When a quarterback makes an incredible throw, NFL analysts like to say, “that’s a pass only a handful of guys in this league can make.”
Sometimes it’s just a reaction to an awesome play. Usually, though, it literally means there’s a very finite number of people on this planet with the physical ability to make such a play.
Here’s an example.
This was Lawrence’s first career start, second career touchdown, and 30th career pass attempt. This play -- from a blowout divisional loss that foreshadowed a tumultuous season under Urban Meyer -- is what convinced me that the Jacksonville Jaguars finally had its franchise quarterback.
Recency bias helped, because for the past few years, myself and the rest of Jacksonville were subjected to watching Gardner Minshew II play quarterback. The Uncle Rico doppelgänger could not throw the ball over them mountains, let alone over 25 yards with any zip on the ball.
This was my final word in an extensive Sports Illustrated article reviewing his rookie season.
Minshew has [the 2020] season to prove that he possesses the legitimate potential to join the top tier of NFL quarterbacks. What he’s shown so far doesn’t inspire much hope that that is a serious possibility - which may seem harsh given he’s played just 14 career games, but considering his sixth-round pedigree and underwhelming arm talent, the odds aren’t in his favor. If Minshew in fact does not make a major jump, it’s critical that Jacksonville doesn’t settle for its Alex Smith and instead prays for its Patrick Mahomes in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Jaguars didn’t quite land Mahomes, who’s arguably the best quarterback alive. But they did luck into the right to draft a “guy in this league” who can make any throw.
It’s hard to undersell how much more arm talent Lawrence has than Minshew (and most NFL passers), and how much it matters. Against Minshew, opposing defenses could play close to the line of scrimmage without worrying about getting beat over the top. Against Lawrence, as he showed in his first NFL game, opposing defenses have to worry about a significantly greater area of the field at all times.
It’s the difference between having to guard Andre Drummond or Luka Doncic. Like the Mavericks MVP candidate, Lawrence’s ability to whip any pass to a teammate in an instant is a threat that makes the entire offense more dangerous.
Lawrence showed last week in a 28-27 comeback win (though not for the first time) that he has the mental game to go along with the bazooka on his right shoulder.
Hasty isn't even past Marcus Peters when Lawrence releases this pass. The timing and anticipation on these throws to the outside was top tier yesterday— JP Acosta (@acosta32_jp) November 28, 2022
(Also, the Jaguars went after Marcus Peters a lot, especially in Cover 2 or QQH and Peters was the Half defender-not good) pic.twitter.com/sQ9q45gIDm
Like the first Lawrence example, this is a honey hole shot between the cornerback and safety in Cover 2. At the NFL level, it’s typically reserved for one of those rare “guys in this league” like Mahomes.
A run fake helped draw defenders away for Lawrence to connect with Chark on the aforementioned touchdown. On the JaMycal Hasty score against Baltimore, he didn't get that same help: Ravens defenders could expect a pass from the offense’s empty formation on 2nd-and-13.
JT O’Sullivan broke it down here.
Jacksonville’s quarterback is part of a very special group of guys in this league.