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O-Zone: Cornered

JACKONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Patrick from Charleston, WV

Stopping the run has been a laughing point of this team since linebacker Paul Posluszny retired following the 2017 season. Do you think we had an offseason emphasis on this? I know this offseason was about Trevor Lawrence and weapons, but we just get hammered by the run – especially in the division. I think all our problems the last two seasons stem from teams having their way with us on the ground. I think we have another disappointing season because of this. Do you see what I saw, O?

I don't know that all the Jaguars' issues in recent seasons were run defense, but a lot of problems sure started there. Either way, the Jaguars absolutely emphasized the area this offseason. Head Coach Urban Meyer discussed it as a top priority before and after free agency began in March, and he has been clear since taking the job in January that little is more important when it comes to putting together a strong team than having a strong defensive line. The Jaguars toward that end traded for nose tackle Malcom Brown, signed defensive linemen Roy Robertson-Harris and Jihad Ward as free agents – and selected Jay Tufele in the fourth round of the draft. I suspect this area will improve this season and I suspect it will need to improve more the following offseason because it can take time to build and develop a defensive line to the point Meyer and the Jaguars desire. But it was absolutely a focus this offseason and the Jaguars absolutely made moves to address it in recent months.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, is there a big pay difference between the player taken last in the first round versus first in the second round given the round has changed or is it more about order overall no matter the round selected?

It's a lot about the order, but there is a difference. Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was selected with the final selection of Round 1 in the 2020 NFL Draft and signed a contract worth $8.1 million guaranteed. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins was selected with the first selection of Round 2 and signed a contract worth $5.9 million guaranteed. That's a little more than the drop-off with the selections from No. 31 to 32 and from No. 33 to No. 34. The other big difference is the final selection of Round 1 is potentially tied to the selecting team for an added season because of the fifth-year option whereas the first selection of Round 2 will become an unrestricted free agent after four seasons unless he re-signs with the team.

Nic from Raleigh, NC

Are you tired of seeing the words "tight end" in the O-Zone mailbox yet?

I'm just happy the damned app works, Nic.

Charles from Savannah, GA

It has been reported that Urban Meyer is heartbroken the New York Giants stole wide receiver Kadarius Toney from the Jaguars. Shannon Sharpe questioned with all the firepower the Jaguars had at the draft, why didn't they trade up to get him? Did Urban Meyer feel that Toney would have fell to them and that they didn't need to trade up?

The Jaguars had multiple players they liked at No. 25 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Toney was one and running back Travis Etienne Jr. was another. The Jaguars did have a lot of "firepower" in the form of draft selections to move had they chosen to do so, but that firepower would have come in the form of a third-round selection – or possibly a second-round selection. This was a draft in which the Jaguars wanted to add multiple good players at multiple positions. That took precedent over trading away premium equity to move up in Round 1.

Robert from Manassas, VA

Am I the only one who is annoyed with Jr., Sr., and other suffixes on player jerseys? The suffix is not a modifier of the last name, but of the entire name. As such, it has less significance than the middle name. Why does this madness continue?

You mad, bro?

Gero from Wenden, Germany

Hello, John. The deadline for the five-year option has passed and some big-name players would be free agents after next season (if no new contracts are signed before). Such is the case with tight end Hayden Hurst of Atlanta. Could he become a candidate for Jacksonville if no other solution is found by the end of the season? He's from Jacksonville, would be in his prime and might be ready to help build the new era. Would Leighton Vander Esch also be an option? I like to see him play. Aggressive and hungry for success.

We're 10-some months and a full season from the opening of 2022 unrestricted free agency. I haven't the slightest notion who the Jaguars might try to sign at that point.

David from Ada, OK

Having Fred Taylor and MJD both on the roster never seemed like a luxury. It was awesome. How much better to have a great quarterback with an awesome backfield. Seems impossible to defend.

Very few NFL coaches or personnel officials walk around their offices muttering to themselves, "We have too many good players who can make big plays and change games."

Chris from Mandarin

I suppose we're quite a ways off from this, but the tea leaves are telling me there's a chance the Jaguars trade left tackle Cam Robinson before the season starts depending on the readiness of Walker Little. However, do you think it is more likely they go ahead and let Robinson play the year out as a bridge to Walker Not-so-Little eventually being the Left Tackle for the next long while?

We are indeed a ways off from our scenario. But while drafting Little certainly increases the chance the Jaguars could trade Robinson before the season, my sense is it increases the chances by tenths of degrees as opposed to dramatically. The Jaguars are almost certainly starting a rookie quarterback in 2021. They kept their offensive line intact in part to have experienced players protecting Lawrence. I doubt they will want to change that approach this season.

Gator from Gainesville, FL

Ben sayin it for yeers and yeers and yeers. Finely Someune listened. He is here and He will save us. He makes everyone better.  Well cept the Broncos, Jets, Patriots and Mets but that's cause there dumm. He is here!!! 15!!!

Gator's back. For better or worse, I guess.

Cliff from Las Vegas, NV

Any downside to extending wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. right now? I would think doing it before he gets to play with a quarterback who has downfield passing ability would only benefit the team long term. Do you see it happening before the season starts?

I doubt it. Remember: Chark struggled as a rookie, had one Pro Bowl season and then had sort of a lost season – partly because of injuries – last season. He has shown potential, but is now working with a new staff, new position coach and new offense. The Jaguars may like the idea of re-signing him, and he may like the idea of re-signing with them. But both sides may benefit from seeing exactly what Chark will be in this new situation.

Aaron from Aldie

Mr. Zone, I think Etienne is a good pick, but with Shenault there – who may be even faster, stronger, better hands – I guess it's great that we have two slash players. It can't hurt us if we have a line that can buy us time to make these plays happen.

Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. is not faster than running back Travis Etienne, but yes … the Jaguars' offense certainly will emphasize the versatility of both players.

Jason from Duuuvaaaal

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and declined tight end Hayden Hurst's fifth-year option. If they are open to trading him, what do you think the price would be?

A fifth- or sixth-round selection.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

Which of these scenarios is more likely: Walker Little beats out either Jawaan Taylor or Cam Robinson to start at either side, Walker Little plays a reserve role and takes over as left tackle next year after Cam isn't re-signed, Jawaan Taylor moves to left tackle next season and Little takes right? Obviously, this is an absolute hypothetical because we literally just had the draft and have no idea where Walker Little currently stands, but no harm in asking the dumb questions.

I would consider your second scenario the most likely, with it being very important to remember that none of these players have taken a practice repetition under this new regime – and that Little has yet to step foot on an NFL practice field.

Dave from Dallas TX

Hey, Mr. O: You've been so busy recently (great job by the way, thanks), I'm worried about you finding nap time. It's important at your age. Do Sbarro have an extra caffeine topping?

Worry not. I nap when I say I nap. No one puts O-Zone in a corner.