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Jaguars Mailbag: Trevor Lawrence's Rushing Potential, Position Battles and More

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JaguarReport
JaguarReport
 2021-05-25
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Each week during this year's offseason, Jaguar Report will take Jacksonville Jaguars-related questions from our readers across social media and answer them in a question-and-answer format, giving readers a chance to have their voices heard.

You can submit your questions every week by tweeting them to the Jaguar Report Twitter handle or by submitting them here.

This week we take questions on Trevor Lawrence's rushing ability, Justin Blackmon, and more.

Q: How many "designed runs" does Trevor Lawrence average per game next year? Bonus: What's his rushing average on said runs?

A: I will go with two. I don't think the Jaguars ask Lawrence to create much with his legs since he is their most important investment, but I don't think the Jaguars will be shy about letting Lawrence use his legs to leverage his value in the red zone. Lawrence has the short-area quickness and burst to be a threat on keepers on option plays, so the Jaguars could use him (and their potentially diverse and multiple running game) to add an extra wrinkle to the offense. I would say he averages around 4.5 yards on those carries, but that is mostly because I think the Jaguars will ask him to carry the ball closer to the goal line than they will between the 20s.

I think Lawrence's legs will add a lot of value to the Jaguars offense for the above reasons, and because he has proven he is adept at using his mobility to extend plays and create chunk gains in the passing game. Ultimately I think his value will go beyond his pure rushing stats, though.

Q: Any info on Quincy Williams? He of course struggled a bit to adapt to a new position in the NFL, but he's also really flashed at times. Curious if you've heard anything because it seems like he could be a sleeper.

A: I have not heard anything, but I will say I think Quincy Williams has a good chance to impress the new staff. The Jaguars have preached the importance of speed at all levels of both offense and defense, and there may not be a more athletic player on the Jaguars' roster than Williams in terms of pure speed. His transition from safety to linebacker in the NFL was disrupted by injuries and a lack of a preseason in 2020, but Williams has the game-changing type of speed to at least make an impression as the Jaguars march closer and closer to the start of the season.

Q: Justin Blackmon clearly is interested in rejoining the Jaguars by his IG posts and his comments. One comment read “TLaw to Blackmon connection coming soon?”, and Blackmon responded with “let’s make it happen.” Thoughts?

A: My first thought is one of happiness for Justin Blackmon. The most important part of his story has always been about his peace and health, so if he is in a good place right now, that is all anyone could ask for. The second thought is that I am not sure what the Jaguars could truly benefit from bringing Blackmon back after he has been gone for so long since every person who had a hand in coaching or drafting him is no longer working for the team. Then again, Blackmon has appeared in an NFL game more recently than Tim Tebow. There is now at least precedent with the team and Urban Meyer in using 90-man roster spots on redemption-type signings, and Blackmon's talent was never once questioned.

Q: If the Jaguars wanted a QB to mentor Trevor, why sign Beathard? I know Urban wanted Alex Smith, but surely there were some other seasoned vets available.

A: I think the Jaguars wanted to give themselves breathing room with Gardner Minshew's status up in the air. At that point in the offseason, there were enough open spots on quarterback depth charts throughout the NFL for the Jaguars to be able to justify potentially shopping Minshew, but they could only do so if they had another quarterback with starting experience. Ultimately it seems as if the Jaguars went with scheme fit and comfort with Beathard's skill set over veteran pedigrees, though, because Beathard is far from a seasoned and frequently battle-tested quarterback.

Q: Besides tight end, what is the position battle to watch?

A: I think the backup receiver spots will be fascinating, along with the battles at safety. The Jaguars have made so many investments this offseason that most of the starting positions seem to be more or less guaranteed to incumbent starters, free agents, or draft picks, leaving little mystery on the first-team offensive and defensive units. With that said, the Jaguars' depth chart is wide open at receiver after their starting trio, while the safety room has too many players with starters experience to fit into one 53-man roster.

Q: Who do you think plays in the slot the majority of the time? Or is it a rotation?

A: My gut guess is Laviska Shenault. Marvin Jones has spent most of his time on the outside during his career, while DJ Chark is set to be the Jaguars' 'X' receiver. Ultimately I do think the Jaguars will rotate all three receivers at the spot, along with some sprinkles of Travis Etienne, but Shenault had the best separation ability against coverage among the three receivers last season according to Next Gen Stats. Shenault as a big/power slot makes much more sense for his skill set than the strange hybrid role the Jaguars pigeonholed him into as a rookie.

Q: Odds Lerentee McCray makes the final roster? Does he seem like a fit in this new defense?

A: It would have to be low just considering the bodies the Jaguars have added this offseason. Jihad Ward can line up on the edge, while fourth-round defensive end Jordan Smith should be considered a lock to make the roster. McCray's best value is as a special teams contributor who can be a core member of each special teams unit, so that would be his best shot to make the team. With this in mind, the Jaguars spent heavily on improving the special teams units and their overall depth this offseason. The fact he is still on the roster certainly helps his case, but he has an uphill battle.

Q: Is Trevor the most talented quarterback the Jaguars have ever had already?

A: I think so. That isn't to be disrespectful to any of their past quarterbacks, but the Jaguars haven't ever had a player enter the NFL with as much hype as Lawrence, let alone a quarterback.

Mark Brunell is the best quarterback in franchise history, but he was a hidden gem the Jaguars developed. David Garrard was a solid game manager, but he didn't have Lawrence's natural talent. Meanwhile, first-rounders Blaine Gabbert, Blake Bortles, and Byron Leftwich all entered the NFL with far more question marks and far fewer accolades than Lawrence is as a rookie. Throw in last year's three starting quarterbacks and a few games from Nick Foles, and the Jaguars haven't exactly had the most talented quarterback rooms since their inceptions. I think Lawrence is a special prospect, one who should be able to develop into the best quarterback the Jaguars have fielded in team history as long as all goes right.

Q: Urban likes to use all of his talent, possible Myles Jack runs the ball this year?

A: I wouldn't say it is a zero % chance situation. The Jaguars considered giving Myles Jack some carries in 2018 when they faced serious injuries at the running back position, but Jack hasn't carried the ball in a football game since September 2015. He has fully committed himself to linebacker and has turned into one of the NFL's best off-ball linebackers as a result.

Ultimately, I think the Jaguars have at least four players who would get carries before Jack (James Robinson, Travis Etienne, Carlos Hyde, and Laviska Shenault), even in a best-case scenario. It would be entertaining, but don't count on it happening anytime soon.

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