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O-Zone: Breaking the law

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Mike from Omaha, NE

Hello, John. I believe that the Jags will be in the AFC title game this season, which isn't a hot take, but my reasoning might be. I do believe we will have a Top 5 offense, but I also believe we will have a defense that matures into a dominant force. That combination will make us tough to beat in the playoffs!

Mike, while absolutely "all in," also makes some good points. If the Jaguars aren't a Top 5 offense, I see no reason to believe they won't be better than last season when they ranked in the Top 10 in scoring and yards. Their primary task is to improve in short-yardage and red-zone situations. They also must improve their consistency, which should happen as quarterback Trevor Lawrence and skill players acclimate and improve in their second season in Head Coach Doug Pederson's scheme. The defense will be intriguing to watch. I agree with you that it has a chance to mature and improve throughout the season. With essentially every starter and front-line player returning aside from pass rusher Arden Key, and with coordinator Mike Caldwell entering his second season, there are significant elements that could lead to improvement. Players and coaches believe this will be the case. I don't know that the Jaguars will be a dominant pass rush, but they absolutely can be a stout defensive team that can complement a good offense. That should make this team tough to beat. There are also other teams in the AFC that will be tough to beat. It's the NFL. It's supposed to be tough.

Brian from Round Rock, TX

Do you think Doug Pederson will lead us to an AFC title or more this year? It's bugged me that he gets revered around here after one playoff win. Former Head Coach Doug Marrone and quarterback Blake Bortles achieved an AFC Championship Game and a "Myles Jack wasn't down" from a Super Bowl. They get no respect for it. Even the great Gene Frenette forgot about this achievement when interviewing Kahn earlier this year. He FORGOT that that team achieved an AFC Championship to the owner's face. Also, Tom Coughlin was an architect of that great achievement and that gets erased from his resume – even by you. So, let's hold off on all the accolades until this guy does something. Hell, I remember Head Coach Jack Del Rio getting some playoff wins with quarterback David Garrard and no one talks much about them. Thoughts?

I have no idea if the Jaguars will qualify for the Super Bowl this season. I do think Pederson has done a fine job in 18 months changing the culture – and the fortunes of the franchise – and I believe they will win the AFC South and have a chance to compete for the AFC Championship. My sense is Pederson gets lauded – correctly – for that and because he has the cache of having coached the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl title following the 2017 season. The Jaguars have the feel of a franchise moving in the right direction, and Pederson should be credited for that. I agree with you that Marrone's AFC Championship Game season often gets unfairly overlooked, but people tend to remember what happened most recently and Marrone's final seasons here are what most fans remember. As for the resumes of Coughlin and Del Rio, and I've never had a sense of them getting erased. I personally believe Coughlin is on the Rushmore of this franchise and his place in the Pride of the Jaguars is long overdue. He defined this organization during its greatest era of success. I've written that often, and I think most Jaguars fans acknowledge Coughlin's success accordingly.

Greg from Section 122, Jacksonville, FL

Which do you consider more important in measuring the value/contribution of a running back? Yards or touchdowns? Take Jerome "The Bus" Bettis. While not usually a ton of yards, if it was less than five to get to the end zone, you could bet he was getting the ball. Curious if that could be the case this year with Travis Etienne Jr. getting the yards, and Tank Bigsby getting the touchdowns?

I don't know that either yards are touchdowns are intrinsically more important than the other, and my sense is the answer is based on what is needed from the particular offense. Bettis indeed had great value as a short-yardage runner for the 1990s/2000s Pittsburgh whereas Jaguars running back Fred Taylor during essentially the same era had spectacular value and strained defenses in all situations from all over the field. As for Etienne and Bigsby, I think both will get yards and touchdowns this season. I expect Etienne to get more outside and in long bursts whereas Bigsby indeed could thrive a bit more on short-yardage situations.

Fred from Naples, FL

You don't hear much about how Michael Dogbe is coming along. He seems like he is way back on the depth chart. Is he in danger of not making this team?

Dogbe, who spent the past four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, signed a one-year contract with the Jaguars in March. He is currently listed fourth on the depth chart.

San Marco Steve from Jacksonville

Since we have an unusual surplus of quality wide receivers and quarterback Nathan Rourke, who will likely be cut due to numbers, would the team be reaching out to other teams who may have a surplus of defensive linemen or outside linebackers for perhaps a trade prior to cut-down day? This would give us a chance to get a good look at who we bring in to see if he's worthy of the 53-man and possibly enhance our talent.

The Jaguars indeed will have difficult decisions on cutdown day, likely at the positions you mention. I would expect they have a chance to trade a player or two. I would expect the return to be in the form of draft choices rather than players, but you never know.

_Joel from Wausau, WI  _

O, this is more of an observation than a question. I just wanted to say that even though it's the preseason, it's nice to see my Jags getting used to and more comfortable with winning on the road. In the past the away games have been a major hurdle for the team to overcome. We will see how they do in Detroit this weekend, but I'm pleased to see my Jags improving on their away game winning percentage. Thank you!


Adam from Allentown PA

John, I have a dilemma. On one hand, I am concerned about our outside pass rush being improved. We are basically just putting all our eggs in pretty much the same basket we had last year. I'm worried that we are going to regret not signing a pass rusher. (It's better to have it and not need it). On the other hand, I am confident that our defensive tackles are going to get much more pressure in the quarterbacks, face and that will lead to more sacks. Anyways, that is how my thoughts have been cycling lately. Thanks for listening.

This has been a offseason-long worry for many Jaguars observers, and the answer remains essentially the same: The Jaguars are not nearly as worried about the pass rush as many observers. They believe that the rush overall – interior and exterior – will affect the quarterback consistently. The Jaguars were very good creating pressure last season, though not as good at creating sacks. The belief is that with a bit of improvement, the pressure can become sacks. One part of your assessment is particularly accurate, though. It indeed feels as if the Jaguars' interior pass rush will be a factor this season. DaVon Hamilton and Roy Robertson-Harris matter in this vein very much. Enough to quell the concern of fans? Stay tuned.

Marc from Oceanway

Zone, I think the NFL should allow (insist?) Tua Tagovailoa to wear a Guardian Cap during games.


Zac from Austin, Tejas

I was under the impression that Jamal Agnew was one of the top returners in the NFL, but apparently he's not top ten on any category? Shows you what I know.

I don't know much or care much about rankings and categories. I know Agnew is a very dangerous returner who scored two touchdowns for the Jaguars on returns in 2021 and who set up multiple important drives for scores with long touchdowns in 2022. In an era in which the league rules are deemphasizing special teams and returns, that makes Agnew really important to the Jaguars. That's true no matter his "rankings."

Rob from Northside

_Short jokes at Pete? This is low, even for you. Not for Prisco, but certainly for you. I forget, but a wise man once said "Be nice."     _

Some rules are made to be broken.