After an incredible career with the Clemson Tigers in the CFB, Trevor Lawrence was the can’t-miss prospect for the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence won the National Championship with the Tigers in his freshman year with a brilliant performance to defeat Alabama Crimson Tide in the title game.
Over the course of his college career, he narrowly missed out on winning the Heisman Trophy despite the quality of his performances. However, come the 2021 NFL Draft, there was no doubt that Lawrence was the top prospect, earning comparisons to Peyton Manning.
The Jacksonville Jaguars did not hesitate in selecting Lawrence with the first-overall pick in the hope of propelling the franchise into contention in the AFC after three years of decline.
Urban Meyer had excelled in the college game with Ohio State, but he could not translate his success to the NFL amid a lack of talent on the field and his own behavioural issues off the field. He failed to complete his first season in the NFL with the Jags. Meyer was fired with a 2-11 record by owner Shahid Khan due to a complaint by kicker Josh Lambo.
Lawrence and his fellow rookies hardly had the tutelage required to develop in a sound environment, and it reflected in his performances on the field. There was hope that he could develop under Doug Pederson, his second head coach in two years in, who guided the Philadelphia Eagles to victory in Super Bowl LII with his backup quarterback Nick Foles.
Jacksonville struggled in the early stages of the campaign and Lawrence couldn’t seem to raise his game, failing to rise to the occasion in defeats to the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. However, he has since managed to turn the corner and has started to find his form, putting bad teams to the sword. Lawrence is not quite at the stage where he can carry an NFL team. Unfortunately for him, he was placed in a bad situation to revive the fortunes of a struggling franchise.
Unlike the leading contenders in the NFL odds for the MVP award Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, Lawrence has had to cope with a number of issues ranging from the talent of his roster to coaching problems behind the scenes. He is now showing potential that he could thrive under Pederson, suggesting that, in his third season in the league, he could be capable of making a charge to match Mahomes, Hurts, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen.
Mahomes, and Hurts to a degree, landed in good situations, while Allen and Burrow were forced to work with rosters that required improvement. Both Allen and Burrow had growing pains, especially Allen, but is now one of the best quarterbacks in the game.
Burrow had a tough first year, which ended with a devastating injury. It took time for him to settle in his second season in recovery, but once he was locked in he was sensational, driving the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl. He beat Mahomes twice in the 2021 campaign before losing out to Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl.
The blueprint is there for Lawrence, although he is not quite on the same trajectory to reach the Super Bowl in his second season as a starter as Burrow and Mahomes. All eyes will be on him to make the move towards his contemporaries in year three.
Can Lawrence Make The Grade?
That is the million dollar question for the Jaguars. Lawrence was heading down a very dangerous road after defeats to the Texans and Broncos, two teams that Jacksonville should have beat fairly easily. If they had won those games they could well have been on the path to compete for a playoff berth. This shows that the margin of improvement needed is not vast for Lawrence and his teammates if they are to take a step forward in 2023.
Lawrence has done a lot to dispel the doubters that were out in force after his poor performance against the Broncos. He had a coming-of-age display against the Baltimore Ravens, leading his team down the field in the fourth quarter to take the lead twice. He was flawless against the Ravens, completing 78.4% of his passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns, as well as the vital strike for the two-point conversion. He did take a step back the following week against the Detroit Lions, a game that highlighted the deficiencies on the Jaguars roster.
But Lawrence was back to his best against the Tennessee Titans, throwing for 368 yards and another three touchdowns. When he has been in top form, Lawrence has been the quarterback that the Jags would have hoped for when they selected him as first-overall. The 23-year-old has notched those signature wins against good teams, which is the hallmark of a decent quarterback. Lawrence now needs to cultivate the consistency to take him to the level of Mahomes and Burrow at the top of the NFL.
Jaguars Need To Arm Their QB
The onus is not only on Lawrence, but also the Jaguars to ensure that their quarterback has the tools to propel them towards the playoffs. All the top quarterbacks have their weapons. Allen has Stefon Diggs, Hurt has DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown, Burrow has Jamarr Chase and a host of weapons, while Mahomes has Travis Kelce. Lawrence has been operating with Christian Kirk and Evan Engram as his top two targets this year.
Engram is a good receiving tight end, but he’s not in the league of Kelce, while Kirk is a number two wide receiver. Jacksonville need to be aggressive in the trade market to acquire a top wideout in the league and there have already been blockbuster moves of late to set the market. Alternatively, they could choose to move in the NFL Draft for one of the rising starlets out of the college game such as Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, Josh Downs or Rashee Rice.
Jacksonville have a huge chance to break back into the playoff picture and even contend for a Super Bowl over the next 10 years if they can find a way to put sufficient talent around Lawrence.