JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) have lost 20 games in a row, the second-longest losing streak in NFL history.
The head coach was caught behaving inappropriately with a woman that wasn’t his wife in a bar in a pair of viral videos.
The revamped defense is on pace to be marginally better than it was last season, when it allowed the most points and yards in franchise history.
The one bright spot, though, is rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has progressed steadily in the season’s first five weeks and given the franchise hope that better days are ahead.
In truth, that’s really the key to how to the Jaguars’ 2021 season should be measured. Not in wins or losses – and it doesn’t look like there are going to be many victories – but rather on the progress Lawrence makes.
If Lawrence walks off the field after the regular-season finale against Indianapolis and there is no doubt he’s going to be a true franchise quarterback, then it’s a success.
If there are misgivings … then not so much.
So far, though, it’s trending toward the former.
“I see so much growth from him,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “I see so much in leadership. I see so much in his decision-making, his accuracy, his trust. The best quarterbacks should coordinate a defense, so the best quarterbacks should be able to go coordinate the defense, and I see that happening. I see his knowledge of defense with [QBs coach/passing game coordinator Brian] Schottenheimer doing a really good job with his progress.
“He’s very comfortable, and I’m going to add this: He’s an absolute warrior. I mean he is a competitive maniac.”
There just weren’t going to be a lot of victories this season for Jacksonville. This wasn’t going to be one of those worst-to-first seasons that have happened at least once in 18 of the past 20 seasons. The Jaguars were 1-15 last season, added 10 new starters, and are one of the youngest teams in the league. Four, five or six victories was realistic, especially with a rookie quarterback -- no matter how talented he is.
So the 2021 campaign had to be about Lawrence, and the early returns are positive.
Lawrence got off to rocky start in the first three weeks: 54.2% completions, 669 yards, 9 turnovers (2 fumbles), and 5 touchdown passes. The past two weeks, however: 70.2% completions, 477 yards, 1 interception, 1 TD pass, and 2 rushing TDs. Not coincidentally, the Jaguars’ best chances to win have come in the past two weeks.
Lawrence’s improved play is because of two reason: cutting down turnovers and being more patient. The latter was something Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell stressed in the first three weeks. They wanted Lawrence to take more of the underneath throws, especially when the defense was playing two deep safeties, instead of looking for the big play all the time and forcing the ball down the field.
“I think that's where I'm getting better: Playing smart, don't force it,” Lawrence said. “If they want to just bail out of there and take your shots away, then we can find stuff underneath.
“… I'm playing a lot smarter ball. I think I've been more accurate. Work the pocket better, situational football has been a lot better. The past two games have been my best as far as decisions go and just completion percentage, accuracy, all those things. I think those are my two best games, so that says a lot, that I feel like I'm getting better every week.”
That’s the feeling inside the locker room too. Linebacker Damien Wilson said Lawrence’s improvement from Week 1 is noticeable, but he expected to see that, based on what he saw from Lawrence in training camp.
“He really has been jumping off the tape as of late,” Wilson said. “I kind of knew it would be a matter of experience. The more games he gets under his belt, the better he is going to get.
“I remember our Super Bowl run [after the 2019 season] we were down by three scores against the Titans, and it was the third quarter, and we came back and won that game. Actually, we were down in every playoff game we ever had that year and we came back and won them all, Super Bowl included. You just feel like you are never out of a game [with Mahomes]; and with Trevor, you start to get that sense a little bit.”
Clearly, Lawrence has a long way to go before he has the chance to get to Mahomes’ level, but Lawrence isn’t thinking about that or Super Bowls or Pro Bowls or MVPs. Or even if he is where he wants to be in his progress or what he wants to look like as a quarterback when the season ends.
He just wants to start winning some games.
“Something that I've always tried to do, especially since college, since I can remember, is just get better every week,” Lawrence said. “It's a long season [and] you can't go back and change anything. I've had some bad plays this year, but I can't go back and change those.
"And just realizing, you learn every week. And as long as I keep getting better, I really feel like at the end of the year, we're going to be we're going to be: in a good situation. And we're going to take advantage of a lot of the situations that are going to come to us from me playing well."