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O-Zone: Complementary football

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Let's get to it …

Sandy from Jacksonville Beach, FL

Just so you know, missing the playoffs by a game is NOT OK and is not a good season. Just so you know because you don't seem to know. And Gary's right.

You're seemingly referencing me writing/saying on multiple occasions recently that the Jaguars were a victory away in 2023 from winning the AFC South for a second consecutive season. I indeed have mentioned this on multiple occasions, doing so not to make the point that finishing 9-8 and missing the postseason on the last day of the regular season should be considered a success. Such a finish indeed is not OK. Rather, I repeatedly have mentioned this to make the point that the Jaguars were not awful in 2023. The idea that the season was a disaster in a sense feels right because the Jaguars lost five of their last six regular-season games to miss the playoffs, a collapse that understandably and correctly colored the entire season as a failure. But when assessing the Jaguars' personnel – and when assessing key figures such as General Manager Trent Baalke and quarterback Trevor Lawrence – the end of the season has caused many observers to consider the duo failures and to believe the Jaguars can't win unless they separate from the pair. I point out that the Jaguars were competitive much of the season and a game from the postseason to counter that reactionary – and perhaps – extreme view. The Jaguars must make general improvements this offseason and Lawrence must play at a higher level next season. Such improvement, which is well within reach, absolutely could result in a postseason appearance and perhaps even a deep playing run. As for your last point …. Yes, no doubt. Gary's right. I suck.

William from Middleburg, FL

All right. It's combine week. Hit me with the bad news. I know it's coming.

The 2024 NFL Scouting Combine indeed will be held in Indianapolis, Ind., this week – but while the event annually is an important week for NFL news and accompanying storylines, I don't know that we'll hear any definitive news on key Jaguars issues. And I'm not sure that hearing about these topics necessarily will mean getting "hit with bad news." The major Jaguars offseason news most people want to hear is whether the team will sign outside linebacker Josh Allen to a long-term deal or assign him the franchise tag. Next is whether the team will retain wide receiver Calvin Ridley. With a week remaining until the deadline for the franchise tag, and with 15 days remaining until the March 13 start of the 2024 NFL League Year, I expect little in the way of "headline news" on Ridley or Allen this week. That said, Baalke and Head Coach Doug Pederson both are scheduled to speak to the media on Tuesday. I expect these availabilities to give some insight into the aforementioned issues and a better idea of the direction the team may take with some other unrestricted free agents. We may get an idea how the team feels about certain other players and positions. Team officials and coaches have spent the last month and a half in meetings to determine a direction and a plan for the offseason. Pederson and Baalke won't flash the plan on a projection screen this week, but they likely will at least provide some traction for the discussion.

Benjamin from Jacksonville by way of Upstate SC

You said that new Jaguars defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen will look to employ press man coverage in his scheme. Do the Jaguars have the right personnel to do that? Do cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams have the right skill set to succeed in that scheme?

We'll see.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

I really think a healthy Agnew is valuable. Do you see the Jags bringing him back?

I would be surprised if wide receiver/returner Jamal Agnew returns to the Jaguars next season, though the recent rise in the salary cap could allow such players to be retained. That doesn't mean Agnew won't return. It means I would be surprised if it happens.

Scott from Gilbert, AZ

Zone, you said, "A defensive interior thought to be something of a strength entering the season." Robertson-Harris and Fatukasi are defensive ends. If you recall, after free-agency and the draft we didn't even have a viable backup for nose tackle DaVon Hamilton on the roster because Baalke thought a third-string tight end — even though Garrett Prince could have easily filled that role— and a short-yardage back you could get Day Three or for veteran minimum were in his estimation more important in Rounds 2 and 3. It is probably worth noting that the Rams took defensive tackle Kobie Turner one pick after the Jags selected running back Tank Bigsby, with Turner giving the Rams 10 sacks and 57 total tackles and Bigsby having one of the worst rookie seasons for a running back I can ever remember.

Brenton Strange is more of a blocking tight end than Prince, enough that they sort of play different positions – and certainly different roles. When discussing the Jaguars' defensive interior in a recent O-Zone answer as something of a strength, I did so with the idea that Roy Robertson-Harris and Foley Fatukasi were part of that interior with players such as outside linebackers Josh Allen and Travon Walker being more exterior – or edge – defenders. Bigsby and Strange didn't contribute all that much as rookies. That doesn't mean they're bad selections. There's more to a player's career than the rookie season. Let's see how they do in the coming seasons.

Sprinkle from Duval

Hey Zone, is there an extra layer to this trade with Atlanta in regards to Ridley and the second rounder? What I mean is, everyone wants to cut Ridley and sign him to deal keeping him and the second rounder. Don't get me wrong I want this too, but as a general manager does it not affect your reputation when dealing with other franchises? I imagine it would leave a sour taste in Atlanta's mouth and could have a negative impact on Trent's ability to make trades/deals in the future.

All's fair in love, war and NFL trades.

Jim from Orange Park, FL

If you assume that the Beatles and Rolling Stones are No. 1 and No. 2, who's three?

Bob Dylan, though from this view he's more alongside than behind the first two.

Bill from Jacksonville, FL

John, recently the Orlando Magic retired the jersey of Shaquille O'Neal. A player that was the best they've ever had at his position, but was only there four years, never won a title and left the franchise with a lot of animosity on both sides. Could you ever imagine something like this happening with former Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey? Can you see a path for Jalen Ramsey to one day end up in the Pride of the Jaguars?

It's hard to see that path leading to such a destination, though it's perhaps easier to see now than when the Jaguars traded Ramsey during the 2019 season. Time has a way of changing perspective and softening feelings.

Bryan from Lutz

How much does the increase in cap really help teams in signing players long term? If I'm Josh Allen or Calvin Ridley's agent, my asking price just went up.

Me, too.

Chuck from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Forgetting free agency, if you were general manager and could pick one position to upgrade that would improve our performance most would it be center, cornerback or defensive tackle? Drafting at No. 17, you have your choice of the third cornerback taken, second defensive tackle or first center? All are legit firsst rounders. Could perspectives change enough for this to happen? Never say never, I suppose.

Questions such as this are legitimate. They also tend to remove reality and circumstance from the discussion. What I mean is while it's easy to say that the Jaguars must upgrade a certain position, you also must factor in positional value and the long-term when making draft-day decisions. It's also important to remember that the draft has seven rounds and not one. Perhaps the Jaguars really believe center must be upgraded, for example. It still might be wise to take a second or third-round center that upgrades that position if there's a chance to take a higher-valued position such as defensive tackle in Round 1. Still: If I knew the player would be an All-Pro selection from Day 1, I would take defensive tackle over cornerback or center. The disruption that position could cause to close to the quarterback would trump what the other positions bring.

Jason from St Augustine

The run defense will get better when the offensive line allows for better running more running, longer drives and general offensive success which will tire out the other team's defense and give our defense a break and a lead.

That will help, yes.