JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars began anew Monday morning with the first official training camp practice of the post-Urban Meyer era.
There’s a new head coach at the helm in Super Bowl winner Doug Pederson. The roster made significant, albeit expensive, additions during the offseason. And the Jags still have one of the highest-rated prospects in NFL history under center.
If they can rid the stench of a 3-14 campaign in 2021 and all the off-field problems that plagued it, Jacksonville could manage an impressive turnaround.
“As a team, I think we have a lot to prove,” Lawrence said. “Just didn't have a great year last year, and I know the guys in this locker room are ready to prove some stuff this year.”
It starts with the second-year quarterback out of Clemson, who excited the city of Jacksonville so much leading up to last season that fans banded together through Twitter to buy the No. 1 overall pick and his wife Marissa a $300 toaster off their wedding registry. Lawrence started all 17 games and completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 3,641 yards with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
But Meyer — whose multitude of missteps led to his firing after less than a year on the job — stifled Lawrence’s rookie campaign, to the point where Lawrence publicly questioned the coach’s decision to bench running back James Robinson.
Lawrence was much more amiable about Pederson on Monday.
“It’s cool seeing the way he approaches things. He's definitely a player's coach in the sense that he takes care of us,” Lawrence said. “But there's a certain expectation, and he knows what it takes to win and to win a championship. So there's that expectation, which you need from your head coach, and a standard that you have to uphold.”
Pederson, a former NFL quarterback who coached the Philadelphia Eagles to a championship in Super Bowl LII, expressed hope for a Year 2 jump from Lawrence.
“The fact that he played the entire season, we can build off of that and really expect, you know, a kind of sky's-the-limit mentality with him,” Pederson said. “He's in the same frame of mind, as well. He wants to take that next step not only in his growth, but obviously leading this football team. So today's Day 1 of that, and we're just excited to be on the grass with him.”
Lawrence said he feels much more confident and comfortable going into this season than he did last year. He’s working on turnovers specifically, finding a balance between making plays and being smart. He threw the ball away 17 times last season, tied with Matthew Stafford for the most in the league.
The Jaguars acquired a number of players over the offseason to help alleviate the pressure on Lawrence. Christian Kirk, whose stunning deal kickstarted this offseason’s spate of wide receiver movement, signed with Jacksonville for $72 million over four years, equipping Lawrence with a new target after the departure of DJ Chark. Receiver Zay Jones (three years, $24 million) and Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff (three years, $49.5 million) are also among the new offensive assets.
Another weapon expected to make his NFL debut is running back Travis Etienne, the 2021 first-round pick who sat out all last season with a Lisfranc injury. While Robinson is targeting a mid-August return from an Achilles injury, Etienne could play an integral role in Jacksonville’s redemption arc.
If any moment Monday demonstrated different vibes around the Jaguars this season, it might have been Etienne crashing his former Clemson teammate’s media availability.
“Sorry to interrupt, but how does it feel to have Etienne in the backfield drying his gloves with your towel again?” he jokingly asked Lawrence in the third person.
“Just excited to have him back,” Lawrence said with a smile. “He’s going to add a very explosive element to our offense, so it's going to help us a lot. Getting back to some winning around here, so we're excited.”