Evaluating Trevor Lawrence's Debut
While on the one hand, Trevor Lawrence's Jaguars' debut didn't go quite as planned — his squad lost handily to the projected worst team in football — there were plenty of highlights for the first overall pick. So let's dive into Trevor's NFL debut.
The Good: Trevor Lawrence showed off his arm talent a handful of times in this one, making several big-time throws throughout the contest. On the second drive of the game, the rookie quarterback rolled out to the right and dropped the ball right over Marvin Jones' shoulder while on the move for a 33 yard gain. That play showed his athleticism and natural arm talent. Later in the first quarter, Lawrence and the Jaguars were driving when he hit tight end Chris Manhertz up the seam, fitting the ball perfectly between two zone defenders for the first touchdown of his young career. After a couple of quarter two interceptions, Lawrence bounced back in the second half with a 41-yard missile to wide receiver DJ Chark down the right side on another pass that was placed perfectly in between the cornerback and safety. And after another interception in the fourth quarter, Lawrence kept fighting, showing toughness and resilience. He led the Jaguars on a late two-minute drive capped off by a tight window touchdown throw to Marvin Jones in the end zone over the middle. From a decision-making standpoint, there were a couple of throw-aways that I came away impressed with. Instead of forcing a ball, he lived to fight another down, which is a significant development for a young quarterback. Lawrence also showed pocket mobility, awareness, and kept his eyes down field.
After a tough loss and a sloppy performance overall, Lawrence was impressive in his interactions with the media. Instead of sulking or offering short answers, the first overall pick stood tall and showed the mental makeup of a kid that should get things figured out quickly. He accurately broke down his interceptions and why they happened. Lawrence also offered this nugget:
"I know I'm going to respond well. I'm made of the right stuff, so I don't have any doubt about that. But it's frustrating, and I hate losing. I hate losing. So we're going to get better. But that's all you can do is watch the tape, learn from it, get better, and move on."
The Bad: Lawrence threw 11 inaccurate passes (including the interceptions) by my count. He looked like he was rushing it a little bit, trying to catch up to the speed of the game. Trevor was admittedly nervous before the game. His footwork and base got a little bit sloppy, and we saw some passes sail on him or come up just a bit short. Of course, the Jaguars' offensive weapons didn't always help, dropping six passes that should've been caught. And asking a rookie quarterback to throw 51 passes in their debut is absurd. The Jaguars' coaching staff should feel terrible about not running the ball more, even with that negative game script. The Big Cats ran the ball just 16 times, despite averaging 4.8 yards per carry. And with zero offensive balance, the Texans began to tee off against the pass, making it difficult for the Jaguars' pass pro to hold up. It also didn't help that the Jaguars had more than a handful of drive stalling offensive penalties in the first half, from holding to illegal formations.
The Ugly: Each of Trevor's interceptions was highly avoidable. The first was a great read but a terrible pass. Lawrence was rolling left and saw Devin Smith open. Unfortunately, Lawrence was moving too fast to deliver an accurate ball across his body, and it just sailed on him a bit, leading to an easy interception. On the second, just two plays later, Lawrence tried to squeeze a ball in between two zone defenders on the left side of the field. He had no business throwing that one and had James Robinson wide open on a check down in the flat on the same side of the field. His third interception was another example of not reading the defense correctly. Lawrence lost track of the middle linebacker and threw an inaccurate pass low to Viska, who was running a deep crosser.
Lawrence broke down his interceptions after the contest. "The first pick was just a bad throw," shared Lawrence. "We had them. Scramble drill. I had Devin right there. He did a good job. I threw it inside too much. So that was just a bad throw. It's either a bad throw or a bad decision when you throw a pick. And bad decisions, those are the ones that will get you for sure. So that was just a bad throw. But then later, they ran cover two. And I tried to throw a corner ball in there. And the corner was dropping. And should have just checked it down. That was the one when we were backed up. And then I threw one over the middle when I lost the MIKE. Tried to force it. Those were the three. Like I said, it's just hard to win games when you turn the ball over. It starts with me. That was all me. Got to get better."
Final Assessment: Lawrence's first game was a bit of a roller coaster. The Texans' defense played tough, assignment-sound football and made Lawrence pay when he forced passes. But with better offensive game plans that feature more balance, and with more experience on the field, there's no reason to believe Lawrence won't be able to help his team at least play competitive ball sooner rather than later. Still, Lawrence will need to settle down and not force passes in unnecessary situations. But he'll need help from his play-caller, offensive weapons, pass protection, and defense. If this team doesn't play better around him, it'll be a long year for the Jaguars' rookie quarterback.
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