AFC South Reporter
The start of Trevor Lawrence’s NFL career has been filled with highs and lows, stellar plays and head-scratching decisions. Through 27 career games, we’ve seen flashes of the generational prospect that the Jaguars quarterback was made out to be coming out of Clemson in 2021 — only for miscues to appear just as much, questioning the sky-high expectations placed on him.
That’s why Week 12, when the Jaguars (3-7) come out of their bye to host the AFC-contending Ravens (6-3), will be another critical juncture in determining if Lawrence can be a consistent quarterback for the long term.
He has been balling the past two games (a win over the Raiders, a loss to the Chiefs): 54-of-71 for 494 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He has had at least a 70% completion rate and 100 passer rating in both contests, a testament to his efficiency.
But this is the biggest question: Can he do it again against the Ravens? Lawrence has never had three straight games of a 70% completion rate or 100 passer rating, let alone both. The Ravens have an average defense that Lawrence should have opportunities to exploit. Baltimore is giving up 258.8 passing yards per game, fifth-worst in the NFL.
In a hostile environment in Kansas City, Lawrence showed great poise and made big-time throws. Arguably his best pass came in the second quarter, when he had a 33-yard dime to receiver Marvin Jones down the sideline — out just far enough that the defender couldn’t make a play on the ball, but not so far that Jones couldn’t make the diving catch.
Lawrence was also 2-for-2 throwing on fourth down, including a dart between two defenders to hit receiver Zay Jones in the third quarter that helped set up a 35-yard field goal for place kicker Riley Patterson.
Overall, Lawrence worked wonders in the short and intermediate passing game. He completed 86.7% of his pass attempts that hit targets within 12 yards of the line of scrimmage (26-of-30), including a touchdown, according to Next Gen Stats.
“I think he’s understanding our system better,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said Monday. “We’re recycling plays a little bit more, so the verbiage and everything is sort of easier to spit out in the huddle than Week 1 or even in training camp. All of that really helps him in his growth and really his development, and it’s all starting to come together for him.”
The Ravens game is another chance for it to continue cementing for Lawrence.
Some other thoughts across the AFC South:
Matt Ryan back in his rightful place as starting QB
The Colts’ decision to bench Matt Ryan in October always felt a bit misguided.
A 15-year veteran quarterback — and the more than $31.9 million left on his contract acquired by Indianapolis for a third-round pick — being supplanted by a former sixth-round pick in Sam Ehlinger who had not attempted a pass in an NFL regular-season game (at the time of the decision) never jived with the franchise’s claims that it wasn’t waving the white flag on the season.
Sure, the Colts (4-5-1) didn’t keep up their end of the bargain for the 37-year-old Ryan, with a disaster of a run game and offensive line, points made by since-fired coach Frank Reich. Ryan’s high turnover rate was an issue, too. But impatience seemed to prevail in sitting the former NFL MVP just seven games in with a new team. Colts players, in fact, were reportedly stunned by his benching.
That’s why it felt like interim coach Jeff Saturday’s surprising decision to start Ryan against the Raiders — just days after saying Ehlinger would remain the starter for at least another week — rectified the situation. And that decision showed why Ryan gives the Colts their best chances of saving their season.
Ryan’s clutchness came across in Indianapolis’ 25-20 victory Sunday over Las Vegas. His 39-yard scramble, by itself his single-game rushing high for his career, highlighted an 82-yard scoring drive that won the Colts the game. In just eight starts, Ryan has four game-winning drives and a league-leading five fourth-quarter comebacks.
And his ability to deliver under pressure for the Colts is not a fluke. In 2010 and ‘15 with the Falcons, he led the league in fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.
With seven games left to make noise, Indianapolis will need to lean on that clutchness.
“He’s a heck of a leader,” Saturday said postgame of Ryan.
Hello, Titans pass-catchers!
Pass-catching (especially at wide receiver) has been an Achilles’ heel for the Titans all season. It was projected to be so entering the year, with A.J. Brown gone. And that belief has been proven right as 2022 has worn on, with zero wide receiver catches in the Chiefs game in Week 9 being the low point.
But Tennessee’s pass-catchers flashed hope in a defense-dominated 17-10 victory over the Broncos on Sunday.
Third-year receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine had the game of his life: five receptions for a career-high 119 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 63-yard flea-flicker score. The tight ends delivered big too, with rookie Chig Okonkwo’s 41-yard catch and run and some big third-down conversions by veteran Austin Hooper. In the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Titans had 244 passing yards overall, their third-highest mark of the season.
One game doesn’t change the sad state of Tennessee’s 31st-ranked passing game. But there is some reason for optimism moving forward, with first-round rookie receiver Treylon Burks being integrated back into the offense. Sunday was his first game back from injured reserve.
The former Arkansas star leads the Titans with 30.6 receiving yards per game.
Davis Mills‘ performance against Giants adds (more) fuel to argument Texans should use top pick on QB
With the Texans trailing 21-10 in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Giants, looking for a spark in a potential comeback, quarterback Davis Mills threw an interception. Mills was targeting receiver Phillip Dorsett for the would-be touchdown down the sideline, but the ball was underthrown and it was picked off by safety Dane Belton. Houston would go on to lose 24-16.
It marked Mills’ fifth fourth-quarter interception this season, tied for the NFL high, according to TrueMedia.
In the most critical part of the game, Mills has consistently let Houston down.
“Just don’t think it’s time, as simple as that,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said postgame about a potential change at quarterback.
But by 2023, with the likes of Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud available at the top of the draft, it might finally be time.
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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