Over the offseason, plenty of writers and passionate Jaguars fans (myself included) would tell anyone who would listen how Trevor Lawrence was going to leap to an elite-level quarterback during this season. Coming out of college and over the past two seasons, there was no question about his athleticism and talent as a quarterback.
Despite all of this talent, the thing that was always talked about that needed to be developed was Trevor’s ability to manage a game. I know game managers get a bad rap and don’t get the attention that arm power or speed get, but in my eyes, Brock Purdy is the best game manager in football, and he is the starting quarterback on arguably the best team in football.
This blog will focus on the last 16 games of Trevor’s career, his ability to come up clutch, and his ability to complete critical throws under defensive pressure. All of these are attributes of an elite-level quarterback.
Let’s start with the last 16 games. I have two players who have played very similarly in the last 16 games, and I will put up their statistics side by side. Without cheating, try telling me who the other quarterback is.
Unless you have already seen this graphic, you may not know the mystery player off the top of your head. The mystery player is Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, a player that most NFL analysts think is a top-three quarterback in the NFL and by far an elite-level quarterback. I’d argue that Trevor Lawrence has been the best quarterback in the last 16 games (including playoffs), and these statistics really do tell the story. A big step in becoming an elite-level quarterback is comparing them to other passers, and this graphic shows exactly how good Trevor Lawrence is.
The next part of growing as an NFL player and becoming an elite-level quarterback is the individual’s ability to come up in clutch situations. The Jaguars have been criticized all year for their inability to convert on 3rd and 4th down. This was a glaring problem against the Chiefs and most likely cost them the game. Despite all of these early single-season struggles, Trevor did what all elite quarterbacks do and turned it on when it mattered most. In a game where everyone expected them to lose, Trevor showed out on Sunday by going 9/10 on 3rd and 4th down with 114 yards and a touchdown, which included a 147.5 passer rating. If that doesn’t scream elite I don’t know what does.
Two third-downs really stood out to me, and while they have two drastically different outcomes, I think it is worth talking about both of them.
The first play was a third down with the Jaguars up 11-0 and having all the momentum against the Bills. While they didn’t convert this third down, it is still important to talk about the play since it was Trevor’s only incompletion on the third down of the day. Before the play starts, you can see Trevor recognize that the Bills are putting pressure on the right side of the line, and alert Evan Engram to block and release as Zay Jones runs a post/dig combo route, forcing the lone defensive player to choose one and leaving Engram wide open. I don’t think Jones was expecting Trevor to throw him the ball, and looking back at it, Engram was wide open and probably could have gotten the first down. Despite this, Trevor delivered a dart of a throw, and I honestly think it surprised Zay and resulted in his lone incompletion on the 3rd down.
Trevor Lawrence needs to file a lawsuit against his receivers, this shit is insane. pic.twitter.com/rScYaaPapY— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) October 10, 2023
The second play would be the crucial third down play in the 4th quarter to ice the game against the Bills. With 3:15 left in the game, the Jaguars offense had just gotten the ball back, and with the Bills gaining momentum, Jacksonville needed to answer quickly. On 3rd-and-4, Lawrence sees Calvin Ridley one-on-one on the outside against a safety and delivers an absolutely beautiful back shoulder ball that fits it in a place where only the wide receiver can make the catch. If this duo can continue to convert these types of plays, it’s going to be a scary sight for defenses.
What's awesome about this 3rd down throw by Trevor Lawrence was how LT Cam Robinson got injured the play before... so Trevor knew the Bills DL were bringing extra pressure from the left side. Lawrence gave Ridley a chance to win the route and just threw it up. Happened to place… pic.twitter.com/eLrQ0wIkEI— Fitz (@LaurieFitzptrck) October 9, 2023
Lastly, Trevor Lawrence should be considered an elite quarterback because of his ability to play under pressure. Trevor has looked great against the blitz and it has definitely been a strength this season. Unfortunately, there has been no avoiding it, as this offensive line definitely needs some work. The throw against pressure from the Falcons to Ridley in the first London game, all the throws he made against the Bills where there should’ve been some obvious flags thrown, and his ability to throw with the blitz in his face have catapulted him to that elite-level quarterback tier.
In conclusion, No. 16 has become what the Jaguars have been looking for for so long: an elite-level quarterback. Whether it’s how he compares to other players or the tangibles he brings to the field, it is obvious the growth he has experienced over the last three years. There are plenty of expectations for this Jaguars team, and if they want to be considered elite, it starts with the quarterback. Trevor Lawrence is indeed an elite-level quarterback.