The varied paths of Trevor Lawrence, Matt Ryan, Davis Mills: AFC South analysis

The start of Trevor Lawrence’s NFL career has been full of ups and downs, stellar plays and head decisions. Through 27 career games, we’ve seen flashes of the generational prospect the Jaguars’ quarterback was coming out of Clemson in 2021, only for the mistakes to appear, questioning the sky-high expectations placed on him.

That’s why Week 12, when the Jaguars (3-7) come off their bye to host the AFC-container Ravens (6-3), will be another critical time to determine whether Lawrence can be a consistent quarterback in long term.

He’s been 54-for-71 for 494 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions the last two games (a win over the Raiders, a loss to the Chiefs). He has had at least a 70% completion rate and a 100 passenger rating in both contests, a testament to his efficiency.

But that’s the bigger question: Can he do it again against the Ravens? Lawrence has never had three straight games with a 70% completion rate or a 100 passer rating, let alone both. The Ravens have an average defense that Lawrence should have opportunities to exploit. Baltimore is giving up 258.8 yards per game, fifth-worst in the NFL.

In a hostile environment in Kansas City, Lawrence showed great poise and made big throws. Arguably his best pass came in the second quarter, when he had a 33-yard dime to wide receiver Marvin Jones on the sideline, far enough outside that the defender couldn’t make a play on the ball, but no as far as Jones could. Don’t make the diving catch.

Lawrence also went 2-for-2 in the quarter, including a dart between two defenders to hit wide receiver Zay Jones in the third quarter that helped set up a 35-yard field goal for kicker Riley Patterson.

Overall, Lawrence did wonders in the short and intermediate passing game. He completed 86.7 percent of his pass attempts that hit targets less than 12 yards from the line of scrimmage (26 of 30), including one touchdown, according to Next Gen Stats.

“I think he understands our system better,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said Monday. “We’re retraining plays a little bit more, so the verbiage and everything is a little bit easier to spit out in the meeting than it was in Week 1 or even in training camp. All of that really helps him in his growth and really his development, and it’s all starting to come together for him.”

The Ravens game is another chance for Lawrence to continue to solidify.

Some other thoughts on the AFC South:

Matt Ryan he returns to his rightful place as the starting QB

The Colts’ decision to bench Matt Ryan in October always felt a little misguided.

A 15-year veteran quarterback, and the more than $31.9 million remaining on his contract acquired by Indianapolis for a third-round pick, was supplanted by a former sixth-round pick in Sam Ehlinger who had not tried a pass in an NFL regular season. The game of the season (at the time of the decision) never matched the franchise’s claims of not flying the white flag during the season.

Of course, the Colts (4-5-1) didn’t hold up their end of the bargain for Ryan, 37, with a run game and offensive line disaster, points made by fired coach Frank Reich. . Ryan’s high turnover rate was also a problem. But impatience seemed to prevail as he sat the former NFL MVP just seven games with a new team. The Colts players, in fact, were surprised by their bench.

That’s why interim coach Jeff Saturday’s surprising decision to start Ryan against the Raiders, just days after saying Ehlinger would continue as the starter for at least another week, appeared to rectify the situation. And that decision showed why Ryan gives the Colts their best chance to save their season.

Ryan’s obligation was found in Indianapolis’ 25-20 win over Las Vegas on Sunday. His 39-yard scramble, alone his career single-game rush, highlighted an 82-yard drive that won the game for the Colts. In just eight starts, Ryan has four game-winners and a league-leading five fourth-quarter comebacks.

And his ability to deliver under pressure for the Colts is no fluke. In 2010 and 2015 with the Falcons, he led the league in fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.

With seven games left to make some noise, Indianapolis will need to build on that momentum.

“He’s a great leader,” Ryan said Saturday after the game.

Hello, titans pass catchers!

Pass catching (especially at wide receiver) has been an Achilles heel for the Titans all season. He was projected to enter the year, with AJ Brown gone. And that belief has proven correct as 2022 has worn off, with zero wide receiver catches in the Chiefs’ Week 9 game being the low point.

But Tennessee’s pass catchers showed hope in a defense-dominated 17-10 win over the Broncos on Sunday.

Third-year wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine had the game of his life: five receptions for a career-high 119 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 63-yard score. The tight ends were big as well, with rookie Chig Okonkwo’s 41-yard catch and run and some big third-down conversions by veteran Austin Hooper. In the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Titans had 244 total passing yards, their third-highest of the season.

One game doesn’t change the dismal state of 31st-ranked Tennessee’s passing game. But there is some reason for optimism moving forward, with rookie first-round receiver Treylon Burks reintegrating into the offense. Sunday was his first game back from injured reserve.

The former Arkansas star leads the Titans with 30.6 yards per game.

Davis Mills‘action against giants adds (more) fuel to the argument jeans should use top pick on QB

With the Texans leading 21-10 in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Giants, looking for a spark in a possible comeback, quarterback Davis Mills threw an interception. Mills was targeting wide receiver Phillip Dorsett for the potential touchdown down the sideline, but the ball was bounced and picked off by safety Dane Belton. Houston would lose 24-16.

It marked Mills’ fifth fourth-quarter interception this season, tied for the NFL most, according to TrueMedia.

In the most critical part of the game, Mills has consistently let Houston down.

“Don’t think it’s the time, simple as that,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said after the game about a possible quarterback change.

But in 2023, with Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud available at the top of the draft, it could finally be the time.

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) before moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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