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O-Zone: Bye-week truth

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Brian from ROUND ROCK, TX

It's the bye week at the midpoint. Could you assess where we've been and where we're going? I'm struck that we have so far achieved what was expected, but in a totally unexpected way.

The Jaguars indeed have started the 2023 season 6-2 in somewhat surprising fashion. They are a very good defensive team and have won in dogfight, scrappy fashion when many expected they would win mostly shootouts in high-scoring fashion. This has caused some concern among fans and observers. But most importantly, this team is winning in far more impressive fashion than they did last season. They have won a league-best five consecutive games and have trailed just once during that span. When they surged to the AFC South title last season, they rallied to win after trailing by seven or more points in five of their last seven victories. The Jaguars are better now than they were at the end of last season. What the Jaguars are doing defensively feels sustainable and it feels as if the offense is close to being more consistent. This team feels in very good shape for the second half of the season. That's it. That's the assessment.

Big Paulie from Duval

Everyone so worried about the offense: Last year we followed a similar pattern of stop and go, red-zone turnovers, learning and offensive line issues. We know how that turned out and I have faith the offense's best days are to come as quarterback Trevor Lawrence continues to mature and the offensive line comes together. One major difference, though: We are good enough to still win these games instead of losing them. I'll take it, I remember the darkness.

There's a lot of truth here. The Jaguars were good at times offensively last season and they were sporadic offensively at times. It's perhaps easy to forget, for example, that they scored one offensive touchdown against a beat-up Tennessee Titans defense in the biggest game of the season to that point – the regular-season finale in which they clinched the AFC South title. The offense this season is still seeking to hit its stride. What it is doing well, though, is really important. It's making winning plays at big moments. It's doing enough in the second halves of games to secure victories. The issues are mostly finishing drives as opposed to having multiple series not being able to move at all. The Jaguars' offense has been frustrating, but it's far from hopeless. This is not the darkness. Not even close.

Frank from St. Augustine

Johnny! I know that "fans fan, it's what they do". But it is great to read through the O-Zone everyday this season and see the differences in the questions. In years past, it was frustration with our team as a whole. Now, it's that we're not completely dominating in all facets. We're on to something great here. I'm not as "all in" as Don; but, I'm damn close.

When it comes to being all in, Frank is not as "all in" as Don – who presumably remains "all in."

Wilf from Section 138

Credit to our offensive line. Last week against the New Orleans Saints they pitched a no hitter. Then against the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday they opened up some crucial holes for the best RB1 in the AFC – if not the NFL. They must have a lot of faith in Shatley to have kept offensive lineman Walker Little out. Finally, my question: Is this deal with Shatley what winning teams call depth?

The Jaguars are a winning team. Yes, players such as offensive guard Tyler Shatley who can play for injured starters with comparatively little dropoff are depth.

William from Charlotte

I know the Vikings aren't tanking their season, so Danielle Hunter was not an option. But if he was, would you have traded a first, fourth and K'Lavon Chaisson for Hunter and a second?

I would not have traded a first-round selection at the NFL's trading deadline.

Anthony from Richmond

I've seen talk about the wide receiver situation and what to do if Zay Jones continues to be out. Pete Prisco and Tony Boselli even talked about trading for someone on Monday. Two months ago, nobody could understand how we were going to find a roster spot for alllllll these receivers that we had. Where are they? Where's Washington? Where's Cooks? Why are we talking about bringing an outsider in when we have these young guys?

Parker Washington is on injured reserve. Elijah Cook is on the active roster. Both are rookies and young wide receivers often need time to be productive NFL players.

Kelton from Belgrade

Wow 6-2 and people are complaining. I remember not winning six games over a three-year period. Let's enjoy 6-2 for a team that still hasn't played their best football. The best is yet to come.

Could be.

Hobo from Random Locations

When can we give Trevor and Travis contract extensions?

Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne Jr. are third-year veterans. Teams may extend the contracts of drafted players following their third seasons.

James from Socorro, NM

The nice thing about the NFL (as opposed to college football) is that it doesn't matter what the national media or pollsters think about your team. Just win, baby.

Just win.

Jason from North Pole, AK

I look around the league on Sundays and see a lot of big-time passing yardage and touchdowns from other quarterbacks. Lawrence only has one game over 300 yards and is on pace for under 25 passing touchdowns with zero rushing. I'm not worried about him, but I guess I am wondering why it seems so difficult for our passing game?

Lawrence's numbers are perhaps a bit lower than might otherwise be the case because the Jaguars are leading in the second halves of games this season. That means they're not throwing as much late in games as they were last season. The Jaguars are 13th in the NFL in total offense in yards and 10th in points. They are 14th in passing yardage. I get that these aren't the crazy, top-of-the-league numbers many anticipated. But the team has won five consecutive games and hasn't trailed in the second half during that span. They're playing as needed to win. That style doesn't always produce eye-popping statistics. It does get you a two-and-half-game lead in your division.

Paul from Jupiter, FL

What's better: A sack or a pressure that leads to an INT? Asking for a friend...

An interception usually is better than a sack.

Crash from Glen Saint Mary

OZ! The Cats let Ben Bartch go because they have Cooper Hodges to replace him.

The Jaguars released offensive lineman Ben Bartch Tuesday upon trading for offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland. They then signed Bartch to the practice squad Friday. They like rookie guard Cooper Hodges, but I don't know that it's accurate to say he's replacing Bartch.

Johnny from Round Here

13-4 over the last 17 has been pretty fun!

Winning cool. Fans like it.

Rob from Jax

I don't know if it's the reason for the lack of success in short-yardage situations this year, but doesn't it seem like on third-and-two, fourth-and-one the Jags are taking most snaps out of the shotgun? Is this just a preference in play calling from offensive coordinator Press Taylor? Have you noticed a lot of shotgun in short yardage or is it just me? Thanks for the insights, O.

The Jaguars aren't a great power running team. They're not built to drive opponents off the ball. When that's the case, you run more often from spread and shotgun formations to try to find weaknesses and holes in the defense rather than running from behind center and trying to overpower the defense.

Sensei from Rancho Cordova CA

There's no greater joy than being a Jags fan.

The year is 2023.

Randy from Jacksonville

I used anemic because I was directly quoting a Jaguars reporter. If you don't think being ranked 23rd and 25th in third down conversions and red zone touchdowns at 36 percent and 47 percent success rate are reason for concern and not frustrating to watch, I must be the odd man out.

Sure, those things are a concern and they're frustrating. The Jaguars' offense isn't perfect and those two areas are perhaps the two primary issues facing that team right now. All NFL teams have issues, even ones that lead their division by two and a half games with the NFL's longest winning streak.

Hassan from Celina, TX

We find ourselves at 6-2 halfway through the season. In addition, the rest of the AFC South teams have three wins each. If we go 5-4 in the remaining games with one victory over the Texans and one over the Titans, will that be enough to win the division?

Probably. Unless the Texans or Titans finish with 12 victories.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

It's the bye week and you still suck.