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O-Zone: Anxious moments

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

It's game day, baby. I can't wait. I'm predicting a huge win. HUGE. What say you?

It is indeed game day, with the Jaguars facing the Houston Texans Sunday in the 2021 regular-season opener at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas – and your enthusiasm is understandable. Jaguars fans have waited for this new era since some fans can remember, and the presence of quarterback Trevor Lawrence – and Head Coach Urban Meyer – has enthusiasm at a peak. And there's little question that the future – immediate and long-term – looks better than the recent past. Lawrence's presence ensures that. Still, this is a very young team – with a significant number of rookies and recently-signed free agents – and with a coaching staff new to the NFL. That Texans, by contrast, are a veteran team with a veteran quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. While Taylor is not elite, he has won in the NFL – and it figures he won't get overwhelmed by the exotic blitzes the Jaguars under coordinator Joe Cullen undoubtedly will run. That difference in experience doesn't necessarily mean the Jaguars won't win Sunday. I continue to believe they will. But would I feel more certain about their chances if Houston had a rookie quarterback starting rather than a veteran? A little, yeah.

Marty from Jacksonville

John. Regarding your answer recently about how many times we would like to throw the ball in a game, I think people often confuse cause and effect. Throwing doesn't cause losing, any more than running causes winning. It's the other way around. Losing causes throwing and winning causes running. By which I mean being behind causes throwing and being ahead causes running. Don't you agree?

There's truth in what you say. There's nothing written in stone that an NFL team can't win throwing a certain number of times per game … say, 40 or more. But teams usually don't want to throw that much – therefore, if that team is throwing that much it often means the game isn't going as hoped. Specific to the Jaguars and Sunday's game … the reason 40 (or so) throws would be a negative is that's almost certainly not the Jaguars' desired approach in Lawrence's first NFL game. That doesn't mean this team never will be able to win with Lawrence throwing that much. They quite probably will be able to win that way consistently. Someday. Just not yet. Not in Game One.

DC Jag from Alexandria, VA

Hail KOAF! You always say "winning is fun and people like it" or something like that, but going into a game thinking you have a chance to win is almost as good. Go Jags!

Yes, but not quite.

Dave from Jacksonville

Zone, could defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen get a four-sack game? Can the team get 10 like 2017? Is Houston any better now?

Perhaps we should "slow our roll." While anything is possible, 10-sack games for teams – and a four-sack games for individuals – are outliers in the NFL. Which is why the Jaguars' defensive performance in the 2017 regular-season opener – a one-sided victory at Houston – remains so memorable. That Jaguars defense in retrospect was primed for a special season. That defense stunned Houston and defensive end Calais Campbell had a career game that set the tone for a career season. Allen is capable of such a game. It's folly to project he might actually have one.

David from Oviedo, FL

KOAF - With the recent government mandates, are all players and coaches now required to get the vaccine?

No. The NFL already has mandated that coaches and staff be vaccinated to work closely with players. Players are not required to be vaccinated.

Steve from McGavock, HS

JO - Not counting injuries, what percent of offensive plays will Walker Little be on the field for year-end stats?

This depends mostly on how right tackle Jawaan Taylor and left tackle Cam Robinson play this season; if they play well, rookie tackle Walker Little likely won't play. But you knew that already, which almost certainly prompted your question. I'm a wide-eyed optimist, so I think Taylor and Robinson will play very well this season. So, let's go with zero. Or so.

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach

Besides being a badge of honor, do the captains have any specific duties as captains?

Being elected captain is a bit more than a badge of honor. It's reflective of the respect teammates have for a player. But no … there aren't usually any specific duties associated with the status.

Zac from Austin, Tejas

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Shenault's versatility works as much as a threat as does giving him the ball. While I'm no expert, if you rely on him too heavily to fill in for Etienne, he will lose his effectiveness in the role he seemed to be leaning towards.

You seem to be asking if Laviska Shenault Jr.'s effectiveness as a receiver would be limited if the Jaguars use him in the hybrid role coaches originally envisioned for rookie running back Travis Etienne Jr. Perhaps. A little. But I don't know that coaches want Shenault in the role envisioned for Etienne. I would project Shenault occasionally lining up various places around the offense and playing primarily receiver – most often in the slot. The Jaguars likely will try to get him situations to use his physicality and versatility, but I expect him to primarily be a receiver.

Big Cat from Teal Town

Zone, I am so incredibly stoked for the season opener. I had a question, but I'm finding it hard to articulate. I've been overcome by this feeling, I don't know how to express it. Zone, I'm losing control I don't know wha-DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Jaguars' 2021 regular season begins Sunday.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

Head coach Urban Meyer has been very open about his transition to the NFL. He is now dealing with fully-grown men who have contracts, agents and a union. He has a set of NFL rules that differ significantly from those of the NCAA. His history proves he knows the Xs and Os and knew how to motivate and get the best out of his college players. What will be the yardstick for measuring his success (or lack thereof) in the NFL? Will it simply be the W/L column? Or other factors?

Meyer's success in the NFL will be measured by victories and losses – and playoff appearances. It's professional football. There's no other measure.

Nick from Annapolis, MD

I think most people agree with your statement that there are enough pieces in place to where if the top-end talent on this team plays to their full potential (and/or draft status) this could be a big turnaround. This is probably true for most teams. The interesting thing is that maximizing potential seems to be the area Meyer spends the most time and energy on. If he can succeed in maximizing the potential of the offensive tackles, pass rushers and wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., this probably will be a very competitive team.

Yes, getting Robinson and Taylor playing to their potential matters. Getting Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson maximizing potential matters, too. And Chark matters. But here are the questions that likely will determine success or failure for this team. Can it stop the run better than last season? And is Lawrence ready to make a difference – a real difference – as a rookie? The defensive front and quarterback are the two areas where the team is most dramatically different than last season. How those areas fare likely will make the biggest difference from last season to this one.

Sam from Sydney, Australia

Hi, O. Is it just me or are others super-excited but also super-anxious about the season? I'm so hyped up I think I'm going to be sick but trying to calm down enough to get through a very long season. I guess I just want all this effort the team has put in to gain positive results.

It's not just you. There should be a feeling of anxiousness associated with the excitement. First, there's always anxiousness as a season begins – or at least there should be anxiousness. And in the case of the 2021 Jaguars, the anxiousness is expected because there are more unknowns than knowns about this team. There's a good chance Lawrence is going to immediately improve the quarterback position. There's a good chance the run defense will improve. There's a good chance the receivers will be better than last season. There's a good chance Lawrence's presence and the continuity at the position will improve the offensive line. There's a good chance an improved run defense will help improve the pass rush. There's a good chance the secondary will improve. But we haven't seen improvement from those areas yet. A lot must go as planned for this team to make significant improvement – and to win more games. Will enough things go as planned? We begin to find out Sunday.

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