ARLINGTON, Texas – The Jaguars' offense needed something before the preseason ended.
Call it a spark or the right tempo. Or maybe it was just a touchdown from a first-team offense that had been stuck in neutral in two preseason losses to the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints.
It took five plays in the preseason finale to get the spark.
That was when rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence dropped a 38-yard pass right into the arms of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett II. That set up a touchdown pass to wide receiver Pharoh Cooper – and the offense and Lawrence were on their way to their best performance of the 2021 preseason.
Head coach Urban Meyer had challenged his veteran NFL offensive brain-trust of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to find a way to create a rhythm.
A turn towards Lawrence's college days with more shotgun snaps, rollouts and bubble screens.
"Obviously, it's something he did in college, and he is comfortable with it," Meyer said after Lawrence completed 11 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the 2021 preseason finale at AT&T Stadium Sunday.
"I liked the rhythm and I like that on third and four we took a shot, I want to be more aggressive, and Bev did a great job. We're going to find a way to do what a player does well."
Lawrence finished with a passer rating of 154.5, which was a testament to both the play-calling and execution – the latter of which the quarterback says is more critical to success than the scheme.
"It felt great out there," Lawrence said. "I think we just executed better than we did in the first two games. Honestly, it's all about execution. We had a great game-plan last week (against New Orleans), too, but we didn't execute.
"It's easy for someone on the outside to see a game and if we don't play well or execute it's going to look like it isn't the right scheme or whatever. It's doesn't matter what you run as long as everyone is on the same page, and everybody knows it you're going to play well.
"We felt today we were on the same page, we communicated well, we kept it simple and for me just being accurate, making quick decisions, getting the ball out of my hand and letting our guys make plays, that was the difference. "
The Jaguars brought Meyer in to turn the franchise around after a 1-15 season and it appears they're making progress as his first training camp and preseason come to a close. Tight end James O'Shaughnessy is in his fifth season with the Jaguars, and so was part of the 2017 that ended up just shy of the Super Bowl – and the 2020 Jaguars who won just a single game. He said he can see quite clearly the impact the new coach and his program is having in the turn around. "Since the first time we got together as a team in the offseason it was clear we were headed in a different direction," O'Shaughnessy said. "Culture wise the buy in … in a year with the uncertainty around Covid, a lot of teams didn't have numbers at OTAs (organized team activities), and we were full. People weren't just there to be there, we wanted to be there. You know 100 percent attendance was all coach Meyer. He's a winner and he knows how to shape us in the right direction, and I think everyone who is a part of this new phase of the franchise has seen this since Day One."
The Jaguars will start at least two new players in the secondary Week 1 in Houston on September 12. Depending on the competition at safety and the progress of rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell, it could be a complete overhaul. Even if it's just cornerback Shaq Griffin and safety Rayshawn Jenkins, the cast of characters is going to be very different. So far it has looked promising this preseason. Veteran safety Jarrod Wilson has been a starter the last two years and thinks the communication and camaraderie has made all the difference. "It's a lot of different faces," Wilson said. "But the communication has been there since the start of OTAs, and we've just focused on the details and paid close attention in the meetings and we're working together on our own to make sure we're ready to go."