PHILADELPHIA - Perhaps the best indication of just what a disaster Urban Meyer was in just 13 games as the coach in Jacksonville was the reset in public perception when it came to Trevor Lawrence.
Pre-Meyer, Lawrence was the consensus best-quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck.
Some in the league went even farther back than that to describe the Unicorn-like nature of the 6-foot-6, 213-pounder’s skill set. One former NFL GM told SI.com’s Eagles Today that Lawrence was the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning and another personnel executive went back even further to John Elway.
Post-Meyer, too many fans forgot who Lawrence was as a prospect.
When Meyer left the building, coaches were salivating to get their hands on that lump of clay and the Jags did the prudent thing by bringing in Doug Pederson to tutor the now second-year pro.
Pederson and Lawrence and the rest of the first-place Jaguars will visit the undefeated Eagles on Sunday (1 p.m./CBS).
Much like he did in Philadelphia with Carson Wentz, Pederson has built a QB incubator for the prized prospect surrounding Lawrence with the coach’s own expertise when it comes to the position as well as offensive coordinator Press Taylor, quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy, and passing game coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
Through three games, Lawrence has looked like a No. 1 overall pick, completing 77-of-111 passes for 772 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception for a 103.1 passer rating. The Clemson product is one of just seven NFL signal callers who are above the 100.0 thresholds and he and Kansas City superstar Patrick Mahomes are the only QBs with at least five TD passes and one-or fewer interceptions this season.
Lawrence was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Jags’ 38-10 drubbing of the Los Angeles Chargers.
“It just shows that he is progressing, number one,” Pederson said. “I think the guys around him are playing extremely well, the offensive line and really everybody on offense. It’s part of the progression of our offense and the steps that we need to to be a great offense in this league.
"We’re not there yet, but it’s a step in the right direction. He understands, too, that he can’t get that type of recognition without the guys around him.”
To get a beat on what Lawrence is as a player with the Jags set to visit Philadelphia on Sunday SI.com’s Eagles Today tracked down the two players on the roster most familiar with the emerging star, his former Clemson teammates K’Von Wallace and Mario Goodrich.
As defensive backs, both Wallace and Goodrich had a unique insight into Lawrence because they used to practice against him.
Interestingly, both went back to Lawrence’s days as a freshman when he arrived at Clemson as a five-star recruit out of Cartersville, Georgia High School in 2018 with Wallace noting a physical trait and Goodrich remembering how advanced the QB was when it came to his football IQ.
“His first day, his first play, I’ll never forget it,” said Wallace. “In practice, first play. It was 11-on-11 and he had a play-action pass when he was booting to the right. He launched it 65 yards, just flicking his wrist. He didn’t even step into it. He was running and launched it 65 yards. That was probably the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, especially from a freshman quarterback. .. it was 65 yards on the money.
“That was when I knew he was gonna be something special no matter what.”
Goodrich came in with the same freshman class as Lawrence and the two were national champions together at the end of their first year in college.
“I mean as a freshman coming in, his [football] IQ was up there,” Goodrich said. “Like he already knew what throws and stuff to make. … you could always see it when we first came in together He was always a leader. He always broke down the huddle and stuff, ‘Come on guys, let’s get better today,’ but you could just see his vision and where he wants to go.
“And he was pretty dominant as a quarterback.”
Moving forward with sound coaching from Pederson and Co., it seems like the only thing between Lawrence and stardom is experience.
“The sky’s the limit for that guy,” said Wallace. “He’s been playing football for a very long time and has been dominating for a very long time, high school, college, and now the NFL. It was just a matter of time.
“...Now you get to see what Trevor is really about.”
John McMullen covers the NFL and the Eagles for SI's Eagles Today and JAKIB Media. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL, and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow John on Twitter: @JFMcMullen.
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