The Ascension of CJ Stroud: Outshining Trevor Lawrence and Shaking the AFC South

CJ Stroud dominates, Trevor Lawrence disappoints and disaster ensued for the Jaguars in Week 3

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The NFL is a stage where talent and competition converge, offering a thrilling spectacle of athleticism and strategy. In this arena, two names have emerged, sparking debates and comparisons — C.J. Stroud and Trevor Lawrence. As the 2023 season unfolded before their match-up Sunday, Stroud seems to be gaining an edge, particularly in the AFC South. This in-depth analysis dissects their performances, shedding light on the evolving dynamics within the Jacksonville Jaguars and the AFC South.

All Hail: The Rise of Texans QB CJ Stroud

CJ Stroud's ascendance in the Texans' lineup has been nothing short of threatening to the Jaguars. Despite the team's rocky start to the season, Stroud has displayed commendable resilience and skill. His pass completion rate is an impressive 65 percent, with four touchdowns and zero interceptions, a notable achievement for a rookie quarterback.

His gameplay evolution is also noteworthy. There has been a significant decrease in passes behind the line of scrimmage from the first to the second game. This strategic shift highlights Stroud's adaptability and ability to mold his gameplay to suit the team's requirements.

One of Stroud's standout qualities is his proficiency in long passes. His two touchdown passes of over 10 yards are a testament to his strength in this area. However, he has yet to attempt passes beyond 21 yards, suggesting room for improvement in that area.

In his three NFL starts, Stroud has thrown for 906 yards (fifth), four touchdowns, and completed 78 passes (fifth) out of 121 attempts. His current pace projects a 5,100-yard rookie season.

The Short Reign of Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence

Despite their struggles, Trevor Lawrence, the Jacksonville Jaguars' dynamic player, has been an influential figure in the team. His consistency and precision in gameplay were commendable in the brutal and devastating loss to the Texans.

That said, with analysts predicting an MVP Season with 5,000+ yards for Lawrence, he is not living up to his crown. 

Through the season's first two games, Lawrence has managed 736 yards passing (ranked 11th), three beautiful touchdowns, two horrendous interceptions, and 73 completions (ranked ninth) for a 65 percent completion rate. He is on pace for a heartbreaking 4,100-yard season with 17 touchdowns. That's just not good enough; Lawrence was supposed to elevate the Jaguars to the Promise Land, not become a Wish Blake Bortles.

A Tale of Two Strategies: the script got flipped

Last week, I discussed the gameplay, strategies, and in-game circumstances in our comparison between Stroud and Lawrence. Stroud leans towards a more aggressive approach, while Lawrence adopts a balanced and cautious system.

In Sunday's game, the script flipped, and Lawrence desperately aggressively tried to pass his way out of a devastating defeat. Despite the Jaguar's desperation, Stroud still outthrew Lawrence by one yard and one jaw-dropping touchdown.

The Verdict Thus Far

C.J. Stroud and Trevor Lawrence demonstrated their potential in the first two games of the 2023 season, then went head-to-head. Stroud came out ahead in every way, and Lawrence was weighed, measured, and found wanting. Stroud has ultimately dethroned Lawrence as the top quarterback in the division. 

 Elsewhere in the AFCS, the Indianapolis Colts managed a fluke overtime win and have a hairline lead in the division. Otherwise, everyone is 1-2, and it's anyone's division. Stroud's victory has opened up the AFC South, and the Jaguars franchise and their franchise-saving quarterback may never recover.

There is a speck of exciting sentiment as the Jaguars depart for London, which may become their future home if stadium funding support does not improve; an intense rivalry has been born and escalated. Lawrence and the Jaguars will travel to the Kingdom of Houston and try to regain the throne from the Texans on November 26.

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