The Jacksonville Jaguars defense has been waiting, biding their time, watching, gathering intel…and as the club adjourns for the summer, saying goodbye until they reconvene for training camp in six weeks, the defense leaves rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence with a message.
“The defense, when they let us loose,” teased corner Shaquill Griffin, “it’s on and popping, so I’m excited for him.”
To this point, the defense has been reigned in, purposely told to keep their foot off the gas for not only Lawrence, but the entire offense during offseason work. This is typical of the NFL offseason, allowing for more shell work that avoids the risk of serious injury.
That of course means it’s hard for coaches to get an accurate representation of how their quarterback will react in certain situations. Head Coach Urban Meyer wants to put Lawrence in uncomfortable situations now to prepare him for the learning curve that comes with the NFL. And after giving him time to learn the playbook during offseason workouts, that’s the plan for the coming training camp.
“It’s our job, to get him in those situations as much as possible and we have not been able to do that much,” Meyer explained on Monday. “Once again, you’re not allowed to be in those competitive [situations] where the defense is actually breaking on the ball hard, they’re laid off right now. So, that will be something that will be instrumental in training camp when we start.”
Allowing the defense to finally break on Lawrence’s ball, especially, will be what staff and players believe best prepares their No. 1 overall pick for his first season in the pros. And as Griffin sees it, giving Lawrence as tough a training camp as possible is the defense's job to ensure a successful season.
“I feel like what’s going to be different is the speed, maybe the breaking. Understanding that he knows, especially with us, we’re going to be a defensive backroom where we’re going to switch things up, we’re going to make things look different. So, when it comes to Trevor elevating his game, it’s staying poised, being a little more patient than he was in college.
“The good thing is he’s going to be going against one of the best defenses in the league. I’m saying that now because we’re going to work him and we want the same thing from him. We’re talking about having one of the best quarterbacks in the league. We want to get that same type of work. We want to push him…the main thing is just having him ready to compete.”
Even though there are areas to work on and through before the season, what Lawrence has flashed thus far continues to amaze Griffin and teammates each day. Griffin has been in the league for four years now (heading into his fifth season) and spent the past four years playing with Russell Wilson at the Seattle Seahawks. That means he’s also been playing in the hardest division in the league, the NFC West, which has boasted quarterbacks Wilson, Kyler Murray, Jarrod Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo, the latter two of whom took their teams to a Super Bowl during Griffin’s time in the division.
In other words, he’s seen competent quarterback play, he’s seen inspiring quarterback play and he’s jaw-dropping quarterback play. And now, he can’t stop bragging about what he’s seen from Trevor Lawrence.
“When you see him throw, so even if I’m out on the sideline, I’m watching him throw to different receivers. The rotation of the ball, the timing, the way he’s putting it there, away from everybody, it’s just insane to see that so early in a quarterback. You’re talking about coming in the league with so much high hopes and he’s proving it. That’s why I’m so excited for him.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for training camp to go for the ball. I can’t wait for that. But I wouldn’t have Trevor change too much besides staying who he is, staying poised, being more patient in the pocket, going though all his checks, and just reading everything.”
Meyer admitted watching Lawrence try to fit balls into impossibly tight windows, “is a concern,” but he also knows as the Heisman finalist becomes more comfortable with the speed of the game, the proper adjustments in that area will be made. The complete trust in Lawrence’s ability to make that happen—and feasibly by the beginning of the season—is what has excited Griffin so much about the future of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“The things that I’ve been seeing, the improvements, like I said, the patience. I’m starting to see that more now. If he’s scrambling out the pocket and he’s trying to make a play, he’s letting things develop, he’s letting receivers get open. They know that’s what it takes and they know there’s a lot of great scrambling quarterbacks who can sting plays.
"I’m starting to see things like that from him. And like I said, he’s young. It’s very early, and for him to pick up on it now, I can only imagine what he’ll accomplish going to the next day or two going into training camp, the knowledge that he’s going to gain.
“It’s so much that he’s going to learn and it’s so much that we’re going to help with. So, like I said, I’m truly excited, I know there’s a lot of people out there excited to see Trevor, but understand this team is very excited for him, rooting for him and we’re behind him 110 percent.”