Focused Jaguars not worried about attention after hot start

Lawrence earns weekly AFC honor, 1st Jaguars player to do it since 2010

Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars attempts a pass during the second half against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) (Sean M. Haffey, 2022 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars are one of the biggest stories in the NFL.

After years of being a big story — for all the wrong reasons — the Jaguars have started the Doug Pederson era on a tear. They’re 2-1 and leading the AFC South. They ended an 18-game road losing streak in Week 3 against the Chargers. They’ve won back-to-back games in the same season for the first time since Oct. 20-27, 2019.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has turned a corner this season and earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors on Wednesday, the first such award for a Jaguars player since 2010.

So, with all of that positive momentum, how will a franchise that isn’t accustomed to it handle that?

“I think we will handle it great. For us, we don’t really want any of that. We’d rather just be on the back burner and just let us do our thing, and that’s our mindset,” Lawrence said. “We’re not really worried about any of the attention that we get. Obviously, the goal is to play really well every week, win a lot of games, so you’re going to get some attention.”

Lawrence passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns during Sunday’s 38-10 romp over the Chargers, a victory that ended a long road losing skid and showcased that the Jaguars can win on the West Coast. They entered that game just 3-15 all-time in games in California and Washington.

Reminiscing about that game is long in the rearview.

Pederson said the team was already focusing on the Eagles a day after the Chargers rout.

“I expect the team to handle it, one, with class, and two, with just the fact that that’s fine, we still have to go to work every day and prepare for another football game and that starts with me during the week and setting the tone that way and just keeping us focused on task,” he said.

Jacksonville has no time to reflect on its best start since the 2018 season. Philadelphia (3-0) is one of just two unbeatens left in the NFL and has an exceptional dual-threat quarterback in Jalen Hurts. He’s passed for four touchdowns and rushed for three this season, becoming one of the league’s most difficult quarterbacks to defend. Like Lawrence, he’s turned the ball over just once.

“You’ve just got to stay disciplined as you rush,” Pederson said of Hurts. “He can break an arm tackle pretty easily. He can make you miss pretty easily. You’ve just got to be under control and disciplined, try to tackle him and get forehands on him and bring him down when you can. It’s a challenge, very much so, because if you get out of your rush lanes, he can make you pay with his legs.”

Jacksonville’s defense has been at the forefront of the improvement. The team has intercepted six passes and is seventh in the league in yards allowed per game (306.7). They already have eight takeaways, one fewer than they had in 17 games last year.

The Eagles, too, have a dominant defense. They’re giving up just 296.7 ypg and have five takeaways, a number that ranks third in the NFL. Philadelphia sacked Washington quarterback Carson Wentz nine times last week.

For fans, seeing the growth of Lawrence is significant. He actually looks like the franchise quarterback after struggling under the chaos of Urban Meyer as a rookie.

He’s completing 70% of his passes and has six touchdown passes — half as many as he threw last season. Lawrence has been sacked just twice (both in the opener) and has performed very well behind a much-improved offensive line. The weekly offensive honor is a testament to his growth. David Garrard was the last Jaguars player to earn the award in Week 8 of the 2010 season.

“I think it says more about this organization, this team specifically, the staff, the players that are around me. Obviously, I’ve been able to play well the last few weeks, but most of that is the guys around me and the coaches around me,” Lawrence said. “We’re all putting each other in positions to be successful, and that’s just kind of the way it works.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.