The Kansas City Chiefs hope to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2014 when they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2. It will not be an easy task, however, as the Jaguars’ offense features a litany of talented offensive skill players led by third-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
“I feel like Trevor Lawrence is one of those guys that could make every throw,” Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “He’s throwing it under pressure, off the back foot, launching it 40 yards, he’s throwing under routes, he’s throwing digs, he’s putting it in the tight windows. So, when we talk about all-around quarterback, that’s definitely somebody that we look at as someone who can do it all.”
Lawrence is beginning to live up to the hype of being one of the best quarterback prospects to come out of the draft in recent years. During his first season under new head coach Doug Pederson, the former first-overall pick threw for 4,113 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions on his way to his first Pro Bowl selection. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had nothing but praise for Jacksonville’s budding signal-caller, highlighting his physicality and skill at the quarterback position as key points of emphasis for Kansas City’s defense.
“He gets better and better,” Spagnuolo said of Lawrence during his Thursday press conference. “(Jaguars head coach) Doug [Pederson] does a great job with him.
“The thing that always stands out, and this stood out when we played — he’s huge. He’s big, he’s a big strong quarterback that can run. I showed a clip this morning (where) he runs, he didn’t slide, he’s running over people. He’s in the pocket, people get around him, and he’s getting out. He’s just a big, strong guy that can throw the football.”
The Chiefs played the Jaguars twice last season and beat them both times — once in the regular season and again in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Having said that, the Chiefs’ defense is expecting a different Lawrence this season, one that is even better and playing with more confidence due to the additional year of experience in Pederson’s system.
“I think he’s grown a little bit more from last year,” observed Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton. “He’s a big quarterback 6’5” and can make all the throws. Then his wideouts, got speed on the outside and fits what he does well. And so again, I think he’s evolving every single year he’s been in this league. We came in at the same time, so I’ve watched him on tape slowly growing every single year.”
Aiding in Lawrence’s growth is the addition of fifth-year wide receiver Calvin Ridley. After a long suspension that saw him miss the entire 2022-23 season for violating the league’s rules of gambling on NFL games, Ridley made his highly anticipated debut last week against the Indianapolis Colts and didn’t miss a beat.
He finished the game as the Jaguars’ leading receiver with eight receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown, showcasing a chemistry with Lawrence that is only expected to get better as the season progresses.
“I know if I’m that quarterback and you have a guy like that and you have a game like you did last week, I got to believe you’re going to keep looking to him,” Spagnuolo noted about Ridley’s performance. “Yet you commit too many people to that one person, and they got a lot – this is a skilled – might be as skilled of an offense as we’re going to play all year. Now I’m sure I’m going to say that five weeks from now about the next team we’re playing. You guys know what I’m saying, they were skilled last year, you add him (Calvin Ridley) to it, they got another running back, number four (Tank Bigsby) from Auburn.”
It’s safe to say that the Jaguars are a talented team with a great quarterback leading the way. This should lead to a competitive matchup come Sunday afternoon — something the Chiefs know comes with the territory of being the defending league champions.
“Just a talented quarterback,” safety Justin Reid said of Lawrence. “When you win the Super Bowl, you’re going to go against a lot of good football teams and they’re another good football team.