Trevor Lawrence may have been one of the hottest high school prospects in football history. He may have been selected first overall in the 2021 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, in the NFL, Lawrence is just another rookie quarterback. Defenses like rookie quarterbacks. After facing the NFL’s very best running backs in the first two weeks, Vance Joseph has a somewhat enjoyable task in Week 3: Containing and exploiting Lawrence.
Lawrence has already endured a mixed start to life in the pros. The talent is there, but the inexperience is evident. A lackluster supporting cast and QB-reliant offensive scheme have presented a tall task for the former Clemson star. Starting 0-2 on the season, Week 3 projects another tough task against the upward-trending Arizona Cardinals. Joseph has a chance to right the ship on defense after a lackluster performance against the Minnesota Vikings last week. Taking advantage of Lawrence is a surefire way to restore faith in a star-studded Cardinals defense.
Arizona Cardinals Should Exploit Trevor Lawrence in Week 3
Trevor Lawrence is a Viable Threat
There’s a reason Lawrence was selected first overall. The Jaguars ‘tanked for Trevor’ because he has the talent to be a franchise quarterback. Even though the Jaguars have started 0-2, and Lawrence has had a rough going, ‘Sunshine’ has shown enough that opposing defenses should be wary of his ability.
Urban Meyer’s offense asks a lot of his young quarterback, utilizing a ton of spread and five-wide concepts. Screens and crossers are also featured heavily in Meyer’s West Coast-inspired scheme. The loss of Travis Etienne, Lawrence’s college teammate, has also hindered Jacksonville’s run game; Lawrence has thrown the ball 84 times in two games.
He has excellent pocket awareness and does a solid job of keeping his eyes downfield. His somewhat wiry frame hides an athletic ability that allows him to maneuver both within and outside of the pocket. He remains a passing threat throughout plays, constantly looking for targets, even when scrambling. Given time, Lawrence’s deep ball is undoubtedly the best weapon in his arsenal, throwing impressively accurate passes downfield.
Keeping it Simple is Anything But
Lawrence has faced two predominantly zone-oriented defenses in his first two games and has struggled. His inability to quickly diagnose defensive coverages has slowed down Jacksonville’s offensive scheme significantly.
He has also had some issues connecting consistently with his receivers. The group is underwhelming; sophomore Laviska Shenault is the most exciting of the bunch. Especially on in-breaking routes, Lawrence has struggled with short completions so far in the NFL.
It is unclear whether it is an issue of ball placement on the part of the quarterback or poor catching by the receivers, but, over two weeks, it has been a recurring problem. Lawrence has therefore been primarily targeting static receivers, which has severely limited Jacksonville’s RAC potential.
Lawrence’s ability to keep his eyes downfield projects well for his future in the NFL, but he sometimes does so to his detriment. He has tended to drift backward and sideways under pressure in an attempt to make downfield plays rather than taking advantage of rushing lanes. He is a capable runner, but perhaps an unwilling one.
Lawrence has playmaking ability but is still learning when to throw the ball away. He has been guilty of forcing the ball downfield, especially throwing from off-base platforms outside the pocket. A high-risk, high-reward passer as a rookie, Lawrence’s performance has yet to align with his ability in the NFL.
Exploiting Trevor Lawrence Can Create Much-Needed Turnovers For the Arizona Defense
Schematically, Arizona’s man-coverage defense may seem favorable for Lawrence after struggling against zone schemes. However, Joseph disguises zone schemes into his defense and dials up aggressive pressures upfront. The trick for Arizona’s defense against Lawrence will be to play on the quarterback’s playmaking ability. The Cardinals have to move Lawrence off-base and force playmaking attempts. He will push the ball downfield when pressed, and Arizona can take advantage of this tendency.
While Lawrence’s deep accuracy is excellent, his medium and short passes have been poor. On medium routes, in particular, floating linebackers have been a nightmare for him, constantly causing inaccurate overthrows in the middle of the field. With Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins patrolling the core of Arizona’s defense, expect this trend to continue.
Arizona’s defense is good enough that this fledgling Jacksonville offense shouldn’t pose too much of a threat. Lawrence is a talented player but has neither the experience nor weapons to outplay Arizona’s stars. The Cardinals can benefit from Lawrence’s inherent playmaking tendencies by disguising coverages and forcing improvisation. Baiting Lawrence into leaning on his downfield ability will be vital in creating turnover opportunities for Arizona. In a game that favorites the Cardinals by 7.5 points, Arizona’s defense can not only contain but should work on exploiting Lawrence and contribute to a potentially dominating display against the Jaguars.
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