2021 Jaguars Schedule: Examining Top Defenses Trevor Lawrence Will Face

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence warms up before the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

If they haven't already, Jacksonville Jaguars fans can finally start buying those Trevor Lawrence jerseys.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Lawrence as the first player off the board in the 2021 NFL draft Thursday night.

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Trevor Lawrence is ready to take over in Jacksonville 😳 Jags fans have been waiting for this moment. https://t.co/2C9knOsuhQ

The 21-year-old was effectively pegged as the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft from the moment Clemson lifted its third College Football Playoff National Championship in January 2019. That level of certainty remained after the Jaguars were assured of finishing with the NFL's worst record.

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

With the Jets win today, the Jacksonville Jaguars officially clinched the No. 1 pick. The Jaguars now are on the clock.... https://t.co/nHP5fqKyyy

As a result, hearing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell call Lawrence's name first overall Thursday night was largely a formality.

The league has yet to release the 2021 regular-season schedule, but teams already know their opponents for the year ahead. Here's who will be on the docket for Lawrence's maiden voyage in the pros.


Jaguars Home Opponents


Jaguars Away Opponents



The Los Angeles Rams allowed the fewest yards (281.9) in the NFL in 2020, and their secondary often set the tone. They surrendered just 190.7 yards through the air, best in the league, and held opposing quarterbacks to an 80.4 passer rating.

However, the Rams were victims of the salary cap as they watched starting cornerback Troy Hill and John Johnson, one of the league's better safeties, leave in free agency. While Jalen Ramsey is still around, this may not be the daunting matchup for Lawrence it would have been in 2020.

The same can't be said of the Buffalo Bills, who have all of their key players returning after finishing fifth in opponent passer rating (86.9). Tre'Davious White and Tremaine Edmunds both reached their second straight Pro Bowls, and the Bills also boast a solid safety duo with Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. 

The Indianapolis Colts, meanwhile, boast a pair of 2020 All-Pros in DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard. The former looks like he'll live up to his four-year, $84 million extension after posting 9.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash ranked Indianapolis as the fourth-best secondary last season and highlighted Xavier Rhodes as one reason why:

"However, he looked vastly different in 2020 than during his final days in Minnesota. His coverage grade jumped to 77.5 and his catch rate allowed dropped to 50.7%. He produced at a top-10 level on the outside, and Kenny Moore II played at a top-three level in the slot with an 84.6 coverage grade at that position."

The Denver Broncos missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season in 2020. They will have Von Miller back in 2021, and they signed Kyle Fuller to join a defense that already had Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons. Denver figures to be a difficult test for Lawrence.

Along the same lines, the Arizona Cardinals upgraded on defense by adding J.J. Watt and Malcolm Butler. Patrick Peterson is a future Hall of Famer but didn't play like one a season ago. Going from Peterson to Butler should make Arizona more formidable against the pass.

In general, Lawrence isn't going up against a murderer's row of elite defenses, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Football Team and Tampa Bay Buccaneers among the notable teams not on Jacksonville's schedule.

However, there are plenty of games ahead in which the rookie quarterback's inexperience could be exposed.