CJ Beathard understands the asssignment: Jaguars playing for a playoff spot

• CJ Beathard will start for the Jaguars vs. the Panthers. They'll be counting on him to get the win, and end a 4-game losing skid.

Dec 24, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) scrambles out
Dec 24, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback C.J. Beathard (3) scrambles out / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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With Trevor Lawrence expected to miss the first game of his NFL career, C.J. Beathard will be starting at quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17. He isn't taking the opportunity lightly and knows the team's got something to look forward to when they welcome the Carolina Panthers.

Beathard told the local media Wednesday that he's excited for the opportunity to start, and attributed the team's offensive woes to self-inflicted wounds. "It's just a lack of focus," Beathard said. "I think for the most part, it's not locking in enough and making dumb, stupid, little ticky-tack things that we should be better at, and we'll be better at. So it's been an emphasis going into this week for sure."

Later in the exchange, Beathard said that at bad as the Jaguars have been the past four weeks, they have still lots to play for.

"It's a mindset to start. Knowing that what's in front of us still is something to look forward to. The fact that we're still the lead in our division, we have so much to be playing for, for a playoff spot, to win the division. Our goals are still right in front of us. It's not like we're not on the hunt anymore. They're still right there. We just have to watch the last four weeks and learn from it to get better, just move on and start anew," Beathard said.

Beathard goes on to say that this is a must-game, and he's right. While Jacksonville remains in first place in the AFC South, they no longer have a cushion, and their playoff hopes would take a massive hit if they lose to the Panthers.

This will be the first time Beathard will start a game behind center since the 2020 finale. A third-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, the former Iowa Hawkeye joined the Jaguars in 2021. Before this season though, he had attempted 13 passes in Jacksonville. However, he's had his number called with Trevor Lawrence dealing with several injuries.

CJ Beathard will need to lead the Jaguars to a win during Trevor Lawrence's absence

Although Trevor Lawrence had missed practice and got the questionable designation in previous weeks this year, this will be the first time he won't be behind center for the Jaguars to start a game. It's hard to tell how serious the shoulder sprain he suffered in Week 16 is but Beathard could ultimately start the last two games of the season.

The offense hasn't been clicking in recent weeks. Drops, miscommunication and penalties have affected the team's overall activity to put points on the scorebard. If the Jags want to beat Carolina with Beathard at the helm, they'll need to play clean football. Also, getting Travis Etienne involved would help.

Jacksonville has struggled to run the ball in the second half of the season to the point that they don't even try anymore. However, they could be incentivized to run the football with Cam Robinson, a mauler in the running game, back in the lineup. The defense, for their part, must avoid giving up big plays and finish tackles, something they have a hard time doing in recent weeks.

The bottom line is that Beathard knows what's at stake Sunday, and he'll need to pick up the slack during Trevor Lawrence's absence.

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