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O-Zone: Exciting times

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Ben from Cuba, MO

O, We all have our short list of players we are excited about, intrigued about, hoping they perform at or above their expectations, etc. I am curious which player or two you're watching to see their impact or growth. Of course, I'm excluding the obvious choices like quarterback Trevor Lawrence and outside linebacker Travon Walker. I'll go first: Nose tackle Jay Tufele. I'm really hoping he grows into a solid to big-time role to solidify this defensive line even more.

This is difficult; the circumstances of the past two Jaguars seasons make it difficult to assess many name players. Can players such as wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., outside linebacker/defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson, etc., etc., improve as the team/talent/culture/structure improve around them and as they mature? Perhaps. There are also young players with potential we saw sparingly last season: running back Travis Etienne, offensive tackle Walker Little, safety Andre Cisco, etc. If such players fulfill potential, that 2021 draft class could be memorable. As for your question, I will also avoid the obvious answer and go with free-agent wide receiver Zay Jones and free-agent defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi. Jones has shown impressive quickness and ability to get open during some recent organized team activities practices; he could quietly be a significant free-agent acquisition. And Fatukasi could help the run defense in a major way, which in turn could significantly help the defense overall. We'll see how those projections translate to training camp and the regular season.

_Mike from St Augustine, FL      _

There was a play early last season where Trevor threw a dime to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. down the left sideline for a touchdown. The play required speed and length for the receiver to make the play. I don't see that with our current receivers, except maybe Zay Jones. Do you think he can stretch the field like that? Boy, we sure do need that!

The Jaguars' receivers aren't without speed. Wide receiver Christian Kirk can run, though you're right that he doesn't have elite "length" for the position. Jones ran a 4.45 at the 2017 Scouting Combine, and it appears from OTAs that he plays fast. It appears he can get deep and he has good length. He could stretch the field.

Mike from Orange Park, FL

Something smells in here. Is it you?

No comment.

Clyde from Jacksonville

Why do you think Darious Williams will start? Undrafted rookie free agent. Did all 32 teams miss on a gem? Did the Jaguars get that lucky to find a starter in the pool of undrafted rookie free agents?

Let's back up. The Jaguars signed Williams as an unrestricted free agent in March. He's a fifth-year NFL veteran who started 13 games for the Los Angeles Rams over the past two seasons. I don't know if he will start for the Jaguars this season. He could fit well as a nickel corner. But he is expected to be one of the three corners playing extensively in 2022 along with Tyson Campbell and Shaquill Griffin.

Dakota from Dupree, SD

Gary from St. Augustine, FL – his opinion of you aside – shows up every day and works. His consistency is impressive. Commitment to the O-Zone? Unquestionable. His insight and analysis?

Gary from St. Augustine, FL, is a visionary. I suspect history will remember him as such.

John from Jacksonville

Did you know that Gary from St. Augustine is actually a bot?


John from Cape May Court House

I don't know if the Jags would have won, but I damn well know we weren't giving up 41 points. That is all.

I recently wrote that I didn't think the Jaguars would have been a lock to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl following the 2017 season. I know the Jaguars had a really good defense that season. I also know that defense allowed 44 points in a regular-season loss to the San Francisco 49ers and 42 points in a Divisional Playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Kevin from Arlington

What's the biggest single reason the Jaguars will make the playoffs this season?

If the Jaguars make the playoffs in 2022, the biggest single reason almost certainly will be a dramatic improvement from Lawrence. There would be other reasons, but it's hard to imagine him not being the biggest reason.

Justin from Jax

Hey, Zone. All the questions and speculations regarding how Etienne will be used within the offense have me thinking. I know people would LOVE if he were used in a "Deebo" type way. It seems every team and fanbase is looking for that player now. Heck, even Etienne himself has said something along the lines of wanting to be used like Deebo. My question is this. As cool as that type of role would be, do you think we could use him in a role, similar to how Darren Sproles was used in New Orleans and Philadelphia? I remember watching Sproles absolutely exhaust defenses. Do you see any of that in Etienne?

Etienne has the skillset to play a hybrid role. He had special skills and special production at Clemson. That was in college, and it was before he sustained a Lisfranc injury during his rookie preseason in 2021. I would like to see him working in contact work against live NFL competition before projecting his specific comparisons in the NFL.

Troy from Dover, PA

Do you think it was a good idea to have this much turnover on the offensive line in one season? They could have saved so much money bringing back Andrew Norwell and A.J. Cann instead of signing Brandon Scherff. They each only got about $5 million a year instead of the $16 million Scherff is getting.

The real amount of turnover on the Jaguars offensive line remains to be seen. If Tyler Shatley starts at center and Jawaan Taylor starts at right tackle, it may not feel like that much turnover. If Luke Fortner starts at center and Walker Little starts at right tackle, it probably will feel like a lot of turnover. The one offensive line position we absolutely know will turnover in a major way is right guard, where Scherff will start after signing as an unrestricted free agent this offseason from the Washington Commanders. And you're right that the Jaguars could have saved a lot of money there. But Scherff is a five-time Pro Bowl selection. When healthy, he's one of the NFL's top interior offensive linemen. If you're going to get that level of player in free agency, particularly one in his prime, it's going to cost a lot of money.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

I'm not sorry.


Tom from Charlottesville, VA

In highlights, it seems that wide receivers are reaching behind to make catches. Is it a concern that the ball is not being delivered in front of the receivers? It seemed to be a problem last year on the interceptions? Or is this just the pictures I have seen?

I don't know how many of the highlights you have viewed involved Lawrence. I have watched the three OTA practices open to the media for viewing. Lawrence hasn't been perfect with every throw. I haven't noticed him being inaccurate anywhere near a point where I would call it a concern.

Jay from SoCal

Alas, to the greatest player name of all-time as projected by Nathan from Utah, US. Whatch I think is that the real deal holyfield bona-fide strangle hold as is the realness, would be: Jarod Devon Da' "Snoop" Conner! It has a better ring than Naz "Nah-Humbug" Bohannon. Whatcha Thi

This happens sometimes.

Michael from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Hey there, stop feeding the national negative perception of the Jaguars fan base. You stated that the Steelers have a stronger fan base than the Jags! Based on what? They average basically the same number of actual game day attendance numbers on pretty much a yearly basis as the Jags do. In the actual metro city population comparison, Pittsburgh is 1.7 million to Jacksonville's 1.3 million. Thus, a higher percentage of Jax residents support their team verses Pittsburgh residents! And yes the Steelers have been more successful on the field, so just imagine the Jags attendance levels if the success on the field was reversed! Don't continue to sell the Jags fans and support short on perceptions actual statistics! And btw, don't use the stadium size argument to support Pittsburgh due to their smaller stadium size. They averaged almost 5,000 empty seats per game last year!

The Jaguars' fan base indeed is far stronger – and infinitely more passionate – than many national observers believe. When this team wins, you won't need statistics to prove the fan bases' strength. It will be obvious. The Jaguars' issues for the last decade have been team issues, not fan issues.

_Steve from Nashville, TN          _

Do not all 32 NFL teams have a "sense of excitement" around them at this time of year?

Yes indeedy.