How the Jaguars can speed up Trevor Lawrence’s learning curve

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Trevor Lawrence hasn’t experienced much adversity in his football career.

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ rookie quarterback didn’t lose a single regular-season game in high school or college on his way to becoming the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL draft. But the glare of lofty expectations comes with being the first pick in the draft, and Lawrence will be under the microscope as fans and experts closely examine his play this year.

Lawrence did face adversity in his NFL debut, a 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans in which he threw three interceptions.

But we’re here to help figure out why.

While viewing game film of the Jaguars-Texans game, I noticed something that could help shorten his learning curve at the NFL level: He benefited greatly from pre-snap motion. Conversely, he struggled when the Jaguars didn’t use motion before the snap.

Pre-snap motion can reveal a lot about the defense’s intent. If the defensive player lined up across from a player going into motion moves along with the offensive player, that means he is in man coverage. If the defender adjusts his positioning but doesn’t move from his original position, he is most likely in zone.

Take a look at how Lawrence fared with and without pre-snap motion in the Jags’ 37-21 loss to Houston:

• Without pre-snap motion: 20 of 37 for 213 yards, 100 air yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions, 37.3 passer rating.

• With pre-snap motion: 8 of 14 for 119 yards, 88 air yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, 124.7 passer rating.

Notice a trend?

Let’s take a look at the tape to dig deeper into this topic and how it relates to Lawrence.

On the play before Lawrence’s first touchdown pass, the Jaguars offense lined up with a running back in the backfield and only one receiver at the top of the screen, leaving the safety to hang back in help. Once the running back motions to the outside, it forces a safety to shift down.

As the first quarter was winding down, the Jaguars’ goal was to find the defensive look with only one safety over the top of the defense. The Jaguars tested an empty backfield look earlier in the drive, and they uncovered that the safety came down to the line of scrimmage while the strong side of the defense stayed in zone coverage. (See below.)

On the touchdown, as predicted, the defense remained in zone coverage. Only tight end James O’Shaughnessey was accounted for because he was the only tight end that was actually running routes up to this point. That allowed blocking tight end Chris Manhertz to slip right through the defensive zones.

Understanding where the defenders are going to be helps identify whether receivers will be open, and all of this can be identified pre-snap with simple motion.

On the interception in the second quarter. There was no motion to force the defense to move or shift, which could have helped Lawrence identify the defensive coverage.

From first look, the defense is lined up right over the top of each receiver, which is a clear sign of man coverage underneath. As the ball is snapped, Lawrence takes a look to the left to make sure cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is dropping with his man, and sure enough, they are hip to hip.

By the time Lawrence scans back to his left side, Hargreaves is out of his view. Unfortunately for Lawrence, Hargreaves was able to make a read and a play on the ball, resulting in an interception for the Texans.

Lawrence’s second touchdown of the day resulted after motion from the tight end helped to identify the zone coverage. He also used play-action to keep the linebackers at home.

After the motion takes place and no defenders move, it’s an easy indication for Lawrence that the deep safety will have to make a decision on whom to cover — either the inside receiver running a post or the outside receiver running a fade.

Pre-snap motion can do wonders for a young quarterback trying to find his way in the NFL. If Sunday’s game was any indication, the Jaguars would be wise to use more pre-snap motion to assist Lawrence.

This could go a long way in helping Lawrence as he strives to meet the high expectations that go with being the No. 1 overall pick.

Join in on the conversation on YouTube with Ponytails Talking Pigskins as we break down Lawrence’s debut.