Trevor Lawrence thought he would be here, he just didn’t know when

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts after beating the New York Jets in an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) (Seth Wenig, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Trevor Lawrence was considered a generational talent while a high school star in Cartersville, Georgia. As a freshman at Clemson, he led the Tigers to the national championship.

He was compared to Peyton Manning and John Elway. He was the next big thing, drafted No. 1 overall, and destined to revitalize the team that drafted him.

Then, he arrived in Jacksonville with Urban Meyer taking over as head coach. A disastrous year that set Lawrence back who knows how far.

Fast forward to the final month of his second season and Lawrence is thriving. One quarterback power poll ranked him as the No. 5 quarterback in the NFL right now.

And why not?

In his last seven games, Lawrence has completed just under 70% of his passes for 1,909 yards with 14 touchdowns and one interception. In that time, his quarterback rating is 108.2, and the Jaguars have won five of seven games, including wins over playoff teams Baltimore and Dallas.

Trevor Lawrence has arrived.

But did it take longer than he envisioned when he was waiting to hear his name called on draft night?

“That’s kind of a tough question,” Lawrence said. “You obviously see yourself having success and doing well, being the player that I know I could be. Like you said, obviously took a little longer than maybe I wanted at times, some setbacks and all those things, but it all kind of shaped into the player that I’m becoming.”

Lawrence has been a steady hand during his entire NFL career. Even when he struggled last year, his teammates talked about his unwavering approach, rare for a rookie. This season didn’t start out much better. Lawrence certainly showed growth, especially in back-to-back wins over the Colts and Chargers, where Lawrence tossed five touchdowns between them. But in October when the Jaguars lost five games, Lawrence heard questions about his development. He threw two nearly identical interceptions in the end zone against the Texans and the Broncos. They were the kind of mistakes rookies make, and they had even some of his strongest supporters wondering when the development was going to show up.

Then, suddenly, it happened.

In the Week 9 matchup with the Raiders, Lawrence was razor-sharp. He completed 25 of 31 passes as the Jaguars beat Las Vegas 27-20. The following week at Kansas City, he tossed two more touchdowns. Since the London game against the Broncos, Lawrence has five games with a quarterback rating over 100. For the season, he’s at 96.0, which would rank second in team history for a full season, behind David Garrard’s 2007 season when he threw 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions. But there is still more work to do.

“We can’t act like we’ve arrived though,” Lawrence said. “We still haven’t clinched anything. We still haven’t made the playoffs. We have two games left to continue to prove who we are and put one foot in front of the next and keep stacking these games. We can’t look too far ahead and say, ‘This is the team we are now.’ We have to do it every week. You’re only as good as what you can do every Sunday.”

The Jaguars have come a long way this season. Even further if you look back to this time last season as the fallout from the end of the Urban Meyer-era was starting to settle.

“I think our team has matured a lot as the season’s gone on. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs,” Lawrence said. “I think I’ve talked about that little stretch where we were losing a lot in a row, and now we’ve kind of bounced back. I think we understand more how to win, how to handle those emotions, and how to just move on to the next week. I think we’ve done a great job at that and that’s the challenge every week and especially at this point in the year, you’ve got to flip the page and just take it week to week.”