JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Trevor Lawrence is ready to put last season behind him.
The Jaguars fanbase, coaching staff and the city are counting on it.
After a turbulent rookie season after being selected No. 1 overall, Lawrence is being counted on to take a very big step in his development in his second year in the league. The first glimpse of how that looks comes in Sunday’s season opener at Washington.
It’s easy to write off Lawrence’s rookie season as the typical first-year struggles blended with the dysfunction that was Urban Meyer’s disastrous 13-game NFL tenure. Lawrence passed for 3,641 yards and 12 touchdowns but was plagued by turnovers (22 giveaways) and inconsistent play from his receivers (nearly 40 drops, according to ESPN). The Jaguars were the league’s worst team again, finishing 3-14. After so much fanfare around the arrival of Lawrence, his production was disappointing.
His work since the hire of Doug Pederson suggests that Lawrence is poised for a breakout sophomore season.
“I think it’s just down to the player, who the player is and how willing he is to take the coaching and take the criticism, take the good, the bad, and work on his craft. That’s with any player, but in this case with Trevor, that’s what we’ve seen from all the way back in the spring, just the improvements he’s made from OTAs in May and June to now are tremendous,” Pederson said.
“Sometimes they’re even just subtle changes, but they’re changes to us, and those are the things you build on. Just keep him headed in the right direction, obviously no setbacks, and just keep plugging away and working hard.”
Lawrence said early in training camp that he wouldn’t have believed anyone if they told him that’s how his season would have gone.
Those struggles left a sizable chip on Lawrence’s shoulder pads, and he admitted as much when camp began. On Wednesday, Lawrence said the growth from holdovers and the way newcomers have meshed with the team give the Pederson version of the Jaguars a far different feel.
“To see the improvement of the guys that were here, see how much better that we’ve gotten. And obviously the new additions have helped a ton. And just the whole mindset, I think the culture is really flipped and that’s something that doesn’t happen overnight,” Lawrence said. “So, it’s taken a lot of work by a lot of people and I think we’re in a great spot right now and we just got to keep building on that.”
Pederson coached Carson Wentz with the Eagles and saw the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2016 improve significantly in his second season, putting himself in the MVP conversation before an injury ended his season.
Backup Nick Foles went on to lead Philadelphia to win Super Bowl 52. Pederson said there are similarities between what he’s seen out of Lawrence and what he saw from Wentz, but it’s not identical because the systems weren’t the same. Lawrence played under Meyer and Darrell Bevell last year. He’s had just one camp this year with Pederson and offensive coordinator Press Taylor. Ironically, Wentz is now the quarterback in Washington. He’s not been able to recapture that magic he had with Pederson during the 2017 season.
“It’s similar, but in our case, it’s different because year two for Trevor is a different staff, a different head coach, different coordinator, different position coach, where Carson year two, it was the same guys, and there was consistency there,” he said.
“Although we’ve seen tremendous growth in Trevor, year two for Carson with us, there was another step, another leap there. Those are things we’re trying to get Trevor to, that level with Trevor in our system, and you’re going to see it probably throughout the course of the season, but I think time will tell with him.”
On Wednesday, Pederson did announce a couple starting positions that had been up in the air. Incumbent Jawaan Taylor will start over Walker Little at right tackle, and rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd will start, too. Lloyd had been injured most of preseason and didn’t play until the preseason finale at Atlanta.