On Wednesday, head coach Doug Pederson announced Trevor Lawrence was not practicing as he nurses his high ankle sprain suffered on Monday night.
While the injury is not nearly as severe as many thought, or even as it looked, the Jags will have to prepare the team as if Lawrence cannot go. If that is indeed the case, the starting reins will be handed to backup C.J. Beathard.
“The biggest thing is if Trevor can go,” Pederson said on his team’s next game. “If C.J. goes, I think there is more of a sense of urgency to do a little bit more on their part to support their backup. There is not a lot of things you have to do out of the ordinary. The one thing about C.J. and Trevor both is they both prepare as if they are both starting. It is always the next man up.”
Aside from Lawrence, Pederson noted that corner Tre Herndon is in concussion protocol. Herndon, Lawrence and even Beathard were all part of an extensive list of Jags that suffered injuries against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Wednesday Injury Report pic.twitter.com/loQnxBAKmj— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) December 6, 2023
On Sunday, many backups could likely be filling starting roles for those who are injured ahead of them. Even with backups, the team is not expecting to simply lay down and admit defeat.
“A lot of these guys have played, they know how to play,” Pederson said. “It is an all hands on deck mentality. You don’t want to miss a beat. You still have to go out and execute. We have total confidence in all the guys that go out there.”
There are contemporary examples of players playing through similar injuries to the one Lawrence is working through. Patrick Mahomes played through a high ankle sprain in last year’s AFC title game.
Pederson said that no injury is the same, and he and his staff will only do what is best for the player. What is best for the player is then in turn best for the team.
“The biggest thing is player health,” Pederson said. “Our job as a medical staff, head coach, we are not going to put players on the field that are not 100%, not healthy, could further risk more damage. It is our job to protect those players. We have to come together to weather this storm.”
Before Lawrence went down, the offense was humming. Lawrence was leading the team on a weeks-long pace of explosive offensive production.
With backups, Pederson hopes the team can continue to hit that level.
“Things were clicking a bit, you still try to do things to keep that same rhythm,” Pederson said. “You have to play to each one’s strength. You try to tailor things in order to strengths. (The players) have to do their part too to make sure it continues to move forward.”
As the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017, Pederson had to replace starting quarterback Carson Wentz with backup (and former Jag) Nick Foles.
Before his injury, Wentz was on the fast track to the MVP. Foles then took the team to a Super Bowl and won.
Pederson said his team “didn’t miss a beat” when Foles took over, and he said he sees a lot of similarities between the two team’s circumstances.
“There are similarities,” Pederson said. “It goes back to the strength of the player. It may look different to people, but you still have to go out and compete and try to win a game. However that gets done, it doesn’t really matter. In ‘17, I had to focus on what Nick Foles’ strengths were instead of Carson’s strengths and made sure the guys around them did their part.”
It can be argued that by the Eagles having such an effective backup quarterback, the NFL landscape shifted to teams putting more stock into a second signal caller. Pederson himself was a backup himself for much of his career.
“I don’t want to overlook that position,” Pederson said of backup QBs. “When you do that, it is going to bite you. Having a veteran guy like we do, that is pivotal. Having a guy that has been around and has played meaningful games helps.”
In terms of non-injury related news surrounding the team, the Jags announced Dawuane Smoot as the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. Smoot will also serve as a captain on Sunday.
Smoot’s recovery from a torn Achilles last post season, recovery and success on the field afterwards could be a model for all of the team moving forward as injuries mount.
“From the end of last season, missing camp and to be in this position now, says a lot about him and his character and who he is,” Pederson said of Smoot. “In the offseason, if he is healthy, maybe he is not here. We are fortunate to have him. He is playing better each week.”
As for the team the Jags will be playing, they will be facing one of the league’s top defenses with potentially a backup quarterback.
The Browns’ defensive unit is allowing the lowest completion percentage in the league (56%) and has allowed the sixth least rushing yards.
The unit is led by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who was the Eagles’ DC under Pederson during the team’s Super Bowl run.
“It starts with coach (Jim) Schwartz,” Pederson said. “It is an aggressive style. It starts up front. He feels like if he can put pressure on your quarterback with four, he has seven guys who can make a play on the ball in the run and pass game. The strength is the defensive line.”
While Pederson may know Schwartz well, he said he can only take so much from all of Schwartz’s years of coaching.
“He has changed some things over his time, but he has a talented defense and they are playing really good,” Pederson said.
All together, the Jaguars are in quite the precarious position ahead of this weekend.
They are potentially going on the road, on a short week, with a backup quarterback who is set to face one of the NFL’s best defenses.
It will take the entire team to come out of Ohio victorious, but the most pressure of all falls squarely on Beathard, if he is to start.
“We have a lot of confidence in C.J.,” Pederson said. “He didn’t have any snaps (last week). That is part of being the backup quarterback, you have to be ready to go. He will get all the snaps (Wednesday) and that is why you prepare like a starter. If your number is called, you don’t miss a beat.”