As being Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterback (QB) Trevor Lawrence’s biggest and most outspoken critic in America, I came under some fire this past week after his most recent preseason performance against the Dallas Cowboys.
11/12, 139 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Social media was buzzing as was the media:
Cowboys learn how special Jaguars rookie QB Trevor Lawrence could be – Sports Illustrated
NFL world reacts to Trevor Lawrence’s phenomenal performance vs Dallas Cowboys – Sportsnaut
Trevor Lawrence lights up Cowboys in preseason finale – Yahoo Sports
The list of headlines goes on ….
It absolutely appeared to be an impressive stat line for Lawrence, but was it really?
There was no doubt Lawrence desperately needed to establish some sort of rhythm after his dismal showings in the first two preseason games against Cleveland and New Orleans. In those games he looked out of sorts and he struggled to even be able to put together a drive, going 5/13 on third down conversions. Not to mention, when he was at the helm, his leadership could only muster up a field goal.
I went back and pulled the full game film of Jacksonville vs. Dallas off of NFL Game Pass and I discovered something very interesting.
Cowboys’ starting defensive unit against Jacksonville:
DE #56 Bradlee Anae
LDT #99 Justin Hamilton
RDT #98 Quinton Bohanna
RDE #97 Ron’Dell Carter
LB #57 Luke Gifford
LB #48 Jabril Cox
CB #24 Kelvin Joseph
CB #40 Nahshon Wright
NKL #31 Maurice Canady
FS #28 Malik Hooker
SS #38 Israel Mukuamu
There is one commonality…
They are all back-ups, and not just second-string back-ups either…
Dallas sat out all of their starters in their preseason finale against Jacksonville.
In fact, when I look at Dallas’ depth chart, (DE) Anae, (LB) Cox, (CB) Joseph, (NKL) Canady and (SS) Mukuamu are all currently listed as third stringers (espn.com).
(LDT) Hamilton and (RDE) Carter are not even with the team anymore, they got cut after this game was played.
So the question begs to be asked, were Lawrence’s stats really as impressive against Dallas as we were led to believe?
I think the answer to that question is no.
7/11 of Dallas’ starters were either third stringers or they got cut.
Dallas only had four guys in there on defense that are good enough to even be 2nd string back-ups.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville had four starters in the beginning of the game (RT #75, Jawaan Taylor, RB #30 James Robinson, WR #10 Laviska Shenault Jr, and of course #16 Lawrence). They also had four 2nd string guys in there (LT #72 Walker Little, C #69 Tyler Shatley, RG #76 Will Richardson and TE #80 James O’Shaughnessy). Three of the players Jacksonville started in the game are no longer with the team either.
However, there are several bad match-ups sprinkled in here and there against a Dallas defense that was not that good to begin with. They ranked 27th in the league last year.
Here is something even more telling, out of Lawrence’s 11 “awe-inspiring” completions, five of them were completely uncontested, in other words, the Jaguars’ players were uncovered. Out of Lawrence’s two touchdowns, the first was against #40 Wright (2nd string) and the second touchdown was against #33 Deonte Burton, who has since been cut when he was matched up against starting receiver Shenault who scored. Great match-up (I am joking).
On the big 38-yard pass completion to WR #13 Phillip Dorsett II, Dallas CB #24 Joseph might as well bought a ticket to the game and watched as a fan. The “coverage” was laughable as he all but let the pass be completed as he purposely seemed to pull away from Dorsett and instead watch the ball be caught.
It is probably the case that Dallas’ back-up defense is better than any college team Lawrence ever faced, I still think the answer to that question, were Lawrence’s stats really as impressive against Dallas as we were led to believe? The answer remains a resounding no.
We will all get to see the real deal week one when Lawrence goes up against highly respected defensive coordinator Lovie Smith and the Houston Texans. Smith is known for being one of the inventors of the “Tampa 2,” defense and he promises to throw things at Lawrence that will rattle his body, mess up his hair and shake his confidence.
I still feel very comfortable with my 90 percent bust rate I put on Lawrence prior to the draft.
Bottom line: those numbers he put up against Dallas were not all what they were glorified to be.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.