A year ago at this time in Jacksonville, Lawrence had little idea what was next after his rookie season was mired in the disaster that was Urban Meyer’s brief-yet-turbulent Jaguars tenure.
Lawrence has a very good idea of what lies ahead now, and he’s plenty enthusiastic about the prospects.
“A lot’s changed. It’s a little bit easier to see just the direction that we’re headed,” Lawrence told NFL.com at Saturday’s Pro Bowl Games practice. “Obviously, every year’s different, every year’s new and you gotta go and start from scratch. But just the culture that we built in Jacksonville, compared to this time last year, I have a lot more confidence in where we’re going moving forward. We have our coach, we’ve got a lot of our guys coming back on offense, defense.”
In his rookie campaign, Lawrence and the Jaguars went 3-14 with the Meyer experiment failing to last through a full season. Fast forward to now, and Doug Pederson’s opening year in Duval netted the franchise’s first winning season and first playoff victory since 2017. Lawrence was at the center of success, gradually transforming into a Pro Bowl quarterback.
The addition of Pederson can’t be overstated. After what could likely be construed as a lost first season, Lawrence and his new head coach settled in from the start.
“Our personalities really are similar, I think,” Lawrence, 23, said. “And we get along really well. That was evident early.”
Though the QB-HC tandem got along quickly, Lawrence points out that they still needed to build chemistry through game action. Though improvement was evident early, the team was 2-6 at one point, and then 4-8.
“Didn’t play my best ball consistently every week until probably halfway through the season,” Lawrence said. “So, I think you see that starting to turn and the chemistry just with our guys on offense, got better every week, every game. And the same with me and coach. I think just the way we saw things, we’re getting more and more in sync, and you see how that all kind of came together.”
Following a Week 13 defeat against the Detroit Lions, the Jags fell to the aforementioned 4-8.
In the eyes of most, the playoffs were a pipe dream for a Jacksonville squad that had shown maturation but was still at least a season away from being a postseason contender. In the Jaguars locker room, that wasn’t the case. There was no rallying cry or season-turning speech. No, Lawrence says it was the cliched one-game-at-a-time approach, thanks to the constant that was Pederson’s leadership and example.
“We were 4-8 and we knew we would pretty much have to win the rest of our games to have a shot in the playoffs, and we did,” Lawrence said. “We always had that belief in ourselves, but it is cool. I wouldn’t say surprising, but it’s really cool when it happens the way you envision it and just to have that belief and for it to pay off.”
Much of the credit for the payoff goes to Pederson, an Associated Press Coach of the Year finalist.
“He really just was the same every week and I think that’s what got us through it,” Lawrence said. “Just come in, do your job, you can’t try to do too much. We’re only going to get out of this hole one game, one play at time. That was our mindset throughout the season and when we finally got that momentum and started to rattle off the wins, we just fed off that and we just kept stacking them.”
And so it goes that some clarity has come to the Jaguars.
A year ago at this time, Lawrence certainly was not a Pro Bowler, and the Jaguars were set to start over again with their third full-time head coach in as many seasons. But what a difference a year has made in Duval.
“Really just excited for the future,” Lawrence said. “This time last year, didn’t really know what was going to happen. Didn’t know who the coach was going to be. Obviously, didn’t have a great year. So now, we just have that confidence moving forward. Got our first playoff win in a long time. Just to build off that next year is what we’re excited about.”
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