He’s finally here. The much-anticipated debut of first overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence begins this Saturday as his Jacksonville Jaguars host the Cleveland Browns. The NFL betting lines have Jacksonville as the very slight favorite at 1.5 points. The totals are tied for the second-highest of the day at 37.5.
Jacksonville tanked last season, finishing with just one win. This got them not only Lawrence with the No. 1 pick but a new coach in Urban Meyer, who is also an all-time great in the college ranks. As for the Browns, they have some of the best starters. But their backups are very beatable and that’s good for the debuting quarterback-coach combo.
Browns: Not Too Deep
The Browns’ had pressing needs for linebackers and re-signed Malcolm Smith while snagging Anthony Walker. But overall, this is their weakest position along with their special teams.
With that said, Cleveland still has one of the best offensive lines and running games. Left tackle James Hudson, a fourth-round pick, will see plenty of playing time here while sixth-rounder Demetric Felton may see some snaps at running back.
Browns 4th RD pick OT James Hudson at Cincinnati:
🔸 Pass-block snaps: 358
🔸 QB pressures allowed: 6
🔸 Sacks: 0 pic.twitter.com/z6rfjZ9Zim
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 1, 2021
At quarterback, Baker Mayfield will start but it will be third-stringer Kyle Lauletta or backup Case Keenum who could play the majority of the game. Overall, the Browns have a solid starting unit but there is a sizable drop-off when the team will turn to its second and third teams.
Jaguars: It’s Showtime
This game won’t feel like a preseason game for the highly scrutinized pair of Lawrence and Meyer. The franchise has invested heavily on both and will have sky-high expectations. The pressure is already on.
For Lawrence, Meyer has been coy about officially anointing him the team’s starter. It’s obvious he will be, but Gardner Minshew II will also see snaps and will be determined to keep his spot. Former San Francisco 49ers backup CJ Beathard is experienced as far as third-stringers go.
Other rookies to keep an eye on will be running back Travis Etienne, who was Lawrence’s teammate in Clemson, and tight end Luke Farrell. The team’s defense will still be concerning but the Jaguars are significantly improved and are rightful betting favorites here.
Pick: Let It Fly
Fans will expect plenty of offense here considering Lawrence’s acumen and the team’s overall improvements on offense. Cleveland gave up the 11th-most points last season and lacked a pass rush despite the presence of defensive end Myles Garrett.
Cleveland addressed the defensive needs by drafting five players here while making a slew of signings like Walker and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Other than their linebackers, the Browns will be better, at least from a starters’ perspective.
Jacksonville, on paper, has skilled players on offense and if the offensive line can hold up long enough, they should move the ball. Still, Cleveland’s starters should give Meyer a hell of welcome.
But once it shifts to the backups, look for Jacksonville to take over as they look more like a team that will flash its potential.
Pick: Jaguars -1½
Totals Pick: Lots of Scoring
There is plenty of firepower on both teams here to justify the totals going over 37½. This may be the highest-scoring game of Preseason Week 1 given how many talented players are on both teams.
The Jaguars also have a strong trio of preseason quarterbacks and running backs. Meyer has always been an offensive-minded coach so, true to his team’s nature, the Jags will score a lot and give up a lot.