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O-Zone: Be aggressive

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jason from North Pole, AK

I actually thought Trevor Lawrence had cleaned up a lot of his head-scratching accuracy issues from last season prior to that sprained ankle. It was something I was specifically watching for this past season. In 2022, there were a number of easy completions he would inexplicably sail over someone's head or throw in the dirt. It seemed to me that he did indeed clean up his footwork this offseason. Then the injuries came.

We're multiple weeks into the Jaguars 2024 Offseason – and it remains clear that amid multiple other issues, Topic No. 1 will be quarterback Trevor Lawrence. And if the discussion undoubtedly will be emotional and wide-ranging, with many observers clearly believing Lawrence devolved last season into a terrible quarterback, the topic currently is difficult to accurately resolve. Lawrence clearly has areas he must improve, foremost among them his tendency to turn the ball over via fumbles and interceptions. But even with that issue present, Lawrence played well enough at the end of the 2022 season and through 11 games of the 2023 season to lead the Jaguars to a 13-3 record during that span. He also had 29 touchdown passes with nine interceptions in those 16 regular-season games. I agree that his accuracy had improved and I thought he was making better decisions about when to run and where to throw through three months last season. Then, as you noted, "the injuries came." The Jaguars' season fell apart after that, and Lawrence did not play well while leaving three of the final six games with injuries and missing another. I don't know that a healthy Lawrence is "elite." I know he's not awful. What's his destiny? We should start finding out a lot more come the 2024 season.

Zac from Austin, Tejas

Genuine question - why did our new DC leave Atlanta? Was he cut from them like Caldwell was? Isn't this a lateral move for him - and if so, why would he take it unless they didn't want him around anymore? I know this is how jobs work in the NFL, but was hoping you could tell us the specifics here (despite not covering the Falcons).

The Jaguars on Monday hired Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator, the same position he held this past season with the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons dismissed Head Coach Arthur Smith following the 2023 season. His entire staff was therefore free to pursue other positions. That included Nielsen, who joined the Falcons' staff the previous offseason after six seasons as the New Orleans Saints' defensive line coach.

Jim from Jagsonville

It's official. I would have interviewed more candidates. Doug better be right or this will shorten his career.

Nielsen's hire indeed is official. Maybe Pederson knew his guy when he found him; weirder things have happened. It's a big hire. People put a lot of emphasis on coordinator hires these days.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

The locals are for the most part not thrilled with losing RN. The Falcons quarterback play was, for the most part, horrendous – constantly giving the defense a short field and turning it over routinely. For them to rank where they did, I'm excited to see what he does. Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates is an All-World safety, so it will be fun to watch Andre Cisco do some things they did. Not to mention, it's always coaching in the NFL.

It will be interesting to see how Nielsen employs this personnel.

NY and Fernandina Beach, FL

John - If you have not done so already, check out the Jags' new Calvin Ridley Top Plays 2023 video. It is a great reminder that – when healthy – Lawrence is an elite quarterback with still more upside potential and that wide receiver Calvin Ridley is a potentially devastating weapon for the Jags' offense. Ridley had a "good" season, but the loss of wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones in several key games hurt him big time because Ridley was double-teamed (although this did open things up for tight end Evan Engram). We need the Lawrence-to-Ridley combo for at least one more season to see how the connection further develops. Is Ridley worth the money and a 2nd rounder? I think so.

While Ridley perhaps wasn't a "True No. 1 wide receiver" in 2023, he had 1,000 yards and eight touchdown receptions. I don't have a feel for Ridley's market or the Jaguars' perception of that market. I do have a feel that the chemistry between Lawrence and Ridley should only improve and benefit both. I don't think losing Ridley would help the Jaguars' offense.

John from Fleming Island

All knowing O. I'm easily confused and by no means a financial expert BUT perhaps you can help me understand. I don't understand why the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans are building new stadiums for $1.5 and $2.4 billion, respectively. The Titans and community leaders decided it was more cost effective to build a new stadium instead of renovating and their current stadium is newer than the Bank. They are building an enclosed stadium which explains the difference in cost versus Bills stadium. My question is why doesn't the city/Jags want a new stadium built next to the Bank if construction costs are slightly higher? Could it be that current renovation costs include money for surrounding development and not actual stadium? Any thoughts or insights on why a new stadium is not being considered, which would solve any disruption of home games similar to Titans/Bills vision.

The Jaguars' belief is that developing downtown Jacksonville is critical to moving forward. So, yes … construction costs for development around the stadium are included when discussing the overall costs for the project. The reason the Jaguars and the City aren't discussing a new stadium is a new stadium is projected to cost about $1 billion more than renovating the existing stadium at its current location.

Big Jags Fan from Jacksonville

Reported during the NBC telecast was that both Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff, former No. 1 selections in the NFL Draft, said they had to get a "chip" on their shoulder that they did not originally have upon being drafted to improve their game. Both got it after their initial teams that chose them first gave up on each player. Does Trevor need to get a "chip" on his shoulder? I hope after this past season he develops one.

I've never sensed Lawrence isn't motivated and I've always sensed he works hard. He plays with desire. Could the results of this past season further motivate him? Sure.

Jon from Jax Beach

Love the Nielsen hire! If he could bring Grady Jarrett with him that would be fantastic. Great player coming up on FA.

One fer Nielsen.

Don from Marshall NC

Josh Allen has been such a good Jaguar player and he deserves a long-term contract from the Jaguars. They just have to sign him for a huge deal. I just couldn't imagine him playing for someone else. For this team and this defense, we got to have him. Go Jaguars!

When it comes to Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen, Don remains "all in." Allen registered 17.5 sacks in 2023 and emerged as one of the NFL's best players at his position. I fully expect him to be with the Jaguars next season. I don't have a real feel for whether that will be on the franchise tag or with a long-term contract. Stay tuned.

Gerry from Jacksonville

So we now have a defensive coordinator and he seems to be a good one. But he needs the players to be able to succeed. General Manager Trent Baalke is on the clock (and under the microscope, too)! Go Jags!


Mike from Azores

Hey John, watching all of the playoffs this weekend highlighted an important aspect of winning playoff games! Being able to run the ball successfully when needed and even more importantly having a quarterback who can run and move around in the pocket! I think the Jags need to prioritize strengthening the offensive line and Trevor needs to be used more on designed runs to keep the defense more concerned with that threat! Do you think Trevor has that ability and have the Jags utilized it enough? Of course, Trevor needs to improve with holding on to the ball also!

Yes, Lawrence can run effectively. The Jaguars utilized this ability at times in his first three seasons with plays designed for him to run. I think they have utilized it plenty. You must balance his effectiveness running with the risk of injury associated with him running. It's a constant push and pull.

Bug Jags Fan Jacksonville

Nielsen Schmielsen! Can he turn the Jags D into a more aggressive unit? I am ready to see it happen.

Nielsen preaches aggression and attack. I'm told they are his buzzwords when he coaches defense and when discussing it. I expect the Jaguars' defense to emphasize being aggressive under Nielsen.