JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Urban Meyer is quick to remind Trevor Lawrence of the process.
The Jaguars were the league’s worst team last year. The progress this season has been plenty of starts and stops, more lows than highs. But Meyer still has all the confidence in the world in his rookie quarterback, even with the team sitting at 2-8 and struggling significantly on offense.
Will the offense see any changes this week with the Falcons (4-6) headed to TIAA Bank Field?
“I remind him they’re professionals. We’re all professionals. You have a job to do, go out and do it,” Meyer said. “We’re going to try to build this thing to be [great]. The vision hasn’t changed here, what we expect this place to be. Go out and beat the Falcons, that’s what we’re doing.”
Lawrence has thrown just one touchdown pass over the last four games, a meaningless, late game score against the Seahawks when the Jaguars were already down 24-0.
That was one of the team’s most disappointing efforts in a season full of them. Jacksonville had beaten Miami in London to snap a 20-game losing streak and went into the bye week with confidence. The Jaguars got off on the wrong foot against Seattle and have yet to find a rhythm again. The lone win since the bye week came in a 9-6 stunner over the Bills, a game dominated by the Jaguars defense.
There is conversation about tailoring the offense more to Lawrence’s skillset and what he had enormous success running at Clemson. Jacksonville has largely kept Lawrence operating out of the pocket and leaning on the backs behind him, but James Robinson, Jacksonville’s most durable and reliable player on offense, has been banged up with heel and knee injuries.
Teams don’t have to treat backup Carlos Hyde with the same aggressiveness as they do Robinson. Add in the fact Jacksonville has a dearth of talent at the receiver position and it’s easy to see why Lawrence is struggling.
Meyer said he liked where Jacksonville was headed after the win over the Dolphins. Lawrence passed for seven touchdowns in the team’s first six games and threw for 319 yards in the 23-20 victory over Miami. It’s been a struggle ever since then, with the injury to Robinson and the regression of the receivers making it a perfect storm of adversity.
“Really in the last month because there was a nice trajectory there for a minute. That’s when James was running the ball at the extremely high level and you’re getting good balance, run pass, and then the breaks hit after, when he got hurt against [the Seahawks],” Meyer said. “I don’t want to put it on him but that’s coming off that win at London where it’s pretty good balance in that game and Trevor played really well. We just have to get that back.”
Will the Jaguars change up the offense to allow Lawrence to operate a little more like how he did at Clemson? The RPO (run-pass option) is something Lawrence was accustomed to in college, but it carries more risk of injury in pro football.
“There’s a fine line too about preparing a quarterback for a long career and then also keeping him out of harm’s way and those are conversations we have daily,” Meyer said.