Welcome to the NFL: No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence sacked twice in preseason debut

John Reid
Florida Times-Union

To the crowd's delight, No.1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence trotted on the field on the Jacksonville Jaguars' opening drive in Saturday night's preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.

It was indeed the start of a new era with Urban Meyer making his coaching debut.

But the Jaguars struggled with some familiar problems during their 23-13 loss to the Browns in front of 57,508 at TIAA Bank Field. 

Not even Lawrence's strong arm and pinpoint accuracy could keep him from experiencing the impact of relentless pass-rush pressure from the Browns.

On his first play from scrimmage, Lawrence was dropped for a sack when the pocket collapsed in a hurry.   

Playing with the starters, Lawrence was 6-of-9 for 71 yards.

He was sacked twice and often pressured, an indication the Jaguars' offensive line is a work in progress with just under a month to go before they open the regular season against the Houston Texans.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence gets sacked during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns.

''Just disappointed offensively… I don’t wanna be one of those slow, wallowing offenses,” Meyer said. ''(Lawrence) held the ball a little bit. He certainly wasn't awe-struck. I saw good plays.

''I saw a guy who made a couple nice plays on third down. I think he held the ball a little bit a couple times, which you would expect out of him maybe. Instead of anticipating the throws (he was) holding on to it a little bit but we have a long way to go.”

Lawrence's first sack occurred because starting right guard A.J. Cann got beat inside by former Jaguars defensive tackle Sheldon Day. 

Lawrence was sacked two plays into the Jaguars' second drive. Cleveland brought pressure from the edge and right tackle Jawaan Taylor struggled to set his feet and seal the edge.

With nowhere to go, Lawrence was sacked by Browns defensive end Porter Gustin for a 5-yard loss.

On the Jaguars' next play, though, Lawrence performed like he so often did at Clemson as a three-year starter. He threw a beautiful deep pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones for a 35-yard catch. 

It was Lawrence's longest completion of the night and it came after the offensive line allowed him time to survey the field and wait for Jones to a get step on Browns cornerback Greg Newsome II.

After his opening play sack, Lawrence made consecutive completions to slot receiver Laviska Shenault for 8 yards and Jones for 10. In nine plays, the Jaguars behind Lawrence gained 30 yards.

But on a third-and-4 play from their own 45, Lawrence was unable to connect with Shenault on a pass attempt that led to the drive ending with a punt.

On the Jaguars' next drive, the Jaguars couldn't convert a fourth-and-1 play when running back James Robinson was stopped for no gain after Lawrence handed him the ball after being lined up in a shotgun formation.

''One of the sacks was on me holding the ball too long,'' Lawrence said. ''Obviously, there are things we have to clean up. It's disappointing anytime you lose.''

Regardless of who took snaps from behind center, the Jaguars quarterbacks struggled to get into a rhythm because of the Browns' constant blitzes and pressure off the edge. 

Backup quarterback Gardner Minshew replaced Lawrence in the second quarter on the Jaguars' third drive of the game. He completed 4-of-8 for 47 yards with an interception and was sacked once on a blitz when Cann failed to recognize whom to pick up.

Most of the Browns' top players – quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and edge rushers Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney – sat out the game. The Browns played only one offensive starter and only three on defense. But during a stretch in the second quarter, the Jaguars were outgained 176-85 in total offense. 

Still, backup C.J. Beathard directed the Jaguars on their first scoring drive of the game. It came early in the fourth quarter when Beathard threw a 5-yard TD pass to Tavon  Austin. Before giving way to Jake Luton, Beathard completed 13-of-16 passes for 102 yards with no turnovers.

Luton led the Jaguars downfield on their final drive of the game, going 52 yards in 11 plays. With 29 seconds remaining in the game, Luton threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to  tight end Tyler Davis. Luton completed 8 of 13 for 53 yards.

Next up for the Jaguars is the New Orleans Saints in their second preseason game Aug. 23 at the Superdome. The Saints lost their preseason opener to the Baltimore Ravens 17-14 Saturday night.