already 2-1 with a divisional win over the Colts as well as their first road win since December 2019. Lawrence is cutting down on the mistakes and inaccuracy issues and beefing up his touchdown numbers—he’s already halfway to his total number of throwing touchdowns in 2021.
Should Lawrence continue to play at this heightened level and the Jaguars keep winning in impressive fashion over teams that many expected to be playoff contenders, it might not be too long before we all have to consider Jacksonville real contenders themselves. And if Lawrence can continue developing at this level for the rest of the season and beyond, the NFL may have to be on notice for yet another young gunslinger among the ranks of what is quickly becoming an elite generation of quarterback talent.