Jaguars begin new era featuring Trevor Lawrence, Urban Meyer

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-15)

New faces: Coach Urban Meyer, QB Trevor Lawrence, QB C.J. Beathard, WR Marvin Jones, WR Tavon Austin, RB Carlos Hyde, OT Walker Little, TE Chris Manhertz, TE Luke Farrell, WR/KR Jamal Agnew, DT Malcom Brown, DL Roy Robertson-Harris, DE Jihad Ward, LB Damien Wilson, CB Shaquill Griffin, CB Tyson Campbell, S Rayshawn Jenkins, S Rudy Ford, S Andre Cisco.

Key losses: RB Travis Etienne (IR/foot), QB Gardner Minshew, WR Keelan Cole, TE Tyler Eifert, LB Joe Schobert, CB D.J. Hayden, CB Sidney Jones, DT Abry Jones.

Strengths: The Jaguars are banking on Lawrence being the man immediately. They spent nearly two decades searching for a franchise quarterback and failed at every turn, eventually moving on from Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, Blaine Gabbert, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew. None of those guys compares to Lawrence, the No. 1 overall draft pick who was widely regarded as the best pro prospect since Andrew Luck. And Jacksonville believes Lawrence has enough talent around him – a decent ground attack and potentially the team’s best receiving corps since Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell in the late 1990s – to be good early.

Weaknesses: Jacksonville’s defense last season was the worst in franchise history, giving up an AFC-leading 492 points (28.9 a game). Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke took a huge swing at the unit by signing more than a dozen free agents on that side of the ball, drafting four defenders and switching to a 3-4 scheme. The turnaround starts with pass rushers Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson, who combined for a measly 3 1/2 sacks in 2020.

Camp Development: Losing Etienne for the season was a significant setback – Meyer called it “a shot in the jaw” – because the rookie from Clemson and 25th overall pick was going to be an integral part of the offense. He was expected to be a change-of-pace back, a slot receiver and a big-play threat every time he touched the ball. Replacing him won’t be easy and might be impossible.

Fantasy Player To Watch: Jones has 18 TD receptions the last two years and 51 scores in eight seasons. He was Lawrence’s top target in training camp and could be again in the regular season. Laviska Shenault should be considered a close second. He led the woeful Jags in receiving as a rookie in 2020 and appears poised to make a jump in Year 2.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 120-1. Over/under wins: 6 1/2.

Expectations: Being better than last year is the lowest bar possible and an easy goal considering the Jaguars upgraded the two most important NFL positions: head coach and quarterback. Jacksonville lost 15 in row to end 2020, including nine by double digits. It wasn’t good, obviously, but it led to Lawrence, and the former Clemson star gives the small-market franchise hope for the long-term future.

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The Associated Press

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