Trevor Lawrence Could Be 'Solid,' 'Maybe Great,' Patriots' Bill Belichick Says

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 1, 2022

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) passes against the New York Jets during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he's witnessed enough progress from Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence to believe he could still be on a path toward NFL stardom.

Belichick discussed Lawrence, the first overall pick in the 2021 draft, on Friday ahead of Sunday's head-to-head meeting between the Pats and Jags at Gillette Stadium:

"I think he's gotten more comfortable as the season's gone on and gotten comfortable with the offense. I'd say the offense has gotten comfortable with the things that he does best. Definitely, a good level of execution there. They did a good job last week against the Jets, mixing in different varieties of passes: quick throws, moving-pocket throws, deep balls, third-down conversions, red-area plays. He's pretty good at all of them and continues to get better. I think he's had a good year and I think he'll be a solid NFL player, maybe great. I don't know, but he's certainly made a lot of progress this year."

Lawrence arrived in the NFL with sky-high expectations after a standout college career at Clemson where he recorded 108 total touchdowns (90 passing and 18 rushing) across 40 games while leading the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman in 2018.

His first season in Jacksonville has underwhelmed from a statistical standpoint. He's completed 58.7 percent of his throws for 3,225 yards with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions through the air along with 301 rushing yards and two scores on the ground.

The 22-year-old Tennessee native ranks 28th among 31 qualified quarterbacks in ESPN's Total QBR (32.6) and owns a lackluster 58.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

Those numbers are concerning on the surface, but they don't provide the entire story about what Lawrence has dealt with throughout his debut season.

Most notably, he endured a disastrous stint by head coach Urban Meyer, which lasted less than a year because of on-field struggles and off-field problems. It's difficult for a rookie signal-caller to succeed under perfect circumstances, let alone amid turmoil atop the coaching staff.

Then there's the issue of injuries within the offensive playmaking group. Star running back James Robinson recently became the latest key player to land on injured reserve, joining a list that includes Carlos Hyde, Travis Etienne, D.J. Chark Jr., Jamal Agnew and Dan Arnold, among others.

Lawrence admitted after Meyer's firing in mid-December the distractions were something he wasn't accustomed to, but the situation helped him grow in his leadership role.

"Obviously things went pretty smooth for me at Clemson, so obviously the most drama [I've dealt with]," he told reporters. "But hey, I've gotten better in a lot of ways from this—as a leader, as a person. I've grown a lot."

The Jaguars own a 2-13 record heading into their final two games of the regular season. They'll then shift their focus to finding a new head coach, likely one with an offensive background to help their franchise quarterback hasten his development.

While Lawrence is facing a long road to reach his potential at the NFL level, a more stable coaching environment and a healthier year from the Jags offense in 2022 would provide a major boost to those efforts.

The good news, as Belichick alluded, is that there were signs of progress throughout the season, so there's reason to remain bullish about the quarterback's long-term outlook.