Trevor Lawrence went to Jacksonville as the Jaguars' first-ever No. 1 overall pick. His plan to bring the Jags to relevance was derailed by Urban Meyer in Year 1, but things were supposed to turn around in 2022 with Doug Pederson.
Almost halfway through the season, Lawrence has shown the sort of linear progression you'd expect for such a heralded pick. The Jags are 2-6 after their 21-17 loss to Denver in London, and Lawrence knows his play must improve after a two-interception performance.
"I've got to play better, and I'll leave it at that," Lawrence told reporters after the game. "I didn't play well enough today to win."
Lawrence has thrown six interceptions this season. All six have come in the red zone or in the final two minutes of a one-score game.
Against Denver, Lawrence threw a terrible interception in the end zone, just 1 yard away from scoring in the second quarter. Later, trailing by four points with less than 2 minutes left in the game, the potential game-winning drive ended as soon as it started with an interception.
"We're just going to continue to grow. We're going to grow together," head coach Doug Pederson said after the game. "I just told him to keep his head up, stay confident. I want to put the ball back in his hands and just show the trust that we have, that I have, in him and that the team has. He knows that we've got to be better in a few situations, but again, those are really good learning opportunities for Trevor."
The Jaguars have yet to win a game this season when they commit a turnover. After going 2-4 in one-score games last year, the Jags are 0-6 in games decided by eight or fewer points.
And while Lawrence has been one of the league's worst fourth-quarter quarterbacks, his play in the final four minutes of halves is most concerning.
In the final four minutes of the second and fourth quarters, Lawrence is 34-of-68 for 331 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Only rookie Kenny Pickett has thrown more interceptions. He's also going for the big play, with only Aaron Rodgers attempting more throws of 15 plus yards in the air. And his 50.6 passer rating is the third-worst among qualified passers.
There shouldn't have been realistic expectations of playoffs or bust for the Jaguars this year, but what the Jags and Lawrence are doing right now qualifies as below expectation.
The latest trade deadline rumblings
The Broncos are very interested in getting more draft picks in 2023. Trading Bradley Chubb would be painful, but there's clearly interest around the league. Sources I talk to are split on whether Chubb or Jerry Jeudy is more likely to be dealt. There doesn't seem to be much desire league-wide for tight end Albert Okwuegbunam at the moment.
Speaking of the trade deadline, the NFL doesn't want teams to nakedly buy draft picks, and that's been the case ever since the league allowed Brock Osweiler to be dealt for a second-round pick. But the Bears essentially bought a fourth-rounder for the $7.1 million they're eating in the Robert Quinn deal, and something like that will have to be done if Brandin Cooks is moved by Tuesday's deadline. Cooks' $18 million base salary in 2023 is guaranteed already. A team wishing to acquire Cooks will either have to be willing to take that on or have Houston eat a large portion of it, but the latter option would require a higher draft pick.
Ready for more venting from Vikings' Peterson
Peterson took some incredible joy in his victory over his former team this week — including poking fun at Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray's video-game habits. Peterson said after the game he never got a phone call from GM Steve Keim upon not being retained with the Cardinals, who drafted him No. 5 overall in 2011.
In a rather explosive and curious moment, he revealed he once (or perhaps more than once?) came to his locker and saw a printed email from a season-ticket holder complaining about his level of play. Peterson said the email had been sent to "the owner." And one must presume it had been placed at his locker intentionally for some sort of motivational tactic.
McFadden and Peterson will record the podcast Tuesday and it will drop Wednesday. Ace producer Eric Deberardinis won't be able to get it out quickly enough.
More insider notes from Week 8
- The Minnesota Vikings may clinch the NFC West while you're still hanging Christmas decorations. The Vikings are now 6-1 after the rest of the division lost Sunday. Green Bay and Chicago are 3-5 and the 1-6 Lions may have the No. 1 overall pick next spring.
- I don't see why the Panthers don't keep rolling with P.J. Walker next week against the Bengals. Walker looked pedestrian (get it?) in the first half before turning it on after halftime. The offense is simply better with Walker over anything we've seen so far from Baker Mayfield. The team is playing better and harder for interim head coach Steve Wilks and folks I talk to in the building know that.
- I was surprised to see Frank Reich be so conservative Sunday. He kicked two field goals from fourth-and-3 and fourth-and-2. On fourth-and-1 from his own 34, with 2:47 left in the game and with Washington holding all three of its timeouts, he decided to punt to the Commanders. Each decision on its own I could possibly understand, but all three? He's gone for it seven times this year, below the league average of 10 and tied for 23rd in the league. The Colts had the seventh-most fourth-down attempts in 2020 and 2021 combined.