Sports

Despite turnovers, QB Lawrence won’t be ‘timid’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been a turnover machine in his first three starts.

But throwing seven interceptions and losing two fumbles hasn’t shaken the top overall pick’s confidence.

“You learn from all of them, but you can’t let it change the way you play,” Lawrence said after Sunday’s 31-19 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at TIAA Bank Field. “As far as making better decisions, that does need to change for sure, but I’ve got to be the same guy. I still have to go play. I can’t play timid, and not take any shots or chances.”

Lawrence threw two interceptions — including one on a flea-flicker that cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. returned 29 yards for a touchdown — and lost two fumbles against the Cardinals. He’s now the fifth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw multiple interceptions in each of his first three games, joining Blake Bortles (2014), Peyton Manning (1998), Troy Aikman (1989) and Jim Zorn (1976).

Lawrence’s seven interceptions through his first three starts is tied for the third-most in NFL history by a No. 1 overall pick, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The only players with more are Manning (eight) and Alex Smith (eight in 2005).

Not all of the turnovers have been his fault, though. On Sunday he put a throw right on tight end Jacob Hollister’s hands. Hollister flubbed the catch, and the ball bounced right to Murphy. One of Lawrence’s fumbles against the Cardinals came when running back James Robinson moved over to help with a block and bumped Lawrence’s arm.

“Trevor is a unique individual, and he competed his tail off,” coach Urban Meyer said. “When something is not there, throw it away and one of them was not his fault. One of them was a dropped pass. You can’t do that with a young quarterback. Can’t do that. That’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable with an old quarterback, but you just can’t do that. It just drives me nuts.

“I know what he’s going to be like tomorrow. Same way he was last week. He’s the most consistent — one of the most consistent players I’ve been around.”

Lawrence has completed 54% of his passes for 669 yards and five touchdowns this season. He dropped in a touchdown pass to DJ Chark in the back of the end zone during the second quarter against the Cardinals after looking middle and then right. So there have been a lot of bright spots, and Lawrence has no thought of switching up the way he thinks or approaches the game.

“I’m the same person,” he said. “Like I said, that’s not going to change. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m here. I’m going to be the same person every day.”

It’s not like Lawrence can’t rebound from this rough start. Manning threw 28 interceptions as a rookie and ended up in the Hall of Fame. Aikman, who is also in the Hall of Fame, threw 36 interceptions in his first two seasons (to only 20 TDs) and led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories.

Smith turned the ball over 10 times in his first three games and might still be playing if it were not for a catastrophic knee injury. Zorn threw 27 interceptions as a rookie and went on to play 10 more seasons.

So nobody should be writing the former Clemson standout off after only three games.

“Big picture, other than score — leadership, intangibles, the work ethic, the character, the desire to be great, his support from his teammates, his support of other teammates [is great],” Meyer said. “He’s a very unique guy. […] I’ve been very fortunate to coach some elite, elite players, and he’s one of the most elite, just the way he handles himself.

“The players see what I see. They see what the world is going to see, and that’s a hell of a player that cares deeply for Jacksonville, cares deeply for his teammates. Really, it’s a refreshing guy to be around every day, and he will get better. I guarantee you that.”

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