JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Trevor Lawrence’s professional debut opened with a sack and a fumble, hardly ideal but not too concerning for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft rebounded, delivering a couple of impressive throws and somewhat salvaging his first preseason game — a 23-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night.
Lawrence started over Gardner Minshew and completed 6 of 9 passes for 71 yards in two series. The most important part for Jacksonville: the former Clemson star left TIAA Bank Field healthy. There had to be some worry after Lawrence was sacked on the team’s first play.
Lawrence was taken down again on his second drive but responded with his best throw: a 35-yarder to Marvin Jones on third down. That one, however, came after Lawrence held the ball way longer than quarterbacks normally get away with in the NFL.
“I saw good plays,” first-year Jaguars coach Urban Meyer said. “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 onto it a little bit. But we have a long way to go.”
Lawrence failed to lead Jacksonville to points. The biggest takeaway was his offensive line, a veteran unit that failed to handle Cleveland’s backups.
The Browns held out most of their starters, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb, receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., cornerback Denzel Ward, and defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
Meyer, also making his NFL debut, countered by playing every starter except receiver DJ Chark (finger) and left guard Andrew Norwell (elbow).
So what should have been an advantage for Jacksonville looked more like a mismatch. The Browns, widely considered a playoff contender after finishing 11-5 last season, dominated both lines of scrimmage and moved the ball up and down the field.
They led 13-0 at halftime and could have been up bigger had coach Kevin Stefanski called for a chip-shot field goal from the 6-yard line. Instead, third-string quarterback Kyle Lauletta threw incomplete on a fourth-and-goal play.
Lauletta completed 19 of 27 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns in relief of second-team QB Case Keenum.
Minshew was 4 of 8 for 47 yards, with an interception.
Linebacker Mack Wilson, one of just three defensive starters on the field for Cleveland, hurt a shoulder. Tight end Stephen Carlson left with a knee injury. Cornerback Kiondre Thomas was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. Safety Andrew Wingard was ruled out with a concussion. Defensive lineman Daniel Ross left in the fourth period with an ankle injury.
Jaguars cornerback CJ Henderson, who missed considerable time early in training camp because of COVID-19 and then sat out several more practices for personal reasons, was one of the few bright spots for the home team. Henderson had two pass breakups, including one on a deep ball.
The Browns ruled out 10 players beforehand because of injury. Receiver Anthony Schwartz (hamstring), safety Grant Delpit (hamstring), safety Sheldrick Redwine (ankle), safety Ronnie Harrison (hamstring), cornerback M.J. Stewart Jr. (hamstring), linebacker Montrel Meander (hamstring), linebacker Tony Fields II (foot), defensive tackle Malik McDowell (rib), receiver Alexander Hollins (hamstring) and Garrett (hamstring).
The Jaguars ruled out nine players: Chark, Norwell, safety Rudy Ford, receiver Phillip Dorsett, safety Daniel Thomas, cornerback Luq Barcoo, receiver Tim Jones, receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe and defensive lineman Taven Bryan.
The Browns host the New York Giants on Aug. 22.