It is officially football time in Duval County, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, led by Head Coach Urban Meyer and wunderkind Trevor Lawrence stepped onto the field against the backups for the Cleveland Browns expecting a overwhelming performance by the Jaguars starters.
Yeah...yeah no that didn’t happen.
The starting offense couldn’t get into gear, only crossing midfield once and not putting points on the board. Simply put, the offense felt flat and lethargic—85 yards at halftime solidified that. Meyer noted this after the game, acknowledging that the offense’s pace of play was poor by his standards. “I don’t like slow offenses, and I told those—I thought the third quarter was better with just tempo, getting up the line of scrimmage, snap the ball,” said Meyer. “I don’t want to be one of those slow, wallowing offenses, and we’ll go and get that fixed.”
However, Lawrence was what you expected as the first overall pick. He completed six of nine passes for 71 yards. However, he was sacked twice, and once again, the offense was very vanilla, something Meyer also didn’t approve of. In addition, the offense was missing starting left guard Andrew Norwell and receiver DJ Chark, so we really can’t(or won’t) get a good feel for what this offense will be until they show up in Houston for the regular season.
However, the stats don’t tell the entire story, and for that, we’re opening back up the film room. This year, I’m doing something different. I’ll be posting YouTube videos of every dropback Lawrence attempts(i.e. this video), and will also be charting Lawrence’s dropbacks manually, which you all can see here. For this film room, I’m choosing a few plays that highlight the good and bad from the beginning of the Trevor Lawrence Era.
There was a lot of good to pull from Lawrence’s performance. He showed why he was the number one pick and displayed the talent that makes him special. We’ve all seen the 35-yard pass that Lawrence threw, but that wasn’t my favorite throw of the night. My favorite throw was this pass on third and nine, backed up by their own endzone and he throws a dart to Marvin Jones to move the chains.
I love this throw so much because this is what I like to call a “big boy throw.” This is a pass a high-level NFL QB should be able to make. It’s from the opposite hash, beyond the sticks. Look at when he releases the ball-Jones hasn’t even come out of his break yet and the ball is out. That’s throwing with anticipation and decisiveness on an out breaking route to get a first down. Blake Bortles isn’t making that throw, folks. Neither is Gardner Minshew. Trevor Lawrence is QB1 and there’s no doubt about it.
Now, let’s break down the 35 yard pass, with video from The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen:
Wide view of Lawrence's third-and-17 throw.— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) August 16, 2021
Looked like he was reading dagger concept (to left) from inside route to outside route.
Stayed on the inside route for a long time and when he got to the outside route WR broke upfield pic.twitter.com/2bIigggEfT
Based on the cornerback technique at the top and bottom of the screen, I’m guessing Cleveland is in man coverage here. The Jaguars run Jamal Agnew (slot next to James O’Shaugnessy) on a deep dig and Marvin Jones (top of the screen) looks like he’s running across the middle of the field, deeper than Agnew.
Lawrence is given enough time to process(we’ll get to this later) the field, sees that nobody is open, and then, as The Athletic’s Nate Tice puts it, he goes and gets the Jaguars a bucket. An off schedule throw that not many QBs(certainly not a QB on this roster outside of him) make, and Marvin Jones makes a heck of a grab to move the chains. What I love about this play is he keeps his eyes downfield, and makes a throw to where either his guy catches it or it’s an incompletion. It shows the trust he has in Jones, who was targeted the most during the first team offense’s two drives.
Now, it wasn’t all positive for Lawrence during his debut. A lot of credit goes to the Browns defense, who has a deep and talented secondary. They played a lot of man coverage and didn’t let the Jaguars receivers get much separation. That being said, I think there were some times where Lawrence got himself into a bit of trouble, mainly on this third down incompletion to LaViska Shenault.
It’s man coverage across the board, and Shenault runs an out route at about eight to nine yards. Lawrence drops back, and it looks like he drifts into the pressure coming from the edge. I’m not sure if he drifted because he felt pressure from the other side, or to make the throw easier on himself, but he took himself into pressure and made the throw a lot more difficult to make, now that the end could get a hand into the vision area.
A lot of young QBs struggle with this, and ultimately, I think it’s something that both Lawrence and the Jaguars offensive braintrust(Meyer, OC Darrell Bevell and Passing Game Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) recognized rewatching the game.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Alright, now to talk about what everyone is concerned about coming off of Week One of the preseason. The offensive line was not good on Saturday, guys. There was rarely a clean pocket for any of the QBs, and the starters were overwhelmed in the pass protection department. So, I decided to go back and watch the two sacks to decide where blame should be put. Mind you, Meyer has said that Lawrence did hold on to the ball too long.
First play of the Trevor Lawrence Era, crowd going wild, and it ends in a sack. Not exactly a good omen. However, I think there is something the entire team can learn, as well as giving credit where it’s due.
Cleveland is playing Cover One, with the middle linebacker playing as the hole defender in the middle of the field. To the side Lawrence is looking, Marvin Jones looks like he’s running a dig at about 11 yards, while Shenault is running a five yard in route. Cann gets beat by a good pass rush by Sheldon Day, but I do think there is some blame to be placed on Lawrence here in the department of holding on to the ball too long. Take a look at the endzone view:
You can see him go through his reads, but by the time he gets to Shenault, Day is already in his hip pocket. I also think it was fairly good coverage by the DB guarding Shenault, and if Lawrence were to have thrown it literally as soon as Shenault had some daylight, Day might bat at the ball and we’re looking at a turnover:
Overall, I would just say it’s a good rep by the defense. Lawrence held on to the ball a little too long, and Cann gets beat(I think if he continued to latch on instead of letting go to avoid holding he might not have allowed the sack but Kanye voice “I guess we’ll never know.”).
Before I begin, I want to say that I completely understand why the gripe is that Lawrence held on to the ball. In fact, I agree with you! He did hold on to the ball longer than normal-because that’s how the play is designed.
This is a shot play, with the two wideouts running deep crossers at about 12-15 yards. The two tight ends stay in to block, and RB Travis Etienne checks before releasing into the flat. Shot plays are great when you know that the defense is keying heavy on the run, and you can get a hole in the middle of the zone, or man coverage.
However, there is literally nobody open. The drawback of a shot play is that there are only two receivers running routes. If you run zone coverage, it’s simple to drop to a spot and make sure to have eyes on only two receivers, rather than your standard four receiver sets. Lawrence is scanning the field, trying to find a hole in the zone, but nobody is open. Etienne is on the other side of his line of vision, so he would have to turn back into the pressure to make this throw, which could’ve been a fumble. This isn’t really on the line, nor is it on Lawrence. The only thing you could say to Lawrence is to throw the ball away to keep it at a 3rd and 5, but sometimes you just gotta charge it to the game. This was a shot play that didn’t pan out.
Overall I think Lawrence had a solid debut. Flashed the traits of a number one overall pick, did some rookie things. However, the offense has to play better, starting up front. The Jaguars should be tested in Week 2, going to New Orleans where they’ll be facing a very talented defensive line featuring Cameron Jordan and David Onyemata. We should see a more up-tempo Jaguars offense, and personally, I would like to see some more designed rollouts and bootlegs. It will help the offensive line pass block, and it will give Trevor Lawrence some easy half-field reads, and allow him to use his mobility to make plays.