Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence's early season problems all too familiar for Bengals' Joe Burrow

John Reid
Florida Times-Union
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence warms up prior to the Sept. 26 game against the Cardinals.

CINCINNATI | Trevor Lawrence has already lost more games during the first quarter of his rookie season than he did during his three-year career at Clemson, where he won 36 of 38 games.

He went into Thursday night's prime-time battle against rival quarterback Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, seeking his first win after an 0-3 start.

It was only the second time in NFL history a rookie quarterback chosen No. 1 overall faced a quarterback who was chosen No. 1 overall the previous year. The only other instance came in 2019, when No. 1 overall pick that year Kyler Murray outdueled 2018 No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield.

Lawrence was the Jaguars' No. 1 overall pick this year, while Burrow was the 2020 No. 1 pick by the Bengals. Until Thursday, the only other time they had faced each was during the College Football Playoff National Championship game in 2020, when Burrow led LSU to a 42-25 over the Lawrence-led Clemson Tigers.

Now three games into his NFL career, Lawrence is handling his adversity share of adversity for the first time since playing football. The Jaguars have lost 18 consecutive games since last season and Lawrence continues to make youthful mistakes.

Trying to make a big play, Lawrence has forced throws, misread defensive coverages, turning the ball over too much. Going into Thursday night, Lawrence was tied for the NFL lead with the second overall pick quarterback, Zach Wilson of the New York Jets, for the most interceptions with seven.

Next on the list behind the two rookies is Burrow with four.

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Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) scrambles away from Jaguars defensive end Cassius Marsh in the teams' 2020 game.

''Obviously, we want to make sure that he’s making the decisions correctly,'' Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of Lawrence. ''I don’t want to take the aggressiveness away. We always want to read the plays how it’s supposed to be read."

Lawrence has nine turnovers, including two lost fumbles in last week's 31-19 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

It's all too familiar for Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. Like Lawrence, he had his share of ups and downs last season as a rookie with soaring expectations as the franchise savior. 

''You know it's tough early in your career still figuring everything out,'' Burrow said. ''But he (Lawrence) has all the talent in the world. He's just going to keep getting better and better as he acclimates more reps. He's as talented of a guy as there is, and like I said, he's just going to keep getting better and better as he accumulates reps.''

Before Burrow's rookie season was cut short after a devastating knee injury against Washington in Week 11, he led the Bengals to only two wins. In his first six games, Burrow's lone victory was against the Titans, 31-20, in Week 3. During the early season stretch last season, Burrow threw only three interceptions but was sacked a whopping 17 times.

Having a year's experience was an edge Burrow had over Lawrence Thursday night, along with more weapons at his disposal. Bengals rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Burrow's college teammate at LSU, ranks second in the NFL with four touchdown catches. Running back Joe Mixon is the league's second-leading rusher with 286 yards on 67 carries.

In order to establish long-term success, Coach Urban Meyer will have to put more weapons around Lawrence. Right now, they don't have enough. Their receivers are still having problems getting separation. With James O'Shaughnessy on injured reserve, the tight end position continues to be a problem. The Jaguars traded ninth overall pick cornerback CJ Henderson to the Panthers in exchange for veteran tight end Dan Arnold, who was expected to play Thursday night. 

Lawrence, however, doesn't point fingers. He says his decision making must improve to cut down on mistakes.

''Yeah, I think I have had four bad-decision turnovers which in three games is a little bit too much for sure,'' said Lawrence, who said he doesn't know Burrow that well but recalled meeting him for the first time at the Manning passing camp in Louisiana three summers ago.

''I do not really want to have one every game and then the other three, one was a bad throw in the first game. That is just football and those things are just going to happen, but the other four, definitely need to clean those up. I feel like every week I have gotten better.''

So far, like Burrow had to experience, every week is a new experience for Lawrence. This week was the first time adjusting to having a quick turnaround, playing just four days after Sunday's game against the Cardinals. 

''It is just tough going from Sunday to Thursday because you have to get your body right and then take care of it,'' Lawrence said. “Oh gosh, yeah, it is completely different. It is like you do not even know what day it is, just everything is faster.''

Thursday night's Jaguars-Bengals game was not complete by press time. Find full coverage of the game at Jacksonville.com or in Saturday's Times-Union.