The Jaguars' offense — designed by head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer — is averaging just 14 points per game. Of course, Josh Lambo has left nine points on the field with missed field goals through two weeks. Still, this offense featuring Trevor Lawrence, and a slew of talented weapons, has yet to hit its stride and is coming off of a seven-point performance against the Broncos.
Denver is always going to be one of the tougher matchups for a rookie quarterback, especially in their second career game. Vic Fangio will regularly switch up his defensive looks, showing man coverage and a variety of zone concepts throughout games. Then there's the personnel side: the Broncos have two dangerous edge rushers, a couple of stout interior defensive linemen, assignment sound linebackers, and perhaps the most talented secondary in football. Combine all that, and this was never going to be an easy matchup for these young Jaguars.
But there are plenty of ways this offense can improve upon their performances over the first two weeks of the season. These are areas of the game the coaches and players can take control of to make sure they aren't beating themselves.
Every time Laviska Shenault is in the backfield or steps back from the line of scrimmage post-snap, defenses know he's getting the ball. Every single time. If you're Darrell Bevell, you've got to show those looks and run different concepts out of them, otherwise, defenses are going to know precisely what you're doing. On Jacksonville's first drive of week two (which was masterfully called outside of this one play), Shenault motioned into the backfield. Trevor fakes the handoff to James Robinson and pitches the ball to Shenault. The entire world knew this was coming. But if the Jaguars ran that look and handed it off to Robinson once or twice before pitching it to Shenault, there's a good chance you get the defense to hesitate just for a moment. On the Laviska Shenault screens, have Trevor pump it to Viska occasionally and then have an easy completion set up elsewhere. Little nuances like this can make a big difference from down to down in the NFL.
Run the Ball
A steady dose of rushing isn't always required in the NFL. Some elite veteran QBs can eat defenses alive without much threat of running the ball. But when you have a rookie quarterback out there just trying to survive, running the ball is your friend. The Jaguars have a beast in their backfield by the name of James Robinson. He's averaging 4.5 yards per carry on just 16 attempts this season. Robinson should be flirting with 15-20 rushes every single game, regardless of the score. He's that effective. And feeding Robinson the ball will give you more opportunities to use play-action — a known cheat code — more effectively.
Like play-action, pre-snap motion is a sort of cheat code in the NFL. It allows the quarterback to determine whether a defense is in man or zone coverage. If a defender follows the motion across the field, you know you've got some sort of man coverage. This gives the quarterback an inherent advantage before the ball is even snapped. On Sunday, Trevor Lawrence threw 33 passes, and the Jaguars ran pre-snap motion on less than 25% of those attempts. If they could get that number closer to 40%, or even higher, they'd be giving their young signal-caller a leg up on the competition.
Get Trevor On The Move
Trevor Lawrence is a plus athlete at the quarterback position. Thanks to his long strides, he has deceptive speed, but he's also more nimble than you'd think. If the Jaguars can get him going on some PA roll-outs, designed runs, and read-options, they'll make his life a lot easier. I know the Jaguars want him to become a "professional quarterback" (which generally means operating more from the pocket in a traditional pro-style offense). Still, they're doing him and themselves a disservice by not letting him use his god-given ability on the move. Calling the game scared is rarely going to lead to success.
Catch the Damn Ball
Drops have been an issue for the Jaguars over the first couple of weeks. With Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, DJ Chark, and James Robinson, the Jaguars shouldn't have trouble holding on to the ball. But for whatever reason — perhaps a lack of continuity — these receivers aren't catching the ball like they usually do. Shenault had three drops against the Broncos, and in week one, Chark and Robinson both let the ball hit the ground too often. Perhaps chemistry is the answer here, but these offensive weapons are too talented to let opportunities slip away this consistently.
Trevor Must Improve
While there are plenty of ways this offense can help Trevor Lawrence, he himself must improve as well. It's on the coaches to teach him these things and on Lawrence to retain them. My biggest issue with Lawrence so far is that he rarely takes the easy completion. On more than a handful of plays, Trevor has opted to take deep shots down the field instead of taking what's there. That has led some to criticize offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's passing concepts. But almost every time Lawrence has taken an unnecessary deep shot, there has been a wide-open receiver short on the same side of the field. Lawrence needs to learn to take what's there. He also needs to clean up the accuracy in certain situations, which should come with more reps and comfortability. Timing has also been an issue, which shouldn't come as a surprise for a rookie quarterback in a new system. Lawrence had Luke Farrell open early on his first interception against the Broncos, but he took too long to get him the ball, giving the safety time to scream towards the receiver and take the ball the other way. I'm not burying Trevor here, he's done a lot of good already. Some of the plays he's made down the field have been absolutely bonkers, and at times, he's take command of the offense. He also started to use his legs as a weapon in week two. He'll be just fine.
Next up: the Arizona Cardinals. The Jags host the Cards this Sunday at the Bank. The Cardinals' offense is going to be a formidable beast to slow down, but their defense has some chinks in the armor. In week one, Arizona's defense shut down Tennessee in almost every conceivable way. But last week against Minnesota, the Red Birds struggled to slow down Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, and the Viking's talented receivers. The Jaguars will need to hope the latter version of the Cardinals' defense shows up on Sunday.
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