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Patrick Mahomes won the MVP award in his second season. Then Lamar Jackson did the same thing a year later. Dan Marino did it a few decades before either of them. Kurt Warner won a Super Bowl in his (sort of) second season.
Whether real or imagined because we cling to hope no matter how small or fleeting, the sophomore bump for NFL quarterbacks is something fans talk about. And to some extent, expect.
But it’s not just box scores and stat sheets. Trevor Lawrence will very likely improve upon his sub-60% completion percentage and 214.7 passing yards per game from last year. But there are other things we can (and should) be looking for when it comes to encouragement from the franchise quarterback.
Let’s go one by one over the coming weeks. Up first? The basics.
Stop with the egregiously bad throws
Through the first three games of the season, Trevor Lawrence threw seven interceptions—tied with 2017 DeShone Kizer for the most by a first-year player since Peyton Manning had eight in 1998.
Now, interceptions (at least in a vacuum) don’t always mean a quarterback is struggling. They could be contested catches. Or deep shots in third-and-long situations. Heck, Patrick Mahomes was tracking with Trevor Lawrence through the early part of last season in terms of total interceptions on the year.
But when the interception looks like this...
...it ain’t good.
Part of the reason for this turnover is Trevor Lawrence trying too hard to put the team (which had been horrendous in the game up to this point) on his back. There are better receivers on the team this year. Better offensive linemen. And much better coaching, which means fewer “12 men on the field” penalties occurring right before this play and minimizing the number of times an offense is backed up on its own goal line.
This play is a perfect storm of a rookie quarterback in his first game, an offense with very few playmakers, a coaching staff that couldn’t help itself from leaning on Carlos Hyde, and... a host of other problems.
Doug Pederson is the antithesis of Urban Meyer in many ways. Doug has NFL experience. Doug has had success. Doug knows who Aaron Donald and James Robinson are. And Doug favors an offense with multiple safety valves and Plan B’s for his quarterback.
Don’t believe me? During his tenure in Philadelphia, tight end Zach Ertz was the team’s leading receiver for four out of his five seasons. And he won a Super Bowl like that. Nick Foles wasn’t making a lot of bonehead throws like the one you see above because the Eagles coaching staff was protecting him from situations where that sort of throw could easily happen.
Everything is pointing towards Trevor Lawrence improving (radically) in the “egregiously bad throws” department. The offense looks better on paper. They’ll be playing their best players. But most of all, new head coach Doug Pederson knows how to reduce the chances that his quarterback would even find himself in this scenario. It’ll still happen, but if (when) it happens a lot less... I’ll be happy.