3 ways the Jacksonville Jaguars helped star QB Trevor Lawrence in 2024

• Here are 3 things the Jaguars did to put Trevor Lawrence in a position to succeed.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates after his touchdown pass to wide receiver Zay Jones (7) early in the fourth quarter at TIAA Bank Field Sunday, December 18, 2022.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates after his touchdown pass to wide receiver Zay Jones (7) early in the fourth quarter at TIAA Bank Field Sunday, December 18, 2022. / Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY

Mark Brunnell was a big reason the Jacksonville Jaguars reached two straight AFC Championships in the 1990s. You could even say he's the best quarterback in franchise history and nobody will raise an eyebrow. That said, he could soon pass the torch to Trevor Lawrence, who's steadily improved since the Jags drafted him first overall in 2021.

It's true that Lawrence is coming off a somewhat underwhelming season but some of the reasons for his regressing were beyond his control. For starters, he had to carry the team on his shoulders but his supporting cast was less than ideal. On top of that, he dealt with a myriad of injuries that hindered his performance. Most quarterbacks are going to struggle under those circumstances.

Fortunately for the Jags, the player affectionately known as the prince is fully healthy. In fact, he says that he didn't truly feel like himself until March, so it's fair to say that his injuries were more than just the inherent scratches and bruises that come with playing football.

But despite taking a step back last year, Lawrence got a massive extension that makes him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. You could argue that the Jaguars should've waited to pay him. However, they've already seen enough to think he was their guy. Of course, signing a contract of that magnitude comes with expectations, and the Knoxville, Tenessee native will need to show he's deserving of the franchise quarterback moniker.

Working in his favor is that the Jaguars realized they needed to help Lawrence if they want him to lead him to the promised land. That's why they made several moves in the offseason that should help him. These three, in particular, stand out.

3. The Jaguars revamped Trevor Lawrence's arsenal of weapons

Calvin Ridley was the Jaguars' most effective receiver last season, hauling in 76 receptions for 1,016 yards with eight touchdowns. To nobody's surprise, they wanted to keep the Alabama product but they would've had to give him a new deal and part ways with a second-round selection, something they agreed to do as part of the trade they made to acquire him in 2022.

Rightly, Jacksonville didn't want to give up their second-rounder but they were willing to pay Ridley. Unfortunately, the Tennessee Titans swooped in and lured him away. The Jags could've matched their foe's offer but ultimately decided against it. Still, they needed to fill a void left by Ridley's departure and they did it with Brian Thomas Jr., the 23rd overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Although Thomas has yet to play a down in the NFL, he's got the tools to develop into a WR1. It's still early but the early reviews have been positive. The former LSU Tiger has made a strong impression in offseason workouts. If it can carry over into training camp and later the preseason, he'll be in great shape for the regular season. That said, drafting Thomas wasn't the only change the team's brass made to the wide receiver corps.

Back in free agency, the front office signed Gabe Davis to a three-year deal worth $39 million. Originally seen as a potential replacement for Ridley, he was in reality a replacement for Zay Jones, who got the boot not long after the draft.

Davis has never caught more than 50 passes in a season during his NFL career and has logged more than 800 yards just once. On the other hand, he's a big-play threat who's averaged a jaw-dropping 16.7 yards per catch. His ability to stretch the field will most definitely come in handy.

It's also worth noting that Jones also had underwhelming production before signing with the Jaguars and went on to have a career year in 2022. It's reasonable to think that Davis could have a similar trajectory.

Add the fact that Christian Kirk is hungry and looking to bounce back after suffering a core injury last year, and Trevor Lawrence's arsenal looks in better than it was in 2023.

2. The Jaguars signed C Mitch Morse to reinforce the O-Line

The offensive line was a major weakness for the Jaguars last year. They couldn't block for Trevor Lawrence or open lanes in the running games. This lead to a dropoff on offense. The quarterback's quick release made up for the poor protection he got but he wasn't able to play to the best of his capabilities.

On the other hand, Travis Etienne was running hard but only averaged a measly 3.8 yards because he already had defenders on his face by the time he reached the line of scrimmage.

Realizing the Jaguars needed to make upgrades up front, they signed center Mitch Morse in free agency. The veteran will tentatively replace incumbent Luke Fortner, whose pass-block win rate ranked near the cellar of the NFL.

On top of signing Morse, the Jags re-signed left guard Ezra Cleveland after trading for him at last year's deadline. The hope is that the former Boise State Bronco will bring stability at left guard, something the team lacked last year. On top of that, the team's brass restructured right guard Brandon Scherff's contract to bring him back in 2023 instead of outright releasing him.

The expectation is that having continuity on the offensive line will turn into improved play in the trenches, and better protection for Trevor Lawrence.

1. The Jaguars hired Ryan Nielsen to oversee the defense

Having a franchise quarterback increases your chances of win it all in the NFL. However, he cannot do it all alone. You need to give him weapons, and protection. A good defense also helps.

It's true that today's rules favor offenses and hardly do teams build their identity around their defense any longer. On the other hand, the best way to neutralize the impact of a quarterback is bringing disruption at the line of scrimmage. Having a secondary that can hold onto their assignments and force him to take longer to throw comes in handy as well.

That's why the Jacksonville Jaguars made an effort to revamp their defense in the offseason. Head coach Doug Pederson dismissed defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and brought in Nielsen to take his place.

Caldwell did a solid job early in 2023 but his unit faded down the stretch. By the end of the season, position groups were no longer communicating and players weren't getting appropriate coaching. Nielsen will instill discipline and will put a big emphasis on technique and fundamentals.

Nielsen was the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons last year they saw a significant improvement under him. the Jaguars should also be much better with him at the helm. In fact, he'll arguably have more talent in Jacksonville than he did with the Falcons.

Besides outside pass rusher Josh Allen, Nielsen will have Travon Walker, defensive end Arik Armstead, and many other players at his disposal. Don't be surprised if Jacksonville has a top-5 defense by the end of the season.

And without having to outscore opponents every game, Lawrence will be in a much better position to win games and solidify his place as a top-10, maybe 5, quarterback in the NFL.

More Jaguars analysis here: