Few rookies disappointed in 2021 in the manner Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence did. Lawrence entered the campaign with massive expectations on the weight of his shoulders after being anointed a near-perfect prospect coming out of Clemson.
In fairness, some of Lawrence’s struggles were outside of his control. Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke didn’t surround Lawrence with enough weapons, and a preposterous head coaching hire of Urban Meyer further hampered Lawrence’s acclimation period. A summer injury suffered by fellow rookie (and former collegiate teammate) Travis Etienne didn’t help, either.
A new season represents a new opportunity for Lawrence to re-establish himself. Baalke was especially aggressive this offseason while upgrading the supporting cast around Lawrence in year two. As a result, Lawrence is a prime breakout candidate for the Jaguars.
The presence of new head coach Doug Pederson should help Lawrence grow tremendously. Often called a “quarterback whisperer,” Pederson began developing a reputation as a promising coach on Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia and Kansas City from 2009-2015. Pederson later received his first head coaching opportunity with the Eagles from 2016-20, where he’d get the most out of Carson Wentz and Nick Foles en route to capturing an unlikely Super Bowl victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Both Wentz and Foles have notably struggled to recapture the form they showcased under Pederson’s tutelage since then.
Lawrence struggled with turnovers and general consistency throughout his rookie season. The Knoxville, Tennessee native completed just 59.6% of his passing attempts while throwing for 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Lawrence also lost five-of-nine fumbles and averaged just 6.0 yards per passing attempt. It was nowhere near the debutant season we expected for Lawrence, but working under the wing of Pederson should help correct several of his first-year faults.
Pederson is a proven leader and winner with more than 10 years of experience playing quarterback professionally under his belt. Pederson’s wealth of knowledge will impact Lawrence in the most positive way imaginable. Pederson is quite literally the anti-Meyer, which is exactly what Lawrence needs (and deserves).
His first season didn’t go as expected, but Lawrence still possesses all of the tools that made him a borderline generational talent at Clemson Lawrence’s elite physical tools open up the entire playbook for Pederson, both from a throwing and rushing perspective. Blending those abilities with a high football IQ should allow Lawrence to win with his arm and mind as he prepares to master Pederson’s offensive system. Outstanding ball placement and the in-demand ability to extend plays and create off-script make Lawrence a true threat on a snap-by-snap basis.
The aforementioned upgrades around Lawrence provide an additional banner of optimism. Christian Kirk and Zay Jones will immediately play starring roles in Jacksonville’s new-look passing game while providing Lawrence with reliable targets beyond Marvin Jones Jr., who was arguably Jacksonville’s lone pass-catching threat last season. Pederson has always possessed a high-level understanding of how to utilize game-changing tight ends in his passing offense as well, and Baalke provided Lawrence and Pederson with that kind of potential weapon by signing free-agent tight end Evan Engram. A fresh start alongside a talented young signal-caller could help Engram soar to the heights he was once expected to reach as a New York Giant.
And finally, necessary offensive line reinforcements arrived via both free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Baalke showcased a willingness to spend big bucks by signing five-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff to a three-year, $49.5 million contract that makes Scherff the highest-paid guard in the league on an annual basis. Former Kentucky interior offensive lineman Luke Fortner, who established himself as one of college football’s most reliable centers in 2021, was drafted in the third round. Jacksonville should field a respectable offensive line in 2022 as a result.
Lawrence will receive every opportunity imaginable to course-correct last season’s underwhelming performances while plying his trade alongside an excellent coaching staff and positional upgrades all across the offense. Lawrence should establish himself as Jacksonville’s unquestioned franchise quarterback in 2022.
Lawrence’s debut made more of a whimper than the expected bang, but last year’s No. 1 overall selection appears poised to enjoy a true breakout sophomore campaign.