On the scoreboard, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence did no better than backup Gardner Minshew, who led the team to just three points in the second half. While new coach Urban Meyer will be focused solely on the scoreboard once the regular season begins next month, Lawrence still managed to demonstrate why he should be a rookie starter right away.
In a 23-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints on the road, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft produced a few great throws.
Lawrence completed a 15-yard rollout pass to Laviska Shenault Jr. under stress from Saints 6-foot-6 defensive tackle Marcus Davenport. The lone Lawrence-led touchdown drive was kept alive by a third-down convert to Marvin Jones for a gain of 13 yards while under pressure. With a zip to his velocity that Minshew can’t summon, he showed late in the half with an 18-yarder over the middle to tight end Luke Farrell, putting the Jaguars in field goal range in a two-minute drill setting.
It was a lot more action than he had in Jacksonville’s preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns, when he only got 15 snaps over two drives. Meyer put him out for the opening six possessions of the game on Monday night, and he responded with 14 completions on 23 attempts for 113 yards. Even more promising, he did it without a turnover and against a Saints pass rush that tormented him far more than Lawrence’s lone sack would imply.
Jones and Shenault caught nine of his 14 completions, thus he relied heavily on them. He was pleased with two aspects of the practice week that he emphasized: making some plays on the run and getting rid of the ball more quickly. What will be his next move? Recognizing the worth of low-cost yards.
“I did think I got the ball out of my hand quicker this week,” Lawrence said. “Just sometimes, I want to find the checkdown. If it’s a short completion, let’s take five [yards] and move on. I think sometimes I threw it away when I could’ve hit the checkdown. But I thought that was something I did better this week — getting the ball out of my hand.”
Lawrence also showed signs of being a runner.
On a third-and-8 midway through the second quarter, he scrambled for a first down to the Saints’ 20-yard line, flushed from the pocket to his left. To get that first down, Lawrence had to take an ill-advised forward dive, exposing him to a sandwiching by cornerback Ken Crawley and defensive lineman Jalen Dalton, but Lawrence clearly knew that a hook slide wouldn’t have moved the chains.
“Third and fourth down, you’ve got to go get it,” Lawrence said.
On his final series, Lawrence connected on his first five passes before the drive stalled, taking a sack on his final snap before a failed field goal attempt.
In the second half, Minshew completed 13 of 21 passes, underthrew an open guy on a long ball, and threw a late interception. Late in the fourth quarter, C.J. Beathard threw two touchdown touchdowns to Jacksonville.
Urban Meyer, the new Jaguars coach, has been tight-lipped about the quarterback situation.
He might stay that way.
Lawrence isn’t only the future in Jacksonville, and it doesn’t take an NFL coach to recognize that.
He is the here and now.