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O-Zone: Area of focus

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Michael from Orange Park, FL


I'll assume this is a remarkably succinct way of asking me to assess the Jaguars' 28-23 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Preseason Week 1 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday. My initial thought is it was a fine performance a preseason opener – and by "fine," I mean good, not great, and certainly not bad. The first-team offense took advantage of good field position and quarterback Trevor Lawrence's nine-yard touchdown pass made for a feel-good ending for the starters after two aborted drives to start the game. Remember, too: Head Coach Doug Pederson was forced to alter special teams strategy after long snapper Ross Matiscik left the game with a shoulder injury. He went for two points after both touchdowns and the Jaguars' first touchdown came on a nine-yard pass from quarterback Trevor Lawrence to wide receiver Christian Kirk on fourth-and-3 – decisions that might have been different in the regular season. The major positives were the performances of multiple young players, particularly rookie pass rusher Yasir Abdullah. He had a second-quarter sack and got consistent pressure throughout the game. Good signs for a player the Jaguars like very much.

Bryan from Tampa, FL

So, we know that wins and losses are essentially meaningless in the preseason. It looked to me like we stopped the run really well early. Do you agree and were there other important takeaways that you saw?

Stopping the run early was a positive. The Jaguars also rushed well throughout the game, and the wide receiver depth that has been evident in 2023 Training Camp remained evident. The Jaguars got good pressure throughout and forced three turnovers; that's never bad. Quarterback Nathan Rourke was impressive. And even though young quarterbacks playing well late in preseason games was impressive, it's never a bad thing to get good quarterback play.

Ron from Jacksonville

Here's hoping we don't Allen Lazard this Rourke kid...

We're still talking about Allen Lazard?

Holly from Jax Bch

Zone, would you feel comfortable letting Nathan Rourke clear waivers before protecting him on the practice squad, or do you think they might have to find a spot on the 53 to be certain?

I'd lean toward the latter. But two preseason games remain.

Corey from Palatka, FL

The highlight of the game for me was Brian Sexton and Bucky Brooks. I wish they could broadcast every game for us!

One fer Buck and Sexton.

Antony from Columbia

Zone, my crystal ball is telling me that if everything goes the way Jags fans hope, this is wide receiver Christian Kirk's last season with the Jaguars. Tight end Evan Engram just got paid, and if wide receiver Calvin Ridley plays as well as we expect him to, the Jags are going to try to pay him top dollar. With wide receiver Zay Jones looking like he's still progressing as a receiver and rookie wide receiver Parker Washington looking like an option in the slot, the Jags' pass catchers should be able to function well without Kirk. Does that sound reasonable to you, O?

This sounds reasonable, though there are multiple reasonable scenarios for a 2024 Jaguars offseason in which many difficult salary-cap decisions must be made. This answer is not meant to be vague as much as it's meant to be realistic. The Jaguars have a lot of good, well-paid veterans who likely will represent cap challenges next offseason. There's a good chance familiar and good veterans won't return for the 2023 season. The 2023 season will be a significant part of those decisions. Until it plays out – or at least begins to play out – it's difficult if not impossible to say if Kirk or any other such player will be here moving forward.

Brian from Round Rock, TX

Can you really learn anything from preseason games? I remember people getting real excited or upset after these games in the past, and they didn't really translate to the regular season. Even the first month of the regular season has some strange games, when you look back at where the teams ended up.

You don't get a real idea of the strength of most NFL teams until five or six weeks into the season. As for learning from the preseason … you sometimes can get a vague idea about a player or position group. A player or position group might flash or look the part, or he/it might really struggle. Even so, it's best to keep preseason in perspective. Not that most people do.

José from Santiago, Chile

Hi. What do you think about tight Sammis Reyes and is there any chance to play with Jaguars?

Reyes is an impressive player physically who likely needs more development time to be on the 53-player roster of an NFL team.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

The Jaguars' "D" ended the 2022 season by allowing the Houston Texans and New York Jets only three points each (on the road), saved the season with a spectacular defensive touchdown in the final moments of the winner-take-all finale against the Tennessee Titans and played some of the best situational defense of all time in the second half of the wildcard victory against the Los Angeles Chargers. They couldn't stop tight end Travis Kelce but that seems like a league wide problem and the offense has to score more than 20 to win in Kansas City. I was shocked and bewildered they didn't re-sign pass rusher Arden Key but I think they will be a top 10 scoring defense this year. Do you think maybe the Jags "D" is a little under-rated?

The Jaguars' defense played very big in some very big moments late last season, and you're right that the offense missed as many opportunities as the defense in Kansas City last January. The Jaguars very much wanted to re-sign Key. Sometimes, free agents sign elsewhere. I don't know if the defense is underrated. I do think it has a chance to be better than many observers believe.

Bill from Ponte Vedra

Any positive review of the defense's performance in the Kansas City playoff game should at least mention the fact that quarterback Patrick Mahomes could barely walk for most of the game.


Bradley from Sparks, NV

My favorite segment has long been the thing where you ask a media member that covers the Jags' upcoming opponent questions. The answers are always insightful and pragmatic. Will that feature continue and how do you select the interviewees?

Yes. I text or email the person I respect most in that market and ask if he/she will participate. If he/she says no, I move to the next person on the list. And so on.

Nick from Milton, Canada

If Walker Little lights it up at left tackle before Cam Robinson returns, would the Jags be open to putting Cam at left guard? Seems to make more sense to me if there is potential to cut Cam the following season.

I don't expect the Jaguars to do this. Robinson pretty much has worked solely at left tackle for seven seasons. Little has worked at guard in practice the past three seasons.

Jimjim from Eugene

I'm very impressed with Press Taylor. It's not hard to see the competitor in him, and the way he "connects the dots," it's clear he understands the nuances of the game. Do you think he'll be a head coach someday soon? Or will he be the next Ernie Zampese, masterminding offenses as a coordinator for life? It is amazing how he grasps all the concepts and tailors them to each player.

I expect Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor to be a head coach in the next few seasons.

Bruce from Saint Simons Island

O, Optimistic! I rewatched the Jags/Chargers game and the Jags were very lucky (one example – Joey Bosa offsides when Lawrence was sacked). I think it will be a real battle for the Jags to repeat as AFC South Champs, but they deserve to be the favorite. I know that rankings are useless at this point, but I noticed the Jags OL was ranked next to last in the NFL. That would spell trouble. Your thoughts?

One thought is it's rarely easy to win a division title in the NFL. It's professional football. It's not supposed to be easy. Another thought is that the Jaguars deserve to be the favorite in the AFC South. A final thought is that rankings about the NFL serve but one purpose: to draw attention/viewers/page views. They mean nothing and often are grossly inaccurate. I expect the Jaguars' offensive line to at least be fine and to probably be a strength. If it's one of the worst in the NFL … yes, that would spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

GPP from Savannah, GA

John. For a preseason game, not bad. But 13 penalties were a bit surprising.

Head Coach Doug Pederson didn't like the 13 penalties against the Cowboys a bit. Obviously. It will be an area of focus moving forward.