There is no bigger star in Jacksonville than No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, even if it is months before he takes his first official snap as the Jaguars' franchise quarterback.
As a result, the Jaguars' May 12 schedule release has more or less become a Lawrence watch. Will any of Lawrence's games get primetime nods on Monday Night Football? Will we see the rookie passer in any Sunday Night Football slots?
The last time the Jaguars played on Monday Night Football was Dec. 5, 2011. The last time they played on Sunday Night Football was Oct. 5, 2008. Few teams have been as ignored in primetime games as the Jaguars, and for good reason. They were scheduled to play on SNF in 2018, but that game was flexed out after the Jaguars had a terrible losing streak to derail their season.
Simply put, no teams have been in the spotlight less than the Jaguars over the last plus-decade. We know that will change with Lawrence, however, as his mere presence adds an abundance of intrigue to every Jaguars game.
So, which opponents are Lawrence set to face in 2021 that will give Jaguars' and national NFL fans alike countless reasons to tune in? We take a look below.
For the record, this exercise is meant to just examine which games are the most intriguing from a Lawrence perspective. The Jaguars have games that won't be on this list that are among the team's most anticipated next year, such as the Los Angeles Rams.
With that said, here are the five most interesting matchups Lawrence is set to take part in during his rookie season.
Vs. the Arizona Cardinals
There are few teams in the NFL with as much similarity to the Jaguars as the Cardinals, at least when it comes to how the team's cores are constructed. Each wields a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback in Kyler Murray and Trevor Lawrence, two of the biggest names to enter the NFL in recent seasons. Each young star is also coached by a former big-name college coach, with Lawrence and the Jaguars being led by former Florida Gators and Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and Meyer and the Cardinals being coached by former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.
On top of all of this, Lawrence would face a revamped defense that has added J.J. Watt and Zaven Collins to its front seven -- a unit that already had Chandler Jones and Isaiah Simmons headlining it. Lawrence vs. any NFL defense will be must-see television in 2021, but the Cardinals' new-look front-seven adds even more intrigue.
Vs. the Miami Dolphins
There are almost too many storylines to track in this one.
For starters, Trevor Lawrence going head-to-head against Tua Tagovailoa has several threads to follow. It would be a rematch of the two's clash in the 2019 National Championship Game, a game in which a true freshman Lawrence led Clemson to a 44-16 victory over Tagovailoa and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Lawrence and his squad got the better of Tagovailoa in their first matchup, but this would be an interesting battle with their professional squads surrounding them instead of Clemson's and Alabama's programs.
Then there is the fact that the two teams who have been accused of tanking to the highest degree over the last two seasons will face off. In 2020, it was Tank For Tua before the Dolphins won several games and before Tagovailoa suffered an injury that played a part in dropping him from consideration as the No. 1 overall pick. In 2021, it was Tank For Trevor that was hurled at the Jaguars from outside forces week in and week out. Neither team actually tried to actively lose, but it would be interesting to see two franchises who have stockpiled picks in recent years clash right after they finally got their quarterbacks.
Finally, there are the prospects of watching Lawrence against the Dolphins' Brian Flores-led defense. Flores' defense is one of the most blitz-happy and exotic schemes in the entire NFL and essentially gives you an idea of just how ready your quarterback is to have the kitchen sink thrown at them play after play. This could be a great measuring stick for Lawrence's rookie season.
Vs. the Buffalo Bills
Much like the Dolphins and Brian Flores' defense offers a strong test for Lawrence to answer as a rookie passer, the Buffalo Bills and head coach Sean McDermott will bring enough challenges to Jacksonville's offense to make this one of the most interesting battles of Lawrence's rookie season. McDermott has turned Buffalo into one of the most consistent, physical, and technically sound defenses in recent seasons, so seeing how Lawrence fares against the Bills would give us a good idea of where he is at as a rookie.
Then there is the quarterback matchup. Yes, quarterbacks don't actually go head-to-head on the field, but they do take alternating turns leading their offenses into battle on each possession. And in this specific duel, we will see two athletic and big-armed quarterbacks clash in Lawrence and Josh Allen. Lawrence and Allen are two of the more naturally talented quarterbacks in the NFL from a strictly physical tools standpoint, so this could end up being a fireworks show on the field.
Vs. the New York Jets
The team Trevor Lawrence was drafted to facing off against the team most thought Lawrence was a virtual lock to land with. The Jets lost out on the chance to draft Lawrence when they won two games over the last weeks of the 2020 regular season, but that only adds to the intrigue now that they can play Lawrence and the Jaguars a year later. The Jets winning those games is already among the biggest "what if? questions in Jaguars history, so seeing Lawrence face off against the team that was supposed to land him will make for a fun lead up to the game.
With that said, the biggest storyline is likely going to the No. 1 overall pick facing off against the No. 2 overall pick in New York's Zach Wilson. Lawrence and Wilson were the consensus top-two picks in mock drafts for the entirety of the offseason, so the two players were compared by fans and pundits alike on a daily basis. That won't stop now that they are in the NFL, especially when they will face off against one another as rookies.
Vs. the New England Patriots
A few different options were considered here, but it should be remembered that the point of this exercise is to examine which matchups are the most interesting when it comes to solely Lawrence and the factors surrounding him. As a result, we give the final slot to the New England Patriots.
For starters, we will either be seeing Lawrence go mano-a-mano with either former No. 1 overall pick and NFL MVP Cam Newton or 2021 first-round pick (and Jacksonville native) Mac Jones at quarterback. Quarterback duels are what gets eyes on the television, and Lawrence against either one of the NFL's best dual threats or a former college star like Jones would be storylines worth tuning into.
Then there is the Bill Belichick factor. New England may not always have a top defense, but they play smart football and throw a lot of different looks at quarterbacks. Belichick's track record against rookie quarterbacks is essentially flawless, so it could be a statement game for Lawrence if he is able to pull off a victory against arguably the greatest coach of all time during his rookie season.