JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence ’s comment before the 2021 NFL draft that he didn’t have a chip on his shoulder created a stir with some wondering if he had what it took to be an elite player.
His rough rookie season changed that. While that -- as well as the “bust” talk -- may not have resulted in a full-blown chip, but Lawrence said it did give him something to prove. And his teammates, as well.
“You kind of hear that all season, all offseason and obviously there's a lot of things that you can't control, but … it puts a little bit of a chip on your shoulder,” Lawrence said in a phone interview with ESPN. “That's how we played the whole  season, our whole team, and we understand that we never really got the respect until probably till the last game of the season. Until we won that playoff game.
“So I think we all played with that, with that edge a little bit. That was something that was good for me, good for us. And I think it helped motivate us.”
The Jaguars’ rally from a 2-6 record to win the AFC South title and victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in a wild-card game after falling behind 27-0 were the high points of the 2022 season.
But, the 27-20 loss to eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City in a divisional playoff is their motivation for the 2023 season.
“We got a little taste of it and we were close, but we all know there's more out there and we all want to be in [the Super Bowl] and that's the ultimate goal,” Lawrence said. “This time last year that was really hard to picture and imagine, but now going through what we did this season, having some of the success we did, having a playoff win, playing Kansas City down to the end and having a shot and just not making enough plays, we know what that feels like and we know we belong.”
Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun hadn’t made the playoffs in his first four NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, so while he did appreciate the postseason experience he’s also upset because he doesn’t feel like the Chiefs are a significantly superior team.
“To be right there with a contender, I feel like we didn’t play our cleanest football,” Oluokun said. “There we were, seven points down at the end of the game. Let’s do what we need to do early in the season so we can be playing our best football that late in the season.
“Going into the offseason and coming into training camp, we are not accepting mediocrity from this team anymore. That's for sure. We know what we are capable of. Teams are going to be ready for us. They know we are force too, and we have to play better than they are expecting.”
The Jaguars turned the ball over twice – including once inside the Kansas City 10-yard line – and receiver Christian Kirk dropped a deep pass that would have put the Jaguars inside the red zone in the playoff loss. The Jaguars couldn’t capitalize on three turnovers and blew a coverage that resulted in an easy touchdown throw in a loss to the Chiefs earlier in the season.
The Jaguars lost both games by seven points and believe they could have won both had they not played so sloppily.
“They understand how good they can be,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. “Some of the same ugly mistakes that showed up in [the playoff loss] were the things that showed up early in the season. Those are the things we have to eliminate. Those are the things we have to move on from in order to win against great football teams like the Chiefs are."
“I think they are disappointed in that more than anything and just coming up a little short.”
Running back Travis Etienne Jr. said the day after the playoff loss that it was hard to look back over the season because he was depressed that it had ended so abruptly. Watching the other playoff games was painful for him, too.
Both of those things are what he’s going to remember when the offseason conditioning program begins – and he hopes his teammates do, too.
“I feel like I’ve got to channel that emotion,” Etienne said. “Guys have to channel that emotion and whenever we get to that situation next year we’ll just approach it totally different.”