Jaguars GM calls QB Trevor Lawrence's injuries 'alarming' and vows to improve trenches

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke called Trevor Lawrence’s injury-filled season “alarming.”

Baalke said Jacksonville needs to do a better job protecting its franchise quarterback and Lawrence needs to do a better job protecting himself.

“Your quarterback has a throwing shoulder injury, a knee injury, an ankle injury and a concussion all in one year? That’s alarming,” Baalke said Thursday. “We got to work to improve that. There’s a lot of things that contribute to that. But we do have to do a better job there.”

Lawrence, the top pick in the 2021 draft, missed the first game of his professional career following a sprained right shoulder sustained in Week 16 at Tampa Bay. Lawrence also missed significant practice time because of other injuries: a sprained left knee in Week 6, a sprained right ankle in Week 13 and a concussion in Week 15.

The injury woes played a part in the worst late-season collapse in franchise history. The Jaguars (9-8) lost five of their final six games and missed the postseason after spending much of the season atop the AFC South.

Lawrence clearly regressed, partly because of injuries. He threw for 4,016 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions — Baalke called it “another learning year.” He also ran for four scores, lost seven fumbles and was sacked a career-high 35 times.

A long-term contract that seemed like a slam dunk before the 2023 season now feels as if it could be at least a year away.

“As far as Trevor and his long-term relationship with this team, there’s no doubt that we’re going to get something done at the appropriate time,” Baalke said.

The Jaguars have more pressing needs, mainly fixing an offensive line that was the team’s biggest issue all season. Second-year center Luke Fortner appeared overmatched. Five-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff, 32, looked to be on the downside of his career. Left guard was a revolving door, and left tackle Cam Robinson missed four games because of a suspension and four more because of a knee injury.

“I don’t think it’s just player related,” Baalke said. “I don’t think it’s just scheme related. We’ve got to get bigger. We’ve got to get stronger. We’ve got to get more physical in the trenches. If you want to compete for championships, you have to do that. I think we’ve got some good pieces in there. We have some good young players in there, but we have to get better.”

Jacksonville had the second-most runs in the league in which it lost yards or gained no yards, and the team’s short-yardage woes were constantly on display. Baalke pinned some of the blame on a lack of identity on both sides of the ball.

Coach Doug Pederson fired defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and seven of his assistants. He hired Ryan Nielsen from Atlanta to fill the void.

“You got to have an identity. Who are you?” Baalke said. “You got to have an identity and you got to develop that identity in the offseason and all the way through training camp to preseason and into the season. And you got to stick with it.

“If you ask the coaches, we probably didn’t do that to the level we wanted to.”

Other topics Baalke addressed:

— Pass rusher Josh Allen, who set a franchise record 17½ sacks, will definitely be back. Baalke said the team will either sign Allen to a long-term deal or use the franchise tag on him. Allen would be guaranteed $21.9 million under the tag in 2024. Baalke said he hasn’t even started negotiating with Allen’s agent on a new contract.

— Rookie right tackle Anton Harrison could play left tackle if the team decides to move on from Robinson, who is scheduled to count $22.75 million against the salary cap in 2024.

— He made it clear a roster overhaul won’t be in the works. The Jaguars returned 21 of 22 starters in 2023, but will have more attrition this time around.

“This isn’t a team that finished 2-15. We finished 9-8, one game out and it’s not good enough. I get that," Baalke said. "It’s not a team that needs to be a total overhaul.

"There’s good players in that locker room. There’s good coaches in this building. There’s good personnel people. We have what we need in this building. We just got to add some more to it."