Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence tries to stay focused under fire
Trevor Lawrence was 68-0 in the regular seasons as a high school and college quarterback and 96-4 overall. As such, he was revered at Cartersville (Ga.) High and Clemson and almost never heard his name taken in vain.
It never went to his head, says ex-Jaguars teammate Gardner Minshew.
“Super dude. Super humble,” Minshew said earlier this season before the Jaguars faced his current team, the Philadelphia Eagles. “He’s been told how good he is all his life. He doesn’t carry that with him.”
More Jaguars coverage
But now that the Jaguars’ five-game losing streak has knocked Lawrence’s losing record as an NFL quarterback to 5-20, he’s never been so criticized as he has been. this season – especially after throwing two costly interceptions last week. 21-17 loss in London to the Denver Broncos.
How, then, does Lawrence deal with the outside noise now that universal praise (“generational quarterback”) has turned into widespread condemnation, with words such as “bust” thrown around?
Much the same way — by diving into a game week, in this case against the Las Vegas Raiders (2-5) Sunday at TIAA Bank Field (1 p.m., CBS).
“It’s every week that I try to put the best plan in place and to prepare myself as well as possible so that I can go and play my best on Sunday,” Lawrence said Wednesday after training for the Jaguars (2-6) at TIAA Bank Field. “That doesn’t change this week, regardless of the reviews. Good or bad, when we play well I’m going to get too much credit and when we don’t play well…sometimes too much blame. That’s part of the job. It’s part of this game.”
Pederson speaks from experience
Jaguar trainer Doug Pederson said his message to Lawrence was to let him know he was not alone. NFL quarterbacks are the lightning rods of criticism and none have ever been immune, even those with Super Bowl rings on their fingers and chests in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Every quarterback in the NFL…is going to go through adversity, scrutiny…it’s all under a microscope,” said Pederson, who played the position for 12 years with five NFL teams. “It’s something I can help him with. I know the staff can help him and try to put most of that behind him.”
Pederson was quick to add that he and his staff didn’t need to expend a gigantic effort in this regard, since Lawrence had the maturity to keep outside noise at bay.
“He does a good job of compartmentalizing things and keeping things on the back burner and focusing on his job,” Pederson said. “That’s what we expect, and I know he will.”
Lawrence’s criticism, ranging from disgruntled fans on social media to national media jumping off the bandwagon, stems mostly from interceptions inside the opposition’s 10-yard line in 13-6 losses to Houston and last week against Denver.
He also had three turnovers on final possessions in one-possession losses to Washington, Philadelphia and the Broncos.
Laurent has improved
Lost in the rush to hit the second-year quarterback, he’s on track to improve every passing stat of his rookie season — save for the most important, wins.
Last season he threw for 3,641 yards, 12 touchdowns, completed .596 of his passes, had 17 interceptions and 32 sacks, with a passer rating of 71.9. At his current rate, Lawrence will throw for 3,910 yards, 21 touchdowns, .625 completion percentage, 13 interceptions and 25 sacks, and an 84.8 passer rating.
He also led the Jaguars to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the lead against Washington (11:45 remaining in the game), Indianapolis (2:44) and the Broncos (3:54) only to see the defense give it all back to him. right now. four TD drives totaling 314 yards.
However, every NFL quarterback’s metric will be a winner and the Jags’ record is the same in eight games as last season at this point.
Lawrence isn’t the only one struggling among what was thought to be a standout quarterback class of 2021, either — and has better numbers this season in most categories than his counterparts.
While the New York Jets are 4-1 with Zach Wilson as their starter, he has just three touchdown passes and five interceptions. He is the only first-round quarterback drafted in 2021 with a winning record so far this season.
Mac Jones was benched at New England and is 2-3 as a starter, with three touchdown passes and seven interceptions. The 49ers’ Trey Lance is out for the season with an ankle injury and is 2-2 as a starter in the four career games he has played.
The Bears are 3-5 under Justin Fields.
Lawrence has more TD passes (10), yards (1,840) and a better passer rating (84.8) than any of the 2021 first-round rookie quarterbacks. Only Jones has a better completion percentage (0.659 versus 0.624 for Lawrence).
The team stays together
Lawrence said the locker room remains unified.
“There’s definitely frustration and the guys are talking about it, but I think that’s a good thing about our team is that the guys are communicating,” he said. “You don’t smile, act like it’s okay because it’s not. Everyone’s p—d and frustrated but not at each other. There’s no finger pointing but we all understand and have had this dialogue about what we need to do…we just need to go do it.
If Lawrence is going through a crisis of confidence, it’s the feeling that he let his teammates down with mistakes in crucial situations.
“I know I didn’t give us the best chance to win and I’m disappointed about that,” he said. “Guys are working too hard for that. What I can do is play my best football to get ahead.”
Pederson said he had advice for Lawrence based on his playing days and trying to help Carson Wentz, whom he coached in Philadelphia.
Wentz and Pederson both faced heavy criticism in the two seasons after the Eagles won the Super Bowl, when Wentz was 17-21-1 as a starter.
Pederson was fired and Wentz was shipped to Indianapolis after the 2020 season.
“I think, number one, you have to be honest with the player,” Pederson said. “You have to have a constructive dialogue with him and really with all your players and your team. I never want to be someone who wants to try to coat anything. We’re going to work on everything together, and that’s what that we are pulling ourselves out of everything we are in and continuing to improve.
Lawrence agreed that getting out of the Jags’ rut will, like everything in football, be a team effort.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself and in this team, so I just blocked [the criticism] and I just try to do my job the best I can every day,” Lawrence said. “I really only care about the opinions of my coaches, my teammates and of course myself.”
Contact Garry Smits at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GSmitter