If you’re as online as I am, you’ll be able to see that we’ve come to the part of the season where people have begun to doubt and question how good Trevor Lawrence actually is. The prince that was promised to save Duval, the heir to the Brunell-Leftwich-Garrard-Bortles? line of good Jaguars QBs has been (possibly) usurped by the Patriots’ Mac Jones as the darling of the QB class, while Lawrence has been cast aside in Duval, playing through a bizarre season of drops, injuries, and coaching fiascos. Basically, Mac Jones is Dio Brando, attempting to take over the NFL world with the Patriots, while Lawrence is Jonathan Joestar, attempting to stop Patriots world domination (again).
I think Sunday’s loss to the Colts is a perfect example of both the highs that Trevor Lawrence brings, combined with the lows that come with the current situation the Jaguars are in. So let’s open the film room and get into Trevor’s Bizarre Adventure.
The Supporting Cast
Before we get into Lawrence’s actual play, I want to address the playmakers around him. Before the 2021 NFL Draft, I had the chance to talk to ESPN’s(then The Draft Network) Jordan Reid and Emory Hunt of Football Gameplan about what is needed to help a young QB succeed in the modern NFL. Reid said something that stuck with me, about what a young QB needs from his new franchise: “playcalling, protection, and playmakers”.
Using these three things, what can we say Trevor Lawrence legitimately has? I think playcalling is alright. Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell has done an alright job of balancing the run and pass game, but can be too reliant on isolated routes where receivers have to win one on one. Protection has been relatively fine, with the Jaguars placing 18th in both pass and run block win rate. However, there have been multiple times this season where multiple Day 1 starters have been injured, and they’re also 14th in holding penalties called this season. For the sake of this argument, we’ll say that playcalling and protection is fine.
That brings us to playmakers, which...YEESH.
The Jaguars are third in the NFL with 18 drops, and Lawrence has been hurt by his receivers simply dropping the ball. We can talk all we want about #LetTrevorCook, but when there’s no spices to work with, what we get is this. Lawrence is currently in the top ten in QBs whose EPA has suffered because of drops. The Jaguars passing offense has been slowed to a lull because of drops, and it’s coming from everyone.
Through ten weeks, here is how much total EPA QBs have lost on dropped passes in 2021.— Anthony Reinhard (@reinhurdler) November 17, 2021
Despite having lost 40+ expected points each from drops, Mahomes, Stafford, and Brady have remained three of the league's most efficient QBs.
Drop charting: Sportradar
EPA model: nflfastR pic.twitter.com/MmhIsSm8SH
The Colts run Cover One, and with one safety up top, Lawrence knows that he can hit the vertical route to Jamal Agnew before the safety can get a good angle to the ball, and delivers a beautiful pass downfield.
Yet, Agnew drops it, and the Jaguars come off the field.
Another problem with this receiver group is the lack of separation. If Bevell is going to call so many isolated routes, the receiver either has to be a monster at the catch point (a la Mike Evans), or wins with savvy route running and can create separation with their movement (a la Stefon Diggs). The Jaguars don’t have either of those types of receivers, Marvin Jones could possibly be an option but he’s too inconsistent at the catch point. Let’s use this play as an example. The Jaguars are in a 4x1 empty set with Carlos Hyde motioned out to chip the edge rusher then release. TE Dan Arnold is running a deep over across the field, Jamal Agnew runs a deep out, and Marvin Jones runs a go route. The problem is: nobody is open. None of the receivers can create separation, and Lawrence is forced to throw it away.
But look at it from the endzone angle, and you can see the progression Lawrence is making. The first read is Dan Arnold over the middle. He’s not open. Second read is Agnew-Jones, but by the time he flips his hips there’s pressure in his face.
Too many times Lawrence is going through his progressions, and nothing is available. That’s the biggest problem with the passing game: nothing is easy. NFL offenses need a failsafe option in the passing game that they know they can rely on to get someone open, if they can’t win one-on-ones. It’s like Goku’s Kamehameha, or Naruto’s Shadow Clone Jutsu. Those come easy, and they can use it at any time. The Jaguars don’t have that in their passing game, because nobody can get separation, or catch.
The Bad Trevor Lawrence
One thing that I have noticed with Lawrence, being especially nitpicky, is the short area accuracy. The gimme routes just haven’t been hitting as often this season. Most of the time, Lawrence is missing high. This is a third and short, and the Jags run a designed pick play to get LaViska Shenault free. This is one of the only pick plays that actually did its’ job in the game. Lawrence misses high, and the Jaguars punt again.
Lawrence has to be able to consistently hit the gimmes in the short area in order to continue his development. Now this could come from multiple factors. In order to be successful in the short area passing game, you need to have receivers who can get open quickly and in short areas, as well as plays to scheme open these quick routes. So, once again, it’s a combination of factors.
The Good Trevor Lawrence
One thing that Lawrence has done a lot of, in spite of the surroundings, is show why he was the number one pick. The high level traits he has both within and outside of structure are top-tier quarterbacking. On this play, the Jamal Agnew runs a Snag route, while Marvin Jones and Dan Arnold run kind of a “Scissors” concept (corner+post, deep out+post). On the backside of the play, Laquon Treadwell is running a dig (an in-breaking route 10-15 yards deep). The backside dig is one of the more difficult throws an NFL QB can make because they have to drive the ball into the window, above the weakside hook defender, and in front of the safety. If it hits, the throw can be somewhat of a combo breaker for a defense, which is expecting the ball to be thrown toward the numbers of a formation. Lawrence does this perfectly.
If Trevor Lawrence were a Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure character, his stand would absolutely have to do with strength, considering how he’s practically carried the hopes of the franchise on his back since being drafted. However, what Jaguars fans have come to realize is the unfortunate truth: Trevor Lawrence is a rookie. He’s going to look like a rookie when he’s surrounded by the Island of Miscast Receivers and midseason trades (no disrespect to Dan Arnold though). When you don’t surround your young QB with the necessary playmakers to maximize his strengths and mitigate his weaknesses, you get what the Jaguars are now on offense.
Ultimately, I think Lawrence will be fine. He’ll continue to develop and become a high quality starter in the NFL. However the Jaguars failed to surround him with the necessary playmakers in free agency and the draft, and are now reaping what they’re sowing. They can’t afford to do it again.