Injuries to four of the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ five starting offensive linemen nearly convinced coach Urban Meyer to not play quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the preseason finale against Dallas on Sunday, but the need for Lawrence and the first-team offense to get rolling made him change his mind.
It turned out to be the correct decision.
Lawrence completed 11 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns in three drives with the first-team offense in the Jaguars’ 34-14 victory at AT&T Stadium. Those were the only two touchdowns the unit has scored in the preseason and though it came against Cowboys’ backups, it was just exactly what Meyer wanted to see.
“I made that decision [to play Lawrence] and there was a lot of angst about that but he has to play,” Meyer said.
Lawrence led a 68-yard drive that he capped with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Pharoh Cooper and included a 38-yard throw to Phillip Dorsett on the sideline. The Jaguars’ second drive ended on Lawrence’s only incompletion, but he then led a 67-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to LaViska Shenault.
“I felt good,” Lawrence said. “I thought we had a good game plan. Honestly, it’s all about execution, though. I think we had a good game plan last week too. We just didn’t execute it. … It doesn’t matter what you run, if everybody’s on the same page and everybody knows it, you’re going to play well.
“We felt that today. We were all on the same page. We communicated well. We kept it simple, and then for me just being accurate, making quick decisions, getting the ball out of my hand, and letting our guys make plays, and that was the difference. Run game was great, too, so it was awesome.”
With left tackle Cam Robinson (ankle), left guard Andrew Norwell (elbow), center Brandon Linder (knee) and right guard A.J. Cann (reserve/COVID-19 list) out for the game, right tackle Jawaan Taylor was the only starter to play. The Jaguars started rookie Walker Little at left tackle, second-year player Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms at left guard, veteran backup Tyler Shatley at center, and fourth-year Will Richardson, Jr. at right guard.
Robinson, Linder and Norwell are expected back for the Sept. 12 opener against Houston.
The Jaguars’ first-team offense had scored just three points in the first two preseason games and Lawrence had completed 20 of 32 passes for 184 yards in the losses to Cleveland and New Orleans. After naming Lawrence the starter for the season Wednesday, Meyer said he wanted to see the offense “score some damn points.”
The Jaguars scored on their opening possession and the first-team offense compiled 159 yards in its three drives. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell mixed in elements of the spread offense that Lawrence played in at Clemson: some quick throws, bubble screens and rollouts.
“It’s a good feeling — a lot better feeling coming into the locker room today as opposed to this time last week,” Lawrence said. “Just one step in the right direction. Got to keep getting better. Now they’re going to count for real. Just putting everything we have into getting ready for Houston. Built a lot of confidence going into the season. It’s nice to finish the preseason with a game like that.”