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O-Zone: Feeling better

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

It seems the defense has improved significantly, but the wide receiver corps still concerns me. It seems like there is no major upgrade comparing to last year. I hope it will not be the storyline of the season in a negative way. What is your impression regarding the wide receiver or the offense in general?

I suppose we can agree to disagree. Indications from practice and three preseason games is that wide receiver Zay Jones – added as an unrestricted free agent from the Las Vegas Raiders in March – should be very productive in this offense and be a big-play presence. Wide receiver Christian Kirk, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals in March, led the Jaguars with five receptions for 54 yards in his debut Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kirk looks like he will be an elite slot receiver and a consistent, reliable option for quarterback Trevor Lawrence. My impression of the receivers is they overall will be significantly improved from last season. The first-team offense in two preseason games has had seven full series, with five scores on those series and one three and out. The unit had four extended drives on four possessions on Saturday. I don't expect this to be one of the NFL's best offenses this season. But the Jaguars were the NFL's worst offense last season. The first step is to have that not be the case and start moving toward the top. This group damned sure looks capable of that.

KC from Orlando, FL

Can you please explain the difference between a player being released versus waived? Do the Jaguars get the first choice to sign such players, or is it just a free-for-all between teams and agents?

Waiving and releasing both mean teams parting ways with players. Teams "release" players who have accrued four or more seasons. Teams "waive" players who have accrued four or fewer seasons. Waived players can be claimed by teams; because they had the NFL's worst record last season, the Jaguars are No. 1 on the waiver-claim list until Week 3 of the 2022 season. Released players become free agents and therefore may sign with any team … so yeah, sometimes it's sort of a free for all.

Vishwa

Hi, John. ETN reminds me of Le'Veon Bell when he was with the Steelers a few years ago. Fair comparison?

It's possible I'm missing something because I've only watched Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. in the NFL a few series – and I didn't watch former Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell as closely as I watch players on teams I cover. But Bell's greatness – and he was great in his prime – stemmed from a remarkable ability to be patient and follow blocks. Etienne's effectiveness seems to be from explosion, quickness, speed and aggressiveness. That's what I've seen watching Etienne in a handful of plays involving in-game contact. I'm looking forward to watching him in the coming weeks and months. He's better than I expected, and I think his style will translate to the NFL. I'm not sure yet it that means Pro Bowls and 1,000-yard seasons. But it's getting harder and harder to believe he won't have a significant positive impact on this offense.

Diego from South of Tierra del Fuego

When Kenny Pickett was drafted No. 1 by the Stillers, all the talk was that he was going to be work in progress. Jags draft the next Peyton Manning. Work in progress looked much better. Please explain. Also, best quarterbacks in league are best at reading defenses. Does not matter if you have strongest and most accurate arm. Diego is starting to see that TL Is not reading defenses well, sad to say. Seems like he should be much further along. Pickett had no problem dissecting Jags' defense. Finally, think Joe Montana. Go Jags.

It seems Diego's comparing Kenny Pickett to Joe Montana. It also seems Diego's worried about Lawrence. O-Zone doesn't share Diego's concern. It occurred to O-Zone when answering this email that perhaps Diego is kidding about some things, particularly the Montana stuff. O-Zone hopes so, but he isn't sure.

Dave from Jacksonville

I was noticing during the game that Lawrence's snap count was predictable, at least for me as I was casually watching while building my son a Lego truck. Is this something that teams tend to keep simple during the preseason? Is it something quarterbacks learn to do better over time? I just feel like if I can see something like this watching casually, then defenses probably will key off if it even quicker.

O-Zone is not worried about Trevor Lawrence. O-Zone is not worried about Trevor Lawrence. O-Zone is not worried about Trevor Lawrence. O-Zone is not worried about Trevor Lawrence. O-Zone is not worried about …

Kyle from Jax

There have been a lot of comments already about Lawrence's accuracy. I still think he is going to be very good, perhaps elite, and certainly has the ability to make some "wow" throws with velocity and accuracy when he steps into it. However, one thing I noticed sometimes last season, and which seems to be continuing into this preseason, is a tendency to drift back in the pocket and throw off his back foot on his poor throws (I've seen it on some crossers and deep outs). I'm sure he's working on it, but was just wondering if this is something you have noticed as well?

O-Zone is not worried about Trevor Lawrence, but there are areas he can improve. I have written before that I don't know that Lawrence is going to be an uber-accurate quarterback who seems to go weeks without ever missing a receiver. I expect this to be an area of focus for him early in his career, and there may be some frustrating moments. But he had four or five throws Saturday that you absolutely love, plays that show his playmaking/franchise-quarterback ability. I expect those traits to more than make up for a few inaccurate moments now and again.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

I haven't written in a while. I'm still watching you. I'm still reading you. I still hate you.

Hi.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, how has Arden Key seemingly gone under the radar given he seems to always show up?

Key, a defensive lineman who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the San Francisco 49ers in March, indeed has been "under the radar" a lot. He has been there in his first four NFL seasons and he darned sure was there for a few months after signing with the Jaguars. Why? Well, he was there with the Raiders from 2018-2020 because he had three sacks in 37 games. He had 6.5 in 17 games for the 49ers in 2021, but perhaps playing with Pro Bowl pass-rusher Nick Bosa caused him to be overlooked. He wasn't discussed much after signing with the Jaguars because the focus was on players such as Kirk, tight end Evan Engram and linebacker Foye Oluokun. Key has three sacks in three preseason games and looks like a player who can help this team's pass rush improve significantly. If that's the case, I doubt he will be under any radars much longer.

David from Ada, OK

Outside linebacker Travon Walker tackling on the wrong side of the field. Key busting through the line. Linebacker Chad Muma seems to always be in the same place as the football with a near sack and an out of bounds INT. All the receivers. ETN. Lawrence flashing a bit, but needs to cool the jets on that rocket of an arm sooner than the third series – but hey, he's still a kid. Coaching is good if you measure that by penalties. Pittsburgh had some stupid ones. Overall, I'm going out on a very short limb and say this is the best product we've put on the field since 2017. Could be better. But waaaaay to early to tell that. But best since 2017? By my eye yes.

Good eyes.

Daniel from Jersey City

If we only have one kicker, he should be able to make routine kicks right?

I think there's a chance the Jaguars bring in a second kicker. But Ryan Santoso went two or four Saturday with misses from 51 yards and 57 yards. He was good from 25 and 53. Head Coach Doug Pederson was right when he said the effort wasn't good enough, but it's not fair to say Santoso missed "routine" field goals Saturday.

JR from The Squatchlands

It seems like a lot of people writing in are being overly pessimistic. What I've watched so far is encouraging if not exciting. The team is young and many starters were brought in free agency this off season. It's going to take time to play to their full potential, but things are clearly looking up. Just watch some tape from last year, or any other season from the past decade other than 2017 and it's hard not to feel better about this team. Now, am I being overly optimistic?

No.

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