Will the very best that college football has to offer work in the National Football League?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are about to find out.
After a disappointing 1-15 season in 2020, the Jaguars are blowing things up and starting over. Jacksonville successfully recruited college coaching legend Urban Meyer to take charge of the team in January, and while history is littered with coaches who struggled in transitioning from college to pro (see: ‘Spurrier, Steve’ and ‘Saban, Nick’), the Jaguars are confident Meyer can succeed. The three-time national title winner, who lost less than 10 games *total* at three of his four college stops, has a big job in front of him running a franchise that’s only finished above .500 once since 2007.
On the bright side, one of the best college coaches ever will be joined in Duval County by one of the best college quarterbacks ever. Jacksonville used the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson. Lawrence went 34-2 as a starter for the Tigers, leading Clemson to ACC titles and College Football Playoff appearances in each of his three seasons and winning the national championship as a freshman. He will be the Jaguars’ starter from Day One, so it’s safe to say Jacksonville’s outlook for the next few seasons is directly related to how well the Jags’ rookie coach and rookie quarterback adjust to NFL-level competition.
The Jaguars used the offseason to add some important free agents, including Shaquill Griffin, Rayshawn Jenkins, and Roy Robertson-Harris on defense. Wide receiver Marvin Jones should be an instant boost for the offense, but a season-ending preseason injury to first-round pick Travis Etienne definitely hurts a unit that doesn’t have much margin for error.
Jacksonville begins the 2021 season with a September 12 visit to Houston, so Lawrence will make his home regular-season debut as the face of the franchise in Week 2 when the Broncos come to TIAA Bank Field. The Jaguars get their first national television spotlight of the year on September 30 in a Thursday night game at Cincinnati.
When Week 6 rolls around, the Jaguars will face intrastate foe Miami in a game that seems like it should be played halfway between the two cities – perhaps Melbourne, FL? Instead, the two clubs will square off over 4,000 miles away in London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Remarkably, Jacksonville’s next game isn’t too much closer to home, as the Jaguars face the Seahawks in Seattle on October 31.
Other highlights of the schedule include possible showdowns with other highly-touted rookie quarterbacks, as Jacksonville hosts the 49ers (and No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance) on November 21 and visits the Jets (led by No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson) the day after Christmas.
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