Preseason Week 3 Takeaways: Trevor Lawrence Catches Fire Just in Time
The NFL's first three-game preseason is in the books following five games Sunday. Now, the next time you see professional football (Sept. 9 is the regular-season opener), it'll mean something.
But several notable developments from Sunday are worthy of your attention.
Here are a handful of takeaways from the last day of preseason football in 2021.
Trevor Lawrence's Masterpiece Takes the Pressure off
Maybe all it took for No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence to put it together was for Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer to finally declare him the starter and trade top challenger Gardner Minshew.
Lawrence looked shaky if not overwhelmed in Jacksonville's first two preseason games, but the sensational Clemson product dominated the Dallas Cowboys with 11 completions on 12 attempts for 139 yards and two touchdowns as the Jags wrapped up the preseason Sunday afternoon.
Regardless of the competition and the importance of the game, it was an extremely promising performance. It's way too early to draw any conclusions one way or another about Lawrence, but this league has practically no patience these days when it comes to highly drafted rookie quarterbacks. Had Lawrence finished August without a strong showing, the pressure would have been turned up for the Jaguars' season-opening road affair with the Houston Texans.
That might not be fair, but it's a reality in this era. Some might have already been wondering if the Jags once again screwed up with a first-round pick at quarterback, but then he went out early against the Cowboys and totally redeemed himself with plays like these.
The Jags might not offer Lawrence enough support for him to consistently crush it in 2021, but his sheer talent will often be enough to keep Jacksonville in games. And he should only get better as he builds on Sunday's awesome effort.
There's a good reason he's remained the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Don't Rule out a Permanent Trey Lance-Jimmy Garoppolo Rotation in San Francisco
The Trey Lance-Jimmy Garoppolo debate has raged throughout the summer for the San Francisco 49ers, especially with Lance performing increasingly well this month.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan had yet to officially declare a starter prior to Sunday's preseason finale against the Las Vegas Raiders, and his approach with the two signal-callers in the first quarter might have been an indication that the starting role won't matter as much as it typically does.
That's because Garoppolo and Lance essentially worked as a committee on San Francisco's first two drives. Per Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, Garoppolo was out there for 14 of 24 snaps, and Lance was on the field for the other 10.
And while even semi-committees at quarterback can be problematic when it comes to establishing an offensive flow, San Francisco's run-oriented offense looked quite smooth with Garoppolo and Lance spelling each other on practically a snap-by-snap basis.
The two quarterbacks certainly complement each other in many ways, and Shanahan just might be a good enough strategizer to make a quarterback rotation work. It sure would make game-planning extra difficult on opposing defenses.
There's an old notion that if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. But the 49ers offense is so dynamic and run-heavy that this system just might work. San Francisco doesn't necessarily need one star quarterback to carry the load right now, and an approach like the one we saw early Sunday could help Lance evolve at a healthy pace while simply bolstering Garoppolo's chances of remaining healthy.
Mac Jones Again Shows He's Ready to Start for the Patriots
After looking very much like an NFL-ready veteran in his first two preseason outings for the New England Patriots, first-round rookie quarterback Mac Jones relieved an unimpressive Cam Newton early in Sunday's preseason finale against the New York Giants and led the Pats on three scoring drives over five series (excluding a two-play possession at the end of the first half).
Altogether, the Alabama product was 10-of-14 for 156 yards with a laser touchdown pass to Isaiah Zuber in traffic. Jones out-threw Newton in the first week of the preseason and was every bit his equal in the second week before showing a lot more on Sunday. I wouldn't fault the Patriots for wanting to take it slow and giving Newton the benefit of the doubt, but he hasn't been himself in half a decade and Jones' ceiling is significantly higher.
At this point, I think Jones gives the Patriots a better chance to win than Newton. That could change and Bill Belichick could also decide to use both of them as part of a committee just as the 49ers might be doing with Garoppolo and Lance, but it would be hard for the team to justify sitting Jones indefinitely right now.
You spent a first-round pick on the guy in what appears to be an all-in season, and he's looked the part so far. Make use of him.
J.K. Dobbins Is Officially out for the Year; What Do the Ravens Do Now?
The worst-case scenario has come to fruition for Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins, who on Sunday was ruled out for the 2021 season with a torn ACL, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
It's a huge blow for the Ravens' run-oriented offensive attack. As a rookie in 2020, Dobbins led all qualified backs by a wide margin with a 6.0 yards-per-attempt average. Baltimore always looked like it would split up carries among multiple backs in 2021, but now that split will likely feature a lot more of both Gus Edwards and Justice Hill.
Edwards has a strong career yards-per-attempt average of 5.2 and is coming off a six-touchdown age-25 campaign, while Hill is an ideal third-down back who averaged 5.0 yards per rush in 2020.
They could probably get by with those two and depth back Ty'Son Williams after he rushed for 42 yards on four carries in Saturday's preseason finale, but don't rule out the addition of a veteran. Former Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley met with the Ravens in June, and he could be a nice fit as a 27-year-old puzzle piece for a contender like Baltimore.
Jets Smartly Replace Lawson with Lawson
It's not a great sign that at the age of 27, 2016 first-round draft pick Shaq Lawson has been employed by four NFL teams (and three of the four teams in the AFC East) in the last 18 months. Still, the Clemson product remains pretty young and absolutely has the talent to excel in the right environment.
Kudos to the Jets for landing Lawson from the Houston Texans Sunday in a low-risk deal that only cost them a sixth-round pick. Gang Green recently lost highly paid free-agent pickup Carl Lawson to a season-ending Achilles injury, and now he's been replaced with an edge-rusher who still has plenty of potential and will only cost $1.4 million against the 2021 salary cap, according to Spotrac.
Lawson hasn't been a total bust. He recorded 10.5 sacks and 36 quarterback hits the last two seasons in Buffalo and Miami. He might never put it together and become a star, but he's serviceable already, and there's an outside chance he becomes a special part of the new era for the Jets.
This was a no-brainer move for Jets general manager Joe Douglas.
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