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NFL: Promising QBs search for more when Jaguars, Jets meet

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The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets selected Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson with the respective Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The two struggling quarterbacks will look to get on track at the other’s expense on Sunday when the Jaguars visit the Jets at East Rutherford, N.J.

Sunday’s game marks just the fourth time in NFL history that the No. 1 and 2 selections in the draft will meet as starting quarterbacks in their rookie seasons. The last such time came in 2015, when Jameis Winston led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans.

Whether Robert Saleh will be available to see Lawrence vs. Wilson is in question, however, after New York’s head coach tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. Should Saleh fail to be cleared to return, tight ends coach Ron Middleton — who guided the team through practice on Wednesday — will handle the head coaching responsibilities on Sunday.

Lawrence and Wilson have yet to pay significant early dividends for their respective teams as those clubs are again in the running for the top pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Jaguars (2-12) are slightly “ahead” of the Detroit Lions (2-11-1) for the top pick, while the Jets (3-11) are in the mix.

Lawrence has thrown just one touchdown pass in the last seven games, a stretch in which Jacksonville has posted a 1-6 record after mustering just 73 combined points.

“I hate seeing that because that means we’re not scoring a lot of points,” said Lawrence, who has seen his team average a league-worst 14.0 points per game.

“It would be different if we were scoring points but in the run game or whatever it is, but still able to win games. That’s fine. It’s my job to try to win games, but when you see that and you’re not scoring points, it kinda goes hand-in-hand. It’s disappointing.”

James Robinson boosted his rushing touchdown total to eight after finding the end zone in Jacksonville’s 30-16 loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday. He is the fourth undrafted player in the common-draft era with at least 15 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons.

Jacksonville activated Ryquell Armstead off Green Bay’s practice squad, with fellow running back Carlos Hyde (concussion) placed on injured reserve.

Jaguars tight end Dan Arnold could make an impact on Sunday after being placed on the designated to return list from injured reserve Wednesday. The trusted target of Lawrence had 28 catches for 324 yards before suffering an MCL sprain against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 28.

“He’s a great talent for us. He’s got a lot of speed and I think it presents a problem for the defense,” interim coach Darrell Bevell said. “But you know, we’ll just see how far he can come in the next few days.”

While Wilson has yet to blossom, he rushed for a touchdown for the third time in four games during New York’s 31-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.

That scoring output represented a boon for the Jets, who are averaging the league’s sixth-worst total of 17.9 points per contest.

Already without rookie Elijah Moore (team-leading 538 yards, five receiving touchdowns) and Corey Davis, the Jets could be down another wideout with Jamison Crowder (club-best 50 catches) failing to practice on Wednesday due to a calf injury.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley (back), defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins (knee), cornerback Bryce Hall (illness, non-COVID-19) and safety Elijah Riley (concussion) also didn’t practice on Wednesday.

As the team awaits word on Saleh, Middleton insisted that it will be business as usual as the club attempts to snap its third three-game losing streak of the season.

“I’m strictly team,” Middleton said. “There’s no selfish or personal deal in it at all. It’s strictly team, whatever I can do to help beat the Jaguars on Sunday.”

Linebacker Myles Jack (knee), who leads Jacksonville with 97 tackles, was one of seven Jaguars players who did not practice on Wednesday. Robinson (knee) and defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen (shoulder) were limited.

–Field Level Media

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