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O-Zone: Back into context

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Michael from Orange Park, FL

You seemed lackluster in your support of Ryan Nielsen after Thursday's press conference. I felt the opposite. I'm all in.

Nielsen, hired as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator on January 22, on Thursday spoke to the media for the first time since his hiring. I answered one question in Friday's O-Zone regarding this media availability – and if the answer seemed "lackluster," that wasn't at all the intent. I have heard great things about Nielsen from people around the Atlanta Falcons, where Nielsen was the defensive coordinator this past season. All indications are that he's very capable. The Falcons last season improved defensively under Nielsen in his lone season there and the defense was the strength of the team in a difficult season. Players spoke positively about Nielsen in Atlanta last season, and players at his previous stop – the New Orleans Saints, where he was defensive line coach with various other roles from 2017-2021 – spoke equally positively about him. Those are all good things. It's also good that Nielsen appears very capable of commanding a room, setting a tone and getting/maintaining "buy in" from players. Those are attributes that are tangible when a coach is first hired and they're all important attributes for an NFL coach. What's unknown when a coach is first hired is how his schemes and approach will mesh with personnel in a new environment. There's no reason to think Nielsen won't do well in these areas. And there's no reason to think this isn't a good hire. He brings energy. The Jaguars will attack and play aggressively. Those are all positives. Nothing lackluster here.

Sam from Orlando, FL

When should we get some finality to the stadium project being set in stone? Starting to feel like a lame-duck franchise until something is finally signed and agreed upon.

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan told reporters recently her administration is on pace to deliver the framework of a stadium deal to the Jacksonville City Council by late this spring with the idea being to "try to bring that in for a landing before the fall." That timeline is in line with what was discussed when Iguana Investments and 1st Downtown released the original renderings and outreach report in the summer of 2023. I have heard nothing to indicate that this won't eventually be set in stone. But I get no feeling around this franchise or around this town of this being a "lame-duck" franchise, though I suppose everyone is entitled to feel how they feel. That suggests that the team might not be in Jacksonville for the long haul. That suggestion is incorrect.

Lane from Winter Garden

O man, Did Spazman really compare Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence to Jay Cutler? Jay Cutler's comparison should be Jeff George: A quarterback with a strong arm and no leadership ability and bad attitude. Lawrence has leadership qualities that those two could only dream of. Win or lose, Lawrence is a class act with a great attitude.

Yes, he is.

Jason from Minneapolis, MN

I am seeing corner as a position that is frequently mocked to the Jaguars. It appears Darious Williams and Tyson Campbell are both under contract this upcoming season. Where do you rank corner in terms of positional needs? For me, it is low on the list compared to the trenches.

Corner perhaps isn't an immediate need for 2024 if you're just glancing at the depth chart, because Campbell and Williams are indeed both under contract with the Jaguars for next season. But both players are under contract for just one more season. Because it's unlikely you would sign both players to high-dollar, long-term contracts next offseason, it makes sense to address at least one corner position this offseason. It also would make sense to do so if Nielsen is looking for players at the position that fit his scheme better than either Williams or Campbell. It also would make sense to do so if you believe a corner available when the Jaguars selected No. 17 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft that could play nickel for a season and move into an outside role in 2025. Either way, I also would put offensive and defensive line high in terms of immediate needs – slightly higher than corner.

Steve from Wallingford, CT

Your answer to Daniel from Johnston was a bit subpar for someone as knowledgeable about the sport as you. How about "There's a lot more to quarterback play than just the quarterback. You need to account for the O-line, the run game, and even the pass catchers as all these factor into a quarterbacks chance of being successful. Quarterback drafted at the end of the first are more often than not entering into situations where the team often has a much better supporting cast than a team who finished as one of the worst teams in the NFL."

Among of the (many) great pleasures of this job is never having to worry about knowing your shortcomings. I answered a question Friday about "later-drafted" quarterbacks succeeding recently – and if that success would cause NFL teams to change their approach in terms of when they drafted quarterbacks. I replied that the importance of the position would prevent this, and that the demand would always cause quarterbacks to be selected early – sometimes earlier than merited. I then compared my answer to Steve's answer." I liked Steve's answer. A lot. I thought, "It would take a great answer to be better than Steve's answer." Imagine how pleased I was that mine was indeed better.

Adam from St Johns, FL

The problem I have with your "We're fine with rainbows and unicorns" approach is the other teams in the division have out-drafted the Jags. The Houston Texans have basically rebuilt their team and the Indianapolis Colts are close. You told us for 10 years how great former General Manager Dave Caldwell was and now you're doing the same with General Manager Trent Baalke. So basically it's the cap's fault they suck and not the general manager that have been here? It's not coaching, it's not anyone that works for the Jags. So, if it's all the players, isn't that on the people picking them?

Among of the (many) great pleasures of this job is never having to worry about knowing your shortcomings.

Aaron from Jacksonville Beach, FL

Do think the Jaguars will re-sign Ezra Cleveland?

The Jaguars acquired guard Ezra Cleveland in a trade from the Minnesota Vikings at the trade deadline this past season. The thought in the final weeks of the season was that the team would like to re-sign him. I would say there's a good possibility that happens.

Jason from North Pole, AK

Regarding Walker Little being the "best offensive lineman on the team through the first four weeks,",I think we learned later that is a pretty low bar. I am not a Walker Little hater, but it seems if we are to improve the running game, he shouldn't be a starter on this team.

This strikes me as a bit strong – and if you're not a Walker Little "hater," you're not showing much love. I expect Little to start at right tackle next season if the Jaguars don't retain left tackle Cam Robinson. The Jaguars can improve their running game in that scenario if they improve on the interior of the line.

Chance from Tecumseh

When can we expect the front office to re-sign Calvin Ridley and Josh Allen?

The key date for these potential transactions is the March 14 start of the 2024 NFL League Year, with both players currently scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on that date if they are not re-signed before then – or if the team does not apply the franchise tag to one of them. Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke has said that Allen will be with the Jaguars next season, so there will be some news regarding him soon – either application of the franchise tag (between February 20 and March 5) or a new contract (by March 14). I would expect news regarding Ridley one way or the other in that same general timeline, with my general sense that there's a good chance both will return to the team next season.

Richard from Jacksonville

Can we put the uniform questions to bed? I imagine they are going to wait for The New Stadium to be completed and roll both out at the same time.

That wouldn't be surprising. At all.

Kevin from Section 214

It may be a lack of context but please, define "horribly awry"?

This is in reference to a Friday O-Zone question regarding working with and being around someone named Mike DiRocco from a prominent sports new outlet. I wrote that this would not happen unless something had gone "horribly awry." This means that something would have to happen away from my expected course for me to be around DiRocco. This sounds about right.