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Mike McCarthy: Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence 'playing his best football' as Cowboys visit

As a No. 1 draft pick, Trevor Lawrence had to know the losses would come. The lowly Jaguars had compiled the league’s worst record in 2020; that’s how they ended up first in line to take him in 2021.

And while the quarterback got off to a rocky start as a pro, completing fewer than 60% of his passes as a rookie and leading the league in interceptions, Lawrence may finally be getting back to looking like the player who won 34 of 36 college outings and was the MVP of a national championship team at Clemson.

Just in time for the Cowboys to ride in to town.

Forget Jacksonville’s 5-8 mark in the standings; Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy knows his 10-3 squad will get a stiff challenge when they face the player nicknamed “Sunshine” on their Florida visit this Sunday.

“Obviously, I recognize the success he had in college,” McCarthy said of the  second-year passer during a Thursday press conference. “But being a dual threat for the type of athlete he is- a 6’6″ quarterback- I’ve always been intrigued with that. His ability to play from within the pocket and then out of the pocket is, I would say, exceptional. Young quarterbacks, when they go through coordinator changes, that’s definitely a lot bigger challenge than people want to recognize. The point I’m making is that you can really see him starting to come into his own. Obviously, with [Jaguars head coach] Doug Pederson and the offense that they run- multiple personnel, multiple concepts- I think he’s definitely playing his best football this past month of his pro career.”

Lawrence thinks so, too.

The 23-year-old admitted this week that the team’s 21-17 loss to Denver back in Week 8 “flipped a switch” in him.

“I never forgot how I felt in that locker room,” Lawrence said via the Jaguars website, “because I never want to feel like this anymore.”

That game, played Oct. 30 in London, gave the Jaguars their fifth loss in a row. Lawrence, en route to a 52.2 passer rating on the day, threw two interceptions.

He hasn’t thrown one since.

But he has hurled 10 touchdowns, completed 71.8% of his passes, and amassed a 111.7 passer rating in the five games since, a remarkable turnaround.

Along the way, Jacksonville notched two big wins over Baltimore and Tennessee. Lawrence threw for 321 and 368 yards in those victories, respectively. For Sunday’s most recent win over the Titans, Lawrence was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

“Honestly, I have a little bit more of a chip on my shoulder now just because of the last year and a half,” Lawrence said. “I don’t really forget what’s been said and what people have written. Now you see people change their mind after a couple weeks. I don’t use that necessarily as my only fuel, but I definitely use that.”

The Cowboys defense will look to short-circuit that power surge. But after a dogfight against Indianapolis that lasted three full quarters and an unexpected thriller versus Houston that required an epic goal-line stand and late heroics from the Dallas offense to salvage, the team has looked suddenly shaky during this December run through the AFC South.

And now with Lawrence on a hot streak, Sunday’s outing in Jacksonville promises to be anything but a day at the beach.

The secondary will no doubt be tested even as they continue shuffling to make up for the losses of cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, and rookie DaRon Bland will attempt to hold down the fort alongside Trevon Diggs; the team has Kendall Sheffield on the practice squad and just added Trayvon Mullen off waivers on Wednesday.

All are young players looking to duplicate the successes they had at the college level and make the most of their moment on the NFL stage.

Just like Trevor Lawrence is starting to.


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