June 20, 2024

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Jaguars coaching staff at odds over Trevor Lawrence’s development; changes expected in offseason

Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft who has shined at every level since he started playing football, is having a rough rookie season with the Jaguars, with his development and how to best bring him along the subject of strong debate within that organization, sources said.

Things came to a head last week, with Lawrence overwhelmed by the Colts, with Indianapolis’s zone-heavy scheme exposing difficulties that have existed in their offense all season. There has been back-and-forth on the staff about how much to rely on the system Lawrence ran during his wildly successful stint at Clemson, with some raising significant concerns about the injury risks that could come with it, sources said.

At a time when Lawrence is struggling to diagnose defenses and read through his progressions, sources said head coach Urban Meyer and others have considered going with more of the simplified RPOs that fueled the Clemson offense. Lawrence rushed for nearly 800 yards and 17 TDs in his final two years in college, but the bigger and faster NFL defenders pose a significant injury risk, and the Bengals’ reliance on empty sets and the agility of 2019 first overall pick Joe Burrow is a cautionary tale that has others within that organization pushing back on a collegiate approach.

Suffice to say, Lawrence’s development is paramount for the entire organization, which has not had strong quarterback play since their expansion years under Mark Brunell, and Meyer’s already controversial rookie year in the NFL would be further marred by any setbacks for the quarterback. At a time when other rookies have taken the league by storm, the Jaguars have yet to unlock Lawrence.

Lawrence was just 3-for-14 for 36 yards in the first half against the Colts, and he finished the game 16 of 35 for just 162 yards. While it’s not uncommon for even the highest-regarded rookie QBs to struggle — such as Peyton Manning — Lawrence has not been advancing as the season goes on despite getting to benefit from one of the best rushing attacks in football.

He is still working to read defenses and get through his progressions and ranks 29th in the NFL against zone defenses (clustered with Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Fields and Sam Darnold), with two touchdowns, five interceptions and a rating of 77.9. Not surprisingly, he is facing zone looks on 71% of his dropbacks. Making adjustments to the blitz has also been a problem for him and the Jaguars as well (Lawrence ranks 32nd in the NFL when blitzed, completing just 44% of his passes with a rating of 54.9). The scope of the offense is constricting, with Lawrence relying almost exclusively on running backs and tight ends in the passing game lately, with receivers not getting the ball since veteran Marvin Jones went down.

Furthermore, there has been tension and turmoil within this staff since the offseason, with Meyer repeatedly making his displeasure with many position coaches known — often in front of players. Sources said it is inevitable that changes are coming to this staff next season, with running backs coach Bernie Parmalee and receivers coach Sanjay Lal often on the receiving end of Meyer’s diatribes, and any concerns with Lawrence’s development could prove problematic for quarterback coach Brian Schottenheimer as well.

Ownership will be closely watching how the rookie fares in the final months of the season.