Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance’s NFL careers could be dictated by their vastly different circumstances, Jerry Jones pleads for folks to be vaccinated and much more.
It’s a debate as old as time.
What matters more to the development of a young quarterback; the talent he walks into the league with, or the situation he enters?
This season’s rookie class will present the most compelling case study in quarterback development that we’ve seen in decades.
“When you look at these young quarterbacks, it comes down to the circumstances they’re in,” former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch tells FanSided. “How much talent is there, how much help do you have? How much pressure are you under to score every time you have the ball, because your defense isn’t going to be able to stop anybody? Those conversations happen, and as a young quarterback you have to know that you cannot put your team in bad or worse situations, particularly by putting the ball on the ground or turning it over.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars are parachuting Trevor Lawrence into the ground-level of a full-fledge rebuild led by a rookie head coach. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers can afford to be patient with No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance, thanks to an offensive genius at head coach and a Super Bowl-caliber roster already being in place.
“I’d sit Trey Lance for at least the first half of the season,” an NFC personnel executive tells FanSided, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. “Because you have a good situation there with (Jimmy) Garoppolo, who you can win with.”
Lance has looked every bit the part of a quarterback capable of maximizing the talent around him; Deebo Samuel, Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Aiyuk at wide receiver, a top-five defense and a head coach in Kyle Shanahan who is bright enough to tailor a system to Lance’s best traits and is just two years removed from a Super Bowl berth.
On Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers, Lance looked like a seasoned veteran when he looked off Chargers linebacker Nick Niermann to create a seam over the middle on a 16-yard touchdown to Travis Benjamin. The former North Dakota State standout finished 8-of-14 for 102 yards with two touchdowns.
Afterwords, Shanahan left the door cracked open for Lance to supplant Garoppolo as the 49ers’ opening day starter against the Lions.
“No, I’m not making that announcement. Nice try, though,” Shanahan told reporters.
Meanwhile, Lawrence has been heralded as a generational prospect and the most complete quarterback to enter the NFL Draft since Andrew Luck was chosen No. 1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts back in 2012.
Lawrence has only lost three games since seventh grade, and given the state of Urban Meyer’s Jaguars, that’s about to change.
“Lawrence is in a spot where he’s forced to start right away,” the executive says. “And doesn’t have any talent around him. He’s going to get beat up. He’s going to struggle.”
On Monday night against the Saints, Lawrence faced a constant barrage of pressure from New Orleans’ front seven that was clearly working on some things and trying to make a statement on national television.
At times, the ball hung up in the air for an eternity after leaving Lawrence’s hand.
Perhaps worst, and most troubling of all, is that the Jaguars’ offense doesn’t appear to have an identity nor the pieces in place to set Lawrence up for success.
Just for good measure on Monday night, Lawrence even added some self-inflicted punishment when he lowered his shoulder and was sent helicoptering on a second quarter scramble.
Limiting hits is going to be crucial to Lawrence surviving and thriving in his rookie season, and as Lawrence’s head coach, Meyer has to see that and adjust based on the state of the offensive line in front of the franchise’s most important player.
Pro Football Focus lists the Jaguars’ offensive line as 23rd-ranked in the league. So, unless Meyer masks some of Lawrence’s rookie indecisiveness by running the ball 25-30 times per game and shortening his drop backs, it could be a long rookie year for the Clemson standout.
That task got even more daunting and Lawrence’s 2021 outlook that much bleaker after fellow first-round pick, running back Travis Etienne was lost for the season with a Lisfranc sprain Monday night.
“If I were in Jacksonville, I’d let Lawrence start right away, let him get beat up a lot and hope he gets through it and grows from it,” says another veteran talent evaluator. “He has to play day one. I think he’ll really struggle, but mentally, he’s a kid who can handle it.”
What the Jaguars are risking by entrusting Lawrence’s development to Meyer, who has never quite managed how to handle losing, and has zero experience managing the egos and personalities of a locker room full of professional players is Lawrence’s immense talent wilting amid a supporting cast not capable of winning … or protecting him.
Still, there’s little choice but to play Lawrence right away. For all parties involved.
“If you’re a young guy, you want to play,” Batch says. “Because that’s going to tell the coaches whether you’re ready or not. I don’t think there’s a grey area, in terms of whether you’re ready to be out there.”
"“Everyone has a right to make their own decisions regarding their health and their body. I believe that completely until your decision negatively impacts many others. Then the common good takes over.“And I’m arm-waving here, but that has everything to do with the way I look at our team, the Cowboys, or the way I looked at our society. We have got to check ‘I’ at the door and go forward with ‘we.’ Your Dallas Cowboys are doing that.”"
– Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, via 105.3 FM The Fan
Jones’ voice is an important one on this issue, both inside the NFL and in broader society, and the Cowboys Hall of Fame owner strikes all of the right chords when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
This week saw former President Donald Trump jeered and booed during a rally in Alabama, when he suggested his supporters do the right thing and take the vaccine. It was a reminder of the cost misinformation has had on society, and how strong the resistance remains to the jab.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Bills slot receiver Cole Beasley has been staunchly anti-vaccination, and now must quarantine for five days along with Gabriel Davis, because they were a close contact of a vaccinated member of the team’s training staff who tested positive for the virus.
There are very real consequences to large swaths of society remaining vaccinated.
For NFL players such as Beasley, Davis and Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, had they been vaccinated, they would not be required to quarantine.
The longer unvaccinated players remain in locker rooms across the league, the higher the likelihood that key players will miss games and perhaps this season lead to their team forfeiting games.
In the real world, the unvaccinated are nearly 40 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than those who received the jab.
The healthcare system is stretched to the point of near collapse in states like Alabama and Mississippi. In Ron Desantis-governed Florida, Orlando has asked residents to reduce their drinking water consumption because the liquid oxygen used for water treatment is now earmarked for ICUs overrun by COVID patients.
Now that the FDA has granted Pfizer full approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, and Moderna likely to gain approval in the coming weeks, the vaccine’s safety is belied by government approval as indicated by the anecdotal evidence of 150 million Americans walking around fully healthy after receiving the jab.
This week’s move by the FDA also clears the runway for corporations to mandate their employees get the jab.
Here’s hoping that those to date who have declined the vaccine now do the right thing to protect themselves and their community, and that players see Newton and Beasley as the cautionary tale to further limit the risk for themselves, their family, and their locker room. And here’s to Jones speaking truth to a constituency that desperately needs to hear it.
Head coaches across the league are making it perfectly clear what they think about preseason games.
They matter less than coaches have insisted for decades, and they’re more of a nuisance than anyone has ever let on.
This past weekend in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, and across the league the typical drudgery of exhibition football was lowered another rung when the likes of Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, the New York Giants’ Joe Judge, Browns’ Kevin Stefanski, Bills’ Sean McDermott, and others elected not to play their starters in their teams’ second preseason game.
Meanwhile, the Eagles and New England Patriots, Giants and Browns, 49ers and Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Rams were among the teams who held joint practices leading up to their games last weekend.
This week, the Giants travel for a pair of joint practices in New England, the Jets host the Eagles, and several other teams are following suit ahead of the third and final preseason game of the summer.
It is becoming obvious that coaches can get a more thorough evaluation of their roster, and do higher quality work under the scorching summer sun on the practice field against another opponent where they are away from the bright lights and eyes of a national television audience during games with entirely meaningless outcomes.
Judge went so far as to decide not to play third-year quarterback Daniel Jones last week, because of the hyper-competitive nature of the joint practices.
“It truly came down to what we thought we accomplished in practice with both the volume and intensity as a unit,” Judge said Monday. “Along with some of the things that the Browns were doing in the game themselves. To me, him not playing, we initially thought about playing those guys for about a quarter or so. We made the decision based on what they had gone through from a physical load standpoint and intensity. It was a very quick turnaround going from those practices into a full game situation, so we thought this was in the best interest of the health of the players that we held.”
If coaches are going to put more stock into joint practices, and view the games as a mere obligation, it would seem that the preseason is an endangered species altogether.
The NFL is clearly never going to give up a dime in lost television revenue that preseason games generate, but the reality here is that an 18-game regular season is inevitable. When that day comes, there may only be one preseason tuneup before games kickoff for real.
There is also a far better option than exhibition games available for players, fans, and especially coaches to prepare for the regular season.
A format of one preseason game and three weeks of joint practices just might increase the early-season product, give teams a more thorough evaluation process, and fans something far more valuable and entertaining to watch than the current three game exhibition slate provides.
Twitter during August is a testament to the NFL fanbase’s insatiable need for practice coverage, be it updates, videos or breaking news from reporters on the ground. Most teams across the league already steam coverage — with commentary — of some, if not all of their training camp practices.
It would seemingly be easy for the NFL to sell broadcast rights to joint practices each week, where networks can broadcast and analyze the one-on-one drills, giving fans an inside look at their team’s preparation, and during the competitive 11-on-11 drills could utilize the kind of camerawork deployed by Hard Knocks using super closeup angles that don’t show formations but instead track the quarterback and the football.
To take it a step further, what’s stopping fans from betting on the outcomes of one-on-ones, or prop bets on whether there will be a fight that day, or even the amount of touchdowns surrendered by either defense.
These joint practices are already more competitive than the preseason games, coaches seem to value them more, and they would certainly be a more entertaining product for fans.
The coaches have spoken. Maybe sometime in the not so distant future the NFL will listen. And we’ll all be better for it.
Matt Lombardo is FanSided’s National NFL Insider and writes Between The Hash Marks each Wednesday. Email Matt: Matt.Lombardo@FanSided.com. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattLombardoNFL