JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
John from Jacksonville
A concern of mine is the special teams lately. Blocked punts, missed extra points, short kickoffs, penalties on punt returns, allowing long kickoff returns and so on. What happened to this group?
The missed field goals/extra points began with former kicker Josh Lambo and therefore have been an issue all season, though it's fair to note that kicker Matthew Wright has kicked some big-time clutch field goals this season; without those, the team might not have won its two victories. The blocked punt this past Sunday was a mental error by a lineman. And the shorter kickoffs have occurred because Wright is handling kicking duties rather than punter Logan Cooke, and Wright's leg isn't as strong in that area as would be ideal; the Jaguars made this change because they didn't want to risk injury or fatigue for Cooke (punting is a different motion than kicking and it can take a toll on the leg to handle both duties). But yes … special teams overall have been an issue lately – and fixing them certainly will be a priority for Head Coach Urban Meyer. He takes special teams very seriously.
David from Orlando, FL
O. In the offseason, I loved seeing Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the receivers working and hanging out together. What I can't understand is why this combination still seems so out of synch?
Lawrence and the receivers "hung out" together for a few days and posted some videos – and a picture – on social media. It was cool, with many likes and retweets, but it wasn't going to be an overriding factor one way or the other in how they played this season. They're out of synch because Lawrence is still a rookie and making some mistakes. They're also out of sync because the receivers aren't open enough and are dropping passes at key times.
James from Elizabeth, NJ
Why don't we just go after Michael Thomas right now? We have the salary-cap space to absorb his contract.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is out for the season with an ankle injury.
Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ
You can keep citing the lack of offensive playmakers, but Lawrence's bad decisions, late decisions and inaccurate passes are on him. Great quarterbacks make average receivers look good. He looks to be stagnant or regressing. He certainly hasn't improved in recent weeks and it's starting to be concerning.
Lawrence hasn't improved in recent weeks. I suppose it's concerning if you believe his entire career is going to play out in 2021. It doesn't concern me because I figure he will improve dramatically as he gains experience and as the team's offensive playmakers improve. One thing, though: I've noticed that many observers offer the same blanket statement as you about great quarterbacks making average wide receivers look good. There is some truth to this, but it's not the end-all statement. I covered Peyton Manning for a decade, and most NFL observers would agree he's among the top quarterbacks ever to play. He had monstrous success with two different teams (Indianapolis and Denver) with different personnel around him. But in 2010, a year after the Colts' final Super Bowl with Manning, his receivers were decimated with both wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark limited and injured. The offense was dramatically different. The Colts managed to make the postseason that season, but the offense was not at its usual level, and the starters' replacements didn't look good. Everything was a chore, and it took all of Manning's extensive experience to make it work. Lawrence doesn't have that kind of experience yet, which makes "making average receivers look good" a big ask. Really big.
Mike from Lakeland formerly Jacksonville
The Jaguars cannot beat man coverage. The talent isn't there to win the one-on-one matchups on the outside and it makes the offense stagnant.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL
With 20/20 hindsight it seems that during the of-season, wide receiver was not much of a priority. Only one selected in the draft, right? Jalen Camp was, I think, the 209th overall pick. He didn't make the roster. Yes, we picked up free agent Marvin Jones Jr. But even with a then-healthy D.J. Chark, I wish they had gone after at least one more wide receiver that could at least compete for the No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. It obviously must be addressed in the next offseason. Any idea why wide receiver wasn't more of a priority this year? Or was there simply an assumption that running back/wide receiver Travis Etienne Jr. could be enough of a dual-threat option as to negate the need for more wide receivers?
The thought was that wide receiver Chark, Laviska Shenault Jr. and Jones would be a good, reliable trio with Etienne providing an element as a receiver/dual threat. Most observers thought that was a reasonable thought. Chark's injury hurt the situation. So did Etienne's injury. But even without those injuries, it's fair to say many people overestimated the receivers.
Wingus from Duval
Not only are drops subjective, but I can't remember the last time that a wide receiver, tight end or receiving running back made a play that bailed Lawrence out that went beyond the Xs and Os. So, Lawrence has been up and down, but I don't really recall a time that the receivers have been up. Just zero plays.
Mike from Atlanta, GA
These drop statistics don't check out. In one of the first two-to-three games I counted in one game two drops from our running back, two-to-three drops on Chark, and another two on whoever was playing tight end. There was like seven-plus drops that game alone. It's been a severe problem all season. Heck, my wife – who is new to NFL football – kept asking why can't our receivers catch the ball if that's their only job. Good eye.
Tom from J'ville
"Dropped passes, poor-route running" … these are two areas of emphasis that you point out weekly. Both areas are improved through good coaching. The fact that not only have our wide receivers not improved they have noticeably regressed. I see this as a sign that Meyer screwed the pooch when dumping Keenan. Are we going to see a decent WR coach as a replacement next year?
First, I don't know that I've discussed poor route-running much this season. If so, I don't recall – though I have talked a lot about receivers not being open. The two are not the same thing. As far as dropped passes being improved through good coaching … not necessarily. Can a great coach prevent dropped passes? Can he catch the pass for the player? Maybe, but he better be really damned good.
Bill from Hammock, FL
Zone, first thing every morning I read the O Zone. I tend to cringe when I read that someone criticizes your in-depth knowledge because, as you say, you are awesome. However, your consistent defense of the offensive line is infringing on your credibility. To say that the line played fine for the most part at Indy is simply not correct.
I am "awesome." And I'm not wrong. Not this time, anyway.
John from Jacksonville
Hi, King of Zone. I think this says a lot about a rising star that we have on the Jags roster. Jamal Agnew reached 21.62 MPH on his 66-yard rushing touchdown (fourth-fastest in NFL on a rush this season). Agnew is the first player in the Super Bowl era with a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, kick- return touchdown and field-goal return touchdown in a single season – and the second player in NFL history to accomplish that feat since HOF Timmy Brown in 1962. Impressive...
He also has the three longest plays for the franchise this season. Agnew has been a find. It would be nice if the Jaguars didn't have to depend on him so much as a go-to receiver, but that's where they are as an offense and a team right now.
Damien from Jacksonville
Good morning, John. Any updates on Chark and Etienne? Any chance Chark is back for a few games this year? Any hope Etienne will be able to regain his speed next year? I have heard that's a tough injury to recover from. Thanks!
Neither Chark (ankle) nor Etienne Jr. (Lisfranc, foot) will return this season. Chark is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, so that's a decision/situation that has to be made this offseason. Etienne is expected to return next season, though the Lisfranc indeed can be a difficult injury from which to return. Stay tuned.
Brandon from Louisville
Hey John. I think Trevor will be great one day. But, how much of an issue is accuracy? Is that something that can be worked on? And, if so, is it mainly mechanics?
It's an issue. Yes, it can be worked on. It's many things. Timing with receivers is one. The biggest is mechanics – and yes, they can be improved.