JACKSONVILLE – Another week, another step forward.
That has been the story in recent weeks for Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence – and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on Thursday said he was particularly pleased with the rookie's latest step. That's because that step involved turnovers.
More accurately, it involved no turnovers.
"That's a big deal," Bevell said Thursday as the Jaguars (0-4) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (2-2) at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, threw seven interceptions in Weeks 1-3 and lost two fumbles in a Week 3 loss at Arizona. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 204 yards and no touchdowns in a 24-21 loss to Cincinnati last Thursday.
He also scored a touchdown, led two other scoring drives and did not throw an interception or lose a fumble in Cincinnati.
"It was a huge deal – for him, and for us as an offense," Bevell said. "You see how the game is different when you don't turn it over. You're in the game and it helps you do different things offensively. It was a great job by protecting it, but protecting the ball is a job of all of us. But it was a big deal."
Bevell also on Thursday discussed third-down offense, with the Jaguars ranking 27th in the NFL converting 33.3 percent of third downs into first downs through four games. They converted 50 percent against the Bengals, including six of eight on third-and-three or shorter. The Jaguars didn't convert a third down longer than three yards against Cincinnati.
"I'm concerned about third down as a whole," Bevell said. "I thought we made improvements that way last week, because our numbers haven't been good. The thing that helps you there is your first and second down. Last week, that played into it. We had a bunch of third-and-ones, third-and-twos, third-and-threes.
"You have to do good on first and second down and not have those negative plays, where now you're at third-and-10s or third-and-twelves and make those a lot more difficult. It goes hand in hand."
Defensive coordinator Joe Cullen on Thursday addressed defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen's role. Whereas Allen played defensive end in the Jaguars' 4-3 scheme the past two seasons, he now plays outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. As such, he drops in coverage in some pass-defense looks as opposed to almost always rushing the passer in a 4-3. Cullen noted that "pass rushers" dropping in coverage is common in a 3-4, noting that Terrell Suggs – eighth in NFL history with 139 career sacks – often dropped in coverage playing in a 3-4 under Cullen in Baltimore from 2016-2018. "He's doing real good," Cullen said of Allen, a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie in 2019 who has two sacks this season. "We're a different scheme. He's dropped 12 percent of the time this year. He has adjusted well."
Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde, after missing last Thursday's loss to Cincinnati with a shoulder issue, practiced full for a second consecutive day Thursday. Rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell (toe) practiced limited for a second consecutive day, and defensive end/outside linebacker Lerentee McCray practiced limited after not practicing Wednesday. Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris, out with an ankle injury the last two weeks, did not practice for a second consecutive day.
Cullen on second-half defense, with the Jaguars allowing Cincinnati 24 second-half points – and scores on all four second-half drives: "We have to play four full quarters. That's what it comes down to. It's a growing process, learning how to win. When things start to unravel a little, you have to make a play. Our guys are playing hard, but in a couple of critical situations we have to take care of business – and we will, moving forward. When do it for a half, you'd like to get it to three quarters and then finish it this week with four quarters."
Cullen on the Titans: "This is a great opponent. I have a lot of respect for [Titans Head] Coach [Mike] Vrabel. It's a smashmouth, knock you back … they're going to tell where they're running the ball. They're going to say, 'Can you stop it?' Then when you stop it, they're going to run their boots and their play actions. They just do a great job. They want to be the bully and they do a great job at it. They're going to run it until the cows come home, until you stop it. It's physicality, and you have to match it. They're going to feed [running back Derrick Henry] until you stop him."