“Solve your problems with aggression.”
This is a quote from Arizona Defensive Coordinator Don Brown, who coined the phrase in order to get his players to play fast and physical. Don’t worry about fitting the right key, just go hit something.
For the Jaguars, this seems to apply for rookie QB Trevor Lawrence. His aggression throwing the ball downfield has stood out in multiple ways. According to Pro Football Reference, Lawrence leads the NFL in Intended Air Yards (how far a QB throws the ball, regardless of completed or not), and according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, he’s second in Intended Air Yards per attempt, only behind the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson. However, this aggression has led to tying for the lead in interceptions so far with five(Zach Wilson is right there with him), and he only has a 50% completion rating, and an EPA per play of -0.070. So, is this a problem? We’ll check the film from the Broncos game to discuss. So, let’s open the film room!
I think a lot of Lawrence’s completions downfield are in that high, high, tier of QB play. Take hitting this backside dig against the Broncos for example. Lawrence uses his eyes to force Broncos safety Kareem Jackson to open up towards Shenault, and giving just enough of a window to fit this ball in to DJ Chark. Just really good QB play.
Trevor Lawrence gets to the backside Dig vs. 2-high (@pff_seth)— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 21, 2021
Although Shenault's route from the slot is *wavers hand*. It sells the Over route just enough and you can see how it caught Safety #22 Jackson's attention to open up the Dig. pic.twitter.com/ZirCJeIpgt
Let’s look at the touchdown pass from the first quarter as well. Marvin Jones runs a vertical route, while James O’Shaughnessy runs an in-breaker, possibly making this a 989 route concept (DJ Chark runs a vertical route as well). The Broncos are in two-high to start, but Kareem Jackson rotates down into the middle hook area. This means Lawrence is going to have Jones in basically a one-on-one situation in the redzone, and he throws a beauty of a touchdown to Jones. These are the type of throws you get from always remaining aggressive.
The touchdown to Marvin was almost the same exact play that was supposed to be run by Treadwell. (clip above) Jones is an incredible route runner. (got to love that chick at the end after the touchdown) pic.twitter.com/Sab9dX0OAJ— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) September 21, 2021
Lawrence’s aggression sometimes gets him into trouble, especially on third and long. Because he’s trying to extend the drive and put touchdowns on the board, he’s going to try and throw a pass 20 yards on 3rd and 15, like he tried to do with LaViska Shenault against the Broncos. Denver is playing Quarters coverage to the play side of the field (trips side), and Halves to the back side of the field. Shenault runs a deep over route, and honestly, this is amazing ball placement by Lawrence. However, it’s a better play by Patrick Surtain II to get depth under Shenault and read Lawrence’s eyes. Probably better to check it down to Robinson and try and let him get yards after the catch.
Now on this interception to Luke Farrell, I think there are multiple compounding factors in this play. A great play action design on second and short that gets Luke Farrell wide open. However, pressure from Von Miller forces Lawrence to hold onto the ball a little longer than expected. Farrell extends this route a little too far, in my opinion. If he just sits in the middle of the field, it forces Kareem Jackson to cover more ground and gives Lawrence a much easier throw. Also shoutout to Kareem Jackson because this was a heck of a play.
This is another route in the fourth quarter that has pretty good coverage by All-Pro safety Justin Simmons, but I love the attempt. The route by Chark takes the second safety away from the middle of the field, and Lawrence has a one on one with Marvin Jones on a corner post. He’ll hit these eventually (maybe if he got more reps in the preseason with the ones then we wouldn’t have this problem but alas).
The final pass I wanted to highlight is a SUPER risky throw, even with the roughing the passer call. It’s third and 10, and the Jaguars are going trips to the left side of the field, and DJ Chark is running a post-corner. However, Surtain II and Jackson are under and above Chark, making this pass extremely difficult to complete. However, Chris Mahnertz is wide open underneath, and probably runs this for a first down and more. However, Lawrence throws the deep pass, and because of the roughing, gets the first down. However, you probably want Lawrence throwing this checkdown here, because Mahnertz gets the first down.
The way I see it, you don’t want to take away Lawrence’s aggressiveness. It’s harder for offensive coordinators to teach aggression than to teach QBs to dial back on the aggression. What makes Lawrence so much different from the other rookie QBs is his willingness to test defenses downfield-among rookie QBs he’s first in Intended Air Yards per attempt, followed by Zach Wilson then WAAAAAAAAYYYY down the list is Mac Jones. What Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell and Passing Game Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are tasked with doing is teaching Lawrence when to take the shots and when to just take the easy throws. Nate Tice of The Athletic puts it in a great way on Monday’s episode of The Athletic Football Show-you want to end every drive in a kick: a field goal, extra point, or punt. I have faith that Lawrence will learn this as the season goes on, simply because he probably realizes that this isn’t Clemson anymore. The windows in the NFL close a lot quicker. However, I would rather he solve the offenses problems by continuing to take the shots than just checking it down every time. Let him learn on the fly, because sooner rather than later, it’ll all click, and the offense’s potential skyrockets.