JACKSONVILLE – Overall, not bad.
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence made his much-anticipated NFL debut Saturday against the Cleveland Browns. There were good moments, OK moments and moments he didn't like so much – all of which led to an expected post-game assessment.
"There's obviously things to clean up," he said," but I thought was a pretty good day."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, started and played two series in a 23-13 loss to the Browns in the 2021 preseason opener at TIAA Bank Field Saturday. He completed six of nine passes for 71 yards and no touchdowns.
A major topic afterward was whether Lawrence held the ball in the pocket too long at times, contributing to the two sacks. Head Coach Urban Meyer, who also made his NFL debut Saturday, said immediately afterward that probably was the case.
Meyer also said overall the rookie handled his debut well.
"I asked the same thing of [passing-game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer],'' said Meyer, who afterward expressed overall disappointment in an offense that produced 85 first-half yards. "I said 'how did he play?' He [Schottenheimer] said he did pretty good. I do believe he held the ball a little bit and I have to find out why. I'm anxious to talk to him."
"He [Lawrence] certainly wasn't awestruck. We just have to execute better. We have to protect him better. We have to get our wideouts healthy and just play better."
Center Brandon Linder praised Lawrence afterward.
"I thought he did well," Linder said. "A rookie. First preseason game. I remember how I was then. I thought he did well. Room to grow. First preseason game. I'm excited about what's to come."
Linder and Lawrence left the game at the same time – after two series – while other starting offensive linemen stayed in the game with Gardner Minshew II at quarterback through the end of the first half. The starting center and starting quarterback could be seen speaking on the sideline after leaving the game.
"We were talking about what went on out there," Linder said. "The kid understands it. He sees it. He's only going to get better. I wished we had more time to play out there [Saturday]."
The Jaguars defense showed improvement against the run Saturday. A season removed from a front seven that couldn't stop anyone, the rebuilt line and a 3-4 scheme coordinated by Joe Cullen put the clamps on a Browns offense that was very good on the ground in 2020. "Stopping the run is our mindset," defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen of a unit that held the Browns to only 1.6 yards per carry. "We can't do what we need to do or want to do if we don't stop the run. It's the most important thing we have to do every week because we can't rush the passer if we can't make them throw. Our mindset was to stop the run no matter who they played, and we did that and now we want to get better." A year ago, the Jaguars gave up 4.5 yards per rushing attempt and allowed more than 153 yards per game – which means teams didn't need to throw to control the game. "Last year was last year," Allen said. "You're not going to get another answer. We have a new coaching staff, new faces who haven't played in a Jaguars uniform before who played in winning programs. I feel like we're going to be a tough team."
Linder was optimistic the team would learn from this preseason loss. He mentioned the offensive line especially would be able to improve once watching the film on Monday. Yes, the team wanted to win the game… but he feels like the Jaguars found out a lot about what they can improve on going forward. "I would like to obviously drive down the field those first couple drives: score, first down, first down, first down," Linder said. "That's what we had in our mind. It didn't go that way. Again, we've got to watch the film. Once we see it, we can critique it, and the good thing is we've got next week to learn and to keep going."
Meyer stressed the offense needed to play faster and get to the line quicker after the play call. Linder said the offense will have to replicate that in practice to accomplish it in a game environment and said repetition speeding up pre-snap will translate to a more efficient offense. "You just rep that in practice," Linder said. "That's just something you've got to do in practice, and that's something that we'll emphasize this week."