JACKSONVILLE – The changes are real – and the games are real now, too.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence likes the changes around him as he enters his second NFL season, and he likes where he and the Jaguars stand as the 2022 season begins.
"It's exciting," Lawrence said Wednesday, adding: "This one counts. We're going to have 17 games, at least, to prove who we are."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, spoke to the media Wednesday morning – four days before the Jaguars open the '22 season against the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. Among the topics covered:
The Jaguars' offensive line, particularly the offseason addition of right guard Brandon Scherff, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who signed as an unrestricted free agent in March after seven seasons with Washington.
"I just think they have the right mindset," Lawrence said. "Brandon Scherff coming in has elevated the whole group. It's a lot of the same guys who have been here, but his veteran presence and his work ethic and the way he attacks every day; always ready to go, grit, a little bit nasty … all of those guys have seen it in OTAs and [training] camp.
"He's in his eighth season. To see a guy who still brings that intensity every day, I think it has elevated the whole group."
Lawrence, who threw 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions as a rookie, also discussed how he feels now compared to this time last season – before his first NFL start. The Jaguars since the end of last season hired Doug Pederson as head coach and Press Taylor as offensive coordinator, also adding wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram to an offense that finished last in the NFL in scoring in 2021.
"It's exciting just to see how far we've come in a year," Lawrence said. "To see the improvement from the guys that were here, and then obviously the new additions have helped a ton.
"The culture has really flipped and that's something that doesn't happen overnight. It has taken a lot of work by a lot of people. We're in a great spot right now. We just have to keep building on that. Obviously, you have to sustain. I'm just really excited to have opportunity to prove it."
Pederson, the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles from 2016-2020, talked often this offseason of Lawrence's work ethic and professionalism – and he again this week praised Lawrence's off- and on-field approach.
"What has impressed me the most is just the maturity level with him, how he survived a year as a rookie with everything surrounding him that took place and how he was able to handle that," Pederson said. "Now you see the maturity, you see the leadership in the locker room, you see what he's been able to do even with the new additions to the offense and even to the team … that is the one thing that stood out to me. You see the athleticism, you see the arm strength on tape, but when you get to know him and the kind of person he is: His leadership I think caught all our attention."
Lawrence said his trust in "all the guys around me" is high, which has helped his confidence entering '22.
"I've learned a lot in the past year – a lot of bad; some good, too," he said. "Having that confidence from experience is a thing, too. Having good players around you helps anyone's confidence."
And make no mistake: The feeling around the Jaguars, a new feeling since the end of last season, has the quarterback's confidence high entering Sunday.
Now, the task is keeping that confidence now that the games are real.
"You can just feel it – in the building, in the locker room, with the coaches – everything," Lawrence said. "The positivity, the confidence people are walking around with … I think that's the main thing. It has changed and it's in a great spot. But it's about maintaining that.
"That's something you can lose, obviously. Here, and other places, that has happened. It's about every day putting your best foot forward."