The best bit about this National Football League quiet time for Trevor Lawrence? The thought that next season could be truly something worth looking forward to for the 23-year-old quarterback and his Jacksonville Jaguars squad.
The worst bit? Waiting for it to arrive.
Lawrence is understandably bullish — as are many neutral observers — on the Jags’ chances of making a splash in 2023. During a conversation a few days before the Super Bowl, Lawrence told me he could see real similarities between where his team sits now, and where the Philadelphia Eagles were 12 months ago.
“One hundred percent,” Lawrence said. “We have all the pieces that we need to make a run [like them]. That’s our goal. We are not going to settle for less than that. That’s the goal moving forward. After the experience we had and being able to make it the divisional round and have a chance to win that game, guys are going to use that as fuel.
“That was a big part of this year, proving and showing that we belong. I think we’ve shown that and it’s really exciting, the years to come, next year especially, for what we have the opportunity to do.”
Jacksonville won five straight to recover from a shaky start and take control of the AFC South away from the fast-fading Tennessee Titans. Then, in the first playoff game of Lawrence’s career and the first for the franchise since the 2017 season, he engineered a storming second-half comeback to beat the Los Angeles Chargers after trailing by 27 points.
Jaguars shock Chargers by erasing 27-0 deficit
Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars came back from 27 points down to beat the Chargers 31-30 in the wild-card round. Trevor Lawrence threw four touchdown passes to lead the third-largest comeback in playoff history.
Then, against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jags were in contention before the opportunity for a huge upset slipped away.
The comparisons to the Eagles are striking. Like Jacksonville this season, Philly went 9-8 to squeeze into the playoffs in 2021, then went on a tear in the campaign just passed, culminating in a narrow Super Bowl LVII defeat to the Chiefs that went down to the wire.
Lawrence understands that just like Jalen Hurts‘ significant growth and development had a major role in the Eagles’ stepping up, the same responsibility now falls on his shoulders in Florida.
“If I can just take a step this year like I did from year one to two, it is going to give us a good shot to win every week,” he added. “That’s the only goal of this whole thing, to win.
“We had one big playoff win, a comeback win, then a tough loss against the Chiefs. Both those games give us a lot to learn from. When we get back in those positions having had that experience is really going to help us.”
None of Jacksonville’s divisional rivals ended the campaign with any kind of momentum. The Titans and the Indianapolis Colts both went into the offseason having lost seven straight, neither having recorded a victory since mid-November. The Houston Texans went 3-13-1 and were the second-worst team in football, then fired Lovie Smith.
However, Lawrence is refusing to take anything for granted, despite the new positivity surrounding the organization.
“It starts over every year, that’s the one good and bad thing,” he said. “Nothing carries over. Everyone starts the same level, and you’ve got to play the whole season and earn your opportunity in the postseason.
“Having said that, I really love what we are building here, the culture. We have a ton of great experience from this season to build off of, the chemistry we have with the group and the things we learned.”
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Lawrence spoke to me ahead of his appearance in the inaugural P&G Battle of the Paddles table tennis event, which pitted eight NFL stars against each other in ping pong action during Super Bowl week.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Trent Taylor ultimately won the event but Lawrence’s skills were solid, and the QB said that the presence of a table tennis set-up in the Jags’ locker room had been an underrated difference maker this year.
“My rookie year we didn’t have a table, this past year we did,” he said. “If there’s not one in there, guys will just be on their phones. There’s no downside to it. It gives guys a chance to bond and get to know each other and build that chemistry. We play a lot, in between meetings, after practice, before practice, whenever we have some downtime.”
Overall, the vibe in Jacksonville could scarcely be more different compared to the barren recent years, with just 15 wins in the four seasons prior to 2022. The fresh optimism, largely due to the composed development of the man under center, is highly welcome.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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