For Better or Worse: How Much Did the Jaguars Improve at QB in the 2021 Offseason?
The Jacksonville Jaguars absolutely are not done adding to their roster ahead of their pivotal Week 1 road tilt against the Houston Texans on Sept. 12. The roster will continue to take shape in the vision of head coach Urban Meyer and general manager Urban Meyer as they see what they have in their current pieces on the practice field.
With this in mind, the Jaguars and their new leadership regime have had an efficacious plan put into motion to accomplish their offseason goals. They have overhauled the depth of the roster, as well as added a few key pieces for the present and the future.
To get an idea of just how the Jaguars have adjusted the top, middle, and bottom of the roster over the course of the offseason, we are going to take a position-by-position look at how the Jaguars have changed and whether they have truly improved at key spots.
First up is the most important position in the sport: Quarterback.
Gardner Minshew (eight starts; 1-7 record), Mike Glennon (five starts; 0-5 record), and Jake Luton (three starts; 0-3 record).
The Jaguars started three different quarterbacks during the disastrous 2020 season, with Gardner Minshew's Week 1 start serving as the only time any of the three quarterbacks won one of their starts. Ultimately the Jaguars went into the season with a low-ceiling room considering Minshew's limitations, Luton's status as a sixth-round rookie who wasn't yet ready to be thrown to the wolves, and a journeyman backup in Glennon who has a 6-21 career record as a starter.
For the Jaguars' quarterbacks' 2020 stats, look at the table below via Pro Football Reference.
The raw statistics naturally don't look great for the Jaguars, which is going to be the case when you are a team rotating quarterbacks each week in the midst of a 15-game losing streak. But the advanced statistics go even further to show why it was so important for the Jaguars to look for upgrades at the quarterback position this offseason.
Among the 45 quarterbacks with at least 100 snaps played last season, rbsdm.com has Minshew as the 25th-best quarterback in 2020 in terms of EPA + completion over expectation, while Glennon ranked 43rd and Luton finished last at 45. All three quarterbacks finished in the bottom-13 in terms of success rate, while Glennon and Luton were also 43rd and 45th in terms of EPA per play.
The Jaguars left 2020 with one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL, both in terms of raw stats, advanced metrics, and the eye test. As a result, it is little surprise to see the changes they have made to this point.
Trevor Lawrence (No. 1 overall pick), C.J. Beathard (free agency), Gardner Minshew, and Jake Luton.
There are two new names in the Jaguars' quarterback room, though one holds considerably more weight. Trevor Lawrence is the biggest name to land with the Jaguars arguably in the entire history of the franchise, becoming the first-ever No. 1 overall pick made by the team. Lawrence has long been anointed as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, giving the Jaguars a high-floor, high-ceiling quarterback for the first time in legitimately decades.
Lawrence was 34-2 as a starter at Clemson, having only lost in the College Football Playoffs (as a sophomore, to LSU in the Championship and as a junior to Ohio State in the semifinals). As a freshman, Lawrence defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide for the National Championship. In his career, Lawrence completed 66% of his passes for 10,098 yards (8.9 yards per attempt, 9.8 adjusted yards per attempt) for 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He also rushed for 943 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“Yeah, he’s looked great, been great in meetings. No-huddle quarterbacks have a tendency to struggle a little bit with verbiage, calling plays and getting used to a coordinator calling it in your helmet — he’s really adapted well to that," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said about Lawrence after rookie minicamp on May 15. "He’s on a 30-40 [throw] pitch count right now and that’s just our physical therapist — we’re being very cautious, could probably go a little bit more, but we just want to be very smart about everything.”
Lawrence did undergo offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, but the rookie gave a positive update to his recovery earlier this week on the AP Pro Football Podcast.
“I'm getting there. You know every week we're making some adjustments and progressing forward, and we have a great plan here being cautious but also getting back in the swing of normal, doing normal things in practice and I feel like I'm pretty far along, I don't want to give like a certain percentage but I feel like I'm doing really well.”
While Lawrence will go through some rookie struggles -- just as he did at practice on Thursday -- he still brings a blend of traits to the table the Jaguars have never previously seen at quarterback. He is also on an upward trajectory; he never graded below a 90.0 at Clemson and improved his grade in each season, per PFF.
Outside of Lawrence, the Jaguars signed fifth-year quarterback C.J. Beathard after the former third-round pick spent four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Beathard finished his first two seasons with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but he had his best season in limited action in 2020 when he completed 63.5% of his passes for six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He will likely compete with Minshew to be Lawrence's backup, but his contract makes it a probable likelihood that he will be the No. 2 quarterback.
Weighing additions vs. departures
When talking about improving or getting worse at a position, the common logic is to look at how the Jaguars' depth has changed. Ultimately the Jaguars still have 2/3 of their quarterback room from a year ago, but arguably the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart this season will be the new additions in Lawrence and Beathard.
As a whole, it is impossible to say the Jaguars didn't upgrade significantly at quarterback, even before we see Lawrence make an NFL debut. The Jaguars' No. 1 quarterback from last year, Minshew, is now either the No. 2 or No. 3 passer, while last year's No. 3 quarterback is clearly set to be the team's No. 4 passer throughout camp.
Ultimately, Lawrence gives the Jaguars a higher floor and ceiling than any of the three quarterbacks from last season. Add in Beathard, and the Jaguars at the very least have a quarterback room that improved in overall talent compared to just a year ago.
It remains to be seen which quarterbacks the Jaguars enter the 2021 season with on their 53-man roster, but the Jaguars overhauled the room this offseason for the better. We won't know to what degree it has improved until we see the bullets fly and real games take place, but we do at least know the talent level has taken a big jump. Swapping out Glennon for Beathard is a wash, while adding Lawrence is the cherry on top.