Trevor Lawrence has played in just six games in his young NFL career thus far, but it’s becoming obvious how important he is to the Jaguars’ potential victories this year, as he advances beyond what was expected of him so quickly into his rookie season.
His advancement has become clear over the past several weeks, particularly starting during the team’s Week 4 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Lawrence’s improvement is tangible, too. Lawrence has improved his completion percentage from weeks 1-3 to weeks 4-6 by 12 points from 54.24% to 66.33%, his turnovers have dropped from nine to just two over the same span, while his quarterback rating has improved from 60.3 (33rd) to 93.8 (20th).
There are other key indicators, too, researched by JaguarReport’s John Shipley, Lawrence has improved his yards per attempt, average yards per attempt, and much more. Essentially, he’s a completely different QB than he was through the first three weeks of the season to the next three weeks.
That improvement has been seen by his quarterback coach, Brian Schottenheimer, who has been instrumental in the rookie’s development this season. Specifically, Schottenheimer has seen improvement from the team’s Week 1 loss against the Houston Texans to now, saying the progression has been “fun to watch.”
“He’s right on track,” Schottenheimer said last week. “I mean, he’s right on track with where he needs to be. I love that he’s getting his legs involved, both with some of the things we’re doing in the run game and also his ability to scramble and extend plays.”
Lawrence went from using his legs just three times over the first two games of the season, to scrambling 23 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns over the next four games. But, it’s not just his scrambling ability as Schottenheimer alluded to, it’s also his ability to extend plays with his legs, while still making the passes required downfield.
The exact example Schottenheimer was talking about, when he escapes the pocket and fines Luke Farrell: pic.twitter.com/kNEO2BnJM5— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) October 26, 2021
“That’s what the game’s become. If you can’t extend plays anymore in this league, then you’re gonna have a hard time because the pass rush is too good,” Schottenheimer noted. “Like the play last week (against Miami), when we turned the end free on him, he spun out and found Luke Farrell. I mean, that was a play that a lot of guys can’t make.
“They’re not athletic enough to get around it, they don’t throw as well as he does on the move. I think he’s one of the best pure throwers on the run that I’ve ever been around in my career. So I think he’s right on track.”
Perhaps one of Lawrence’s best traits has come from his ability to process quickly and make throws while there’s a barrage of players right in front of him. He gets the ball out of his hands, which has led to the team giving up just 10 sacks on the year, tied with Washington for the seventh-fewest in the league.
“He’s been under the fire, tough situations, in some games, we’ve been down and having to play catch up and having to throw the ball and the pass rush is all around him. And he’s very calm, very calm.”
Calm is perhaps putting it lightly, too. Against the Dolphins, Lawrence completed eight passes while under pressure for 123 yards and a touchdown. For reference, over the first five games of the season, Lawrence completed 22 passes under pressure for 264 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus.
While the numbers track a bit when looking at completion percentage, Lawrence was pressured the most against the Dolphins, according to PFF, on 43.2% of his dropbacks last Sunday.
To Lawrence’s QB coach, the rookie QB is becoming exactly what the team hoped he would, but of course, there’s still plenty of room to grow.
“I mean, you watch guys like Russell Wilson, last couple years, I mean, they’re still growing year eight, nine, I mean, it doesn’t stop. And he’s gonna continue to do that,” he said.
Schottenheimer noted that continuing to protect the football, and making great decisions, while also using his legs to make plays when the situation calls for it will be very important for Lawrence’s development.
He also made mention that the team doesn’t worry about his touchdown passes, or lack thereof (Lawrence has thrown just seven touchdowns this season), those “are gonna come,” he said.
“But there’s a confidence about him now that maybe he didn’t have earlier in the year because he knows he does belong. He knows he can play at such a high level and help us win a lot of games.”
This is some of what QB coach Brian Schottenheimer spoke about, which I'll have in a story soon. Pocket movement is great: pic.twitter.com/wdptHeaz9m— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) October 26, 2021
One important aspect of the QB position in the NFL is the ability to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, particularly when calling plays or adjusting protection. That much has come easy for Lawrence as the weeks have gone on. That much is unique, Schottenheimer says. Giving a young QB that level of freedom is easy to pull back, but the Jaguars aren’t planning on doing that.
“A lot of young quarterbacks I’ve been around haven’t had that autonomy if you will, but he’s earned it,” said Schottenheimer.
“He’s earned the right to do it. Again, really, when you come in and you look at the game and you see those situations when we put them in those situations, whether it’s an alert or from a run to a pass or vice versa, or solving a protection problem - he’s right 90% of the time and it’s something that if you go the other way and you’re making a bunch of mistakes.”
As a former play-caller himself, Schottenheimer knows just how much easier it is to call plays when you have a QB you trust lining up like Lawrence. Simply put, you don’t hesitate to make a call because you know the player is up for the challenge.
“What happens is when you got a guy that you trust you don’t hesitate. You see a play that your gut’s telling you that maybe we haven’t repped it a whole lot but you believe it, you’ve seen it and you know it’s working.”
That’s just one aspect of the game, but from a player’s perspective, that trust runs even deeper, knowing that the QB can lead them to victory. At least, that’s what center Tyler Shatley believes, he told BigCatCountry on Monday when asked about Lawrence.
“We were just talking earlier, you know he’s not like that rookie, you know kinda feel is gone,” Shatley noted.
“I mean he’s got a great huddle presence, he’s got some great confidence about him. He doesn’t get rattled. You know that’s just, that’s a good feeling because you know that anything can happen, as long as we got time on the clock you know there’s a chance.”