Wednesday, February 8 2023

Call it a signature moment for Trevor Lawrence

The Jaguars quarterback led a brilliant 10-play, 75-yard game winning drive Sunday as Jacksonville topped Baltimore in a Week 12 thriller at home. Lawrence threw with surgical precision on the series, kept alive by his fourth-and-5 conversion to receiver Marvin Jones. He completed 7-of-9 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown on the possession, plus the game-winning two-point conversion to receiver Zay Jones

Sunday’s showdown against the Ravens had everything, too. Drama. Pressure. Seven lead changes. A star quarterback on the other side in Lamar Jackson. A contest that went down to the wire. And Lawrence delivered for a franchise that has historically fallen short in those types of games; one that has been a laughingstock in NFL for years. 

It begs the question: has Lawrence, the 2021 No. 1 overall pick who came to Jacksonville with extreme expectations, finally arrived? Has he cemented himself as a true franchise quarterback of the future? 

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue against that notion. 

Inconsistency, his biggest knock, has been nonexistent over the last month. 

Since Week 9, Lawrence has arguably been the best quarterback in football, completing 76.8% of his passes (83-of-108) for 815 yards and six touchdowns with zero interceptions. 

“It’s a step in the right direction, you know?” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said Sunday. “I would say these last three games or so, he’s really done a really nice job with our system and our offense. Even a game like (Sunday), again, it wasn’t a perfect game, but statistically speaking, I think he had a pretty good game and took care of the football. He’s heading in the right direction.”

While Lawrence’s last three games are a small sample size, you must take into consideration all the other positive strides he’s made this season.

He won his first career AFC Player of the Week award in Week 3, the highlight of a sizzling two-game span when the Jaguars won back-to-back games in dominant fashion, with Lawrence completing 76.8% of his passes for 497 yards and five touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Lawrence has had six games this season with a passer rating over 100, after just one such game as a rookie. His drastic improvement is undeniable. 

A numerical comparison between the first 11 games of each of his first two seasons:

2021: 231-of-398 (58%) for 2,369 yards and 9 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and a 72.3 passer rating

2022: 256-of-385 (66.5%) for 2,655 yards and 16 touchdowns with 6 interceptions and a 93.6 passer rating 

Lawrence’s clutch performance against the Ravens marked a significant step forward in the former No. 1 overall pick’s development. It’s because the inconsistency that has defined his young career has often showed up in those kinds of moments: situational football, where the execution has to be at its best. 

There was the Eagles game in Week 4, when Lawrence had the ball in his hands — with a chance to lead a game-tying drive and force overtime — only to lose a fumble on the first play of the Jaguars’ last series. There was Week 5 against the Texans, when Lawrence made an ill-advised throw inside the 10 and was intercepted in the end zone by Texans cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. There was Week 8 against the Broncos in London, when he was again picked off in the end zone after telegraphing a pass at the goal line by safety Justin Simmons

Entering Week 12, Lawrence ranked 32nd of 34 qualified quarterbacks in Expected Points Added per dropback in the red zone — while being ranked fifth in EPA per dropback everywhere else on the field, according to TrueMedia. (EPA is an advanced metric that quantifies the value added to a play, taking into account various factors, including down, distance and field position.)

As of Monday, Lawrence is tied for seventh in overall EPA/dropback with the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, who is viewed as an MVP candidate. 

“This guy throws an incredibly good football and he’s smart and he sees the field, and he can make all the throws,” Pederson said Sunday. “You’re just seeing that. You’re just seeing that execution with him and that maturity with him.”

After topping the Ravens, after the brilliant performance that reminded the NFL world why he was regarded as a generational talent coming out of Clemson, Lawrence didn’t necessarily feed into the frenzy about the way he played.

“I’ve always been this guy,” Lawrence said Sunday. “I haven’t always played my best every week, and that’s going to happen sometimes, but I really love the direction that this offense, this team is heading, and we feel really good about who we are, but I’m the same guy.”

Being the “same guy” has him on track to being a game-changing quarterback — in due time. 

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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