The Buffalo Bills get to take another trip down to Florida as they face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. This will be the first time the Bills will go against rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. To preview the game we talked to our friend Ryan O’Bleness over at Big Cat Country.
1) How would you rank the performance of Trevor Lawrence in his rookie season?
He’s definitely had his ups and downs. I think with how much hype Lawrence had coming into the league, it’s easy to forget that he is a rookie with just seven NFL games under his belt. He’s going to continue to improve, though. During the first three games of the season, Lawrence really struggled. He threw five touchdowns and had nine turnovers (seven interceptions and two fumbles lost), while completing just 54.2 percent of his passes, and averaging 223 passing yards per game. He was forcing things downfield, not making good decisions and not getting a lot of help from his teammates. Again, rookie growing pains should be expected.
Then in the next three games, Lawrence looked much improved. He threw just one interception in that stretch, while completing 66.3 percent of his passes ,and bumped up his passing yardage to 265.3 yards per game, while his yards per attempt numbers also increased. He also showed his mobility and elusiveness during that span, and all of the skills that he was so highly-touted for were on full display. It looked like he was developing nicely.
Then last week happened against the Seattle Seahawks and the Jaguars looked completely lost as a team. Lawrence struggled, completing 32 of 54 passes (59.3) percent for 238 yards with one touchdown (that came late in the game with the team down 24-0 before the score) and one interception. He had a quarterback rating of just 68.3 and averaged just 4.41 yards per attempt.
I still have complete faith that Lawrence is going to be a great NFL quarterback for many years, and will be one of the league’s best in the foreseeable future, but it’s going to take some time to get there.
2) Will Urban Meyer survive until next season?
For better or worse, yes, I think we will likely see Urban Meyer return next season. Anything could happen between now and then, but Jaguars owner Shad Khan recently said that he ”absolutely” has faith in Meyer and that he feels the team’s desire to win under Meyer. Also, remember that Khan took a risk and put a massive investment into Meyer. He more than likely isn’t going to want to admit defeat on that decision so early on into the process. Obviously, Meyer has had a rocky start to his tenure — from hiring a disgraced strength coach accused of racist and abusive behavior (who then immediately resigned), to the viral video of Meyer in the bar, to poor in-game management and decision-making, etc. He has a lot to learn about the NFL still. With that said, he also was handed a 1-15 roster depleted of talent and should be given more than seven games (and a 1-6 record) to be properly evaluated. With that said, his off-the-field behavior has been a distraction to the team and his decision-making needs to be better. As Meyer gets more acquainted with the NFL, it will be interesting to see if the Jaguars improve or regress as the season moves along, and if the team continues to lose, will Meyer be able to keep the locker room together? Time will tell, but if not, there is a strong possibility he does not return. For now, I expect him to be Jacksonville’s head coach in 2022.
3) The running back room for the Jaguars has been banged up this season and most recently with James Robinson. How will the team try to keep the running game going?
Robinson is “day-to-day” with a heel bruise and did not practice on Wednesday. He only played in eight snaps last week in a blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks and if he is unable to play against the Bills, that is a big time loss for the Jaguars, as Robinson has been arguably the team’s best offensive player.
When Robinson left last week’s game, it was Carlos Hyde who tried to pick up the slack at running back, and while he played 50 offensive snaps, Hyde had just nine carries for 32 yards (3.6 yards per carry), but he did add six catches for 40 yards. Hyde will likely start in Robinson’s place with Dare Ogunbowale checking in when Hyde needs a breather. The team also claimed Devine Ozigbo off of waivers this week, as he returns for his second stint in Jacksonville. I’m not sure how much Ozigbo will play if he’s active, but it’s possible he may get some run since the team is so thin at running back after losing rookie Travis Etienne for the year during the preseason.
The Jaguars have also been banged up along the offensive line with guard A.J. Cann and center Brandon Linder on injured reserve. So potentially without Robinson, and with two starters out on the offensive line, Jacksonville could really struggle to run the football against Buffalo’s tough defensive front.
4) It’s only the first season of the Trevor Lawrence era but what can Jacksonville do to speed-rush the development of their football team?
I think the team needs to add talent around him and the coaching staff needs to do a better job of putting him in a position to have success. Jacksonville has often found itself in negative game scripts, so the play-calling hasn’t done him a lot of favors so far this year, and there have been some questionable decisions from the staff in terms of personnel and play calls in key situations. The Jaguars elected not to make any moves at the trade deadline, so instead of either getting Lawrence some help immediately or trading away some veterans for future draft picks, the Jaguars chose to stand pat with the current roster, which is interesting because this a young, inexperienced roster and the team as a whole has won a grand total of two games since the first game of the 2020 season (2-21 in that span). As I mentioned above, the Jaguars have also dealt with some injuries along the offensive line, so making sure Lawrence — the team’s biggest asset — is protected at all times is paramount for his health and future success.
5) Who has been the Jaguars’ MVP so far this season and who has been the biggest disappointment through almost a half the games?
In my opinion, it has been Robinson, so if he misses this week’s game, expect the offense to struggle. He has recorded 88 carries for 482 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and five touchdowns, while adding 18 catches for 133 yards. He’s provided the spark on offense for the Jaguars when nobody else seemed to step up and continues to be one of the NFL’s great undrafted free agent stories. Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. has also been a nice addition for the Jaguars, as he provides a veteran presence and has caught 33 passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns.
As for disappointment, a lot of players have struggled but I’d have to say wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. He received a lot of hype during training camp, but has impressed so far this season. With D.J. Chark out for the season with an ankle injury, Shenault has had an opportunity to take on a more dominant role in the passing game, but he has yet to do so. He’s had some bad drops and has not yet scored a touchdown this season, while catching 28 passes for 319 yards (11.4 yards per reception). I still love his potential, but it seems like he is becoming an afterthought in the offense after only having four targets last week — behind four other players.