JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Tony from Johns Creek, GA
O: Play good, aggressive, clean football and good things will happen.
This indeed was the theme for the Jaguars in a 26-0 victory over the Carolina Panthers Sunday at EverBank Stadium, a victory that snapped a four-game losing streak and set up a win-and-get-in game for the Jaguars versus the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday. Credit Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson on this one. Throughout this past week – indeed, throughout the past few weeks – he repeatedly said the Jaguars first needed to eliminate mistakes and play sounder defensively. He considered that far more important than myriad other issues around the team being discussed by observers and fans. The Jaguars had no giveaways Sunday and they held the Panthers to 124 total yards, 57 rushing. It must be noted that the Panthers have the NFL's worst record. But the Jaguars got a victory they needed Sunday and they played cleanly to do it. That's significant.
Gary from Fleming Island
I hope Lawrence is learning something from how Beathard is moving the team.
C.J. Beathard made his first start with the Jaguars Sunday after nearly three seasons backing up Trevor Lawrence, who was out with a sprained AC joint sustained in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday. Beathard, a seven-year veteran, played efficiently and essentially error-free Sunday. That's what the Jaguars have needed the last several weeks. That doesn't mean Beathard is better than Lawrence. It doesn't mean Lawrence wouldn't have played that way had he played Sunday. It means the Jaguars' quarterback needs to protect the ball better moving forward whoever is playing the position.
Nick from South Carolina
Needed that one. The entire Jaguars community needed that one. Next week won't be easy but win and you're in baby.
Yep. Yep. Yep.
Tim from Fort Wayne, IN
One fer Josh Allen!
No doubt. The Jaguars' pass rush had one of its best games of the season Sunday, and it was therefore perhaps fitting that outside linebacker Josh Allen keyed that effort. His three sacks on Panthers quarterback Bryce Young were among six sacks for the Jaguars Sunday – and those three sacks gave Allen 16.5 for the season. That moved him past former Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell (14.5, 2017) for the team's single-season sacks record. It's a well-deserved record for Allen. One fer him. No doubt.
AJ from Duuuval
Hey O! I guess that's what can happen if your quarterback doesn't throw interceptions or always fumbles right? Do you dare think of starting C.J. next week even if TLaw has a healthy? We don't need to give away possessions due to his careless handling of the football.
I expect Trevor Lawrence to start at quarterback for the Jaguars if healthy.
Gerry from Jacksonville
Marked improvement from the past few weeks, no matter that it was against the Panthers. The offense played clean for the first time in a while. Do you think this happened because something clicked or because they could not lean on Trevor to save them? And what do you see moving forward?
I think it helped that the Jaguars had a lead and were not under the scoreboard pressure they were under the last three games when they did not lead. I think it helped that the Panthers are not as good as the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens or Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I think receivers and everyone offensively perhaps played with a slightly sharper attention to detail. I think a lot of things go into the improvement, but I think a weeklong focus of making sure every possession ended with a kick resonated and contributed mightily to Sunday's performance.
Tony from Johns Creek, GA
O, the NFL is hard, but not against the Panthers.
The NFL is hard no matter the opponent.
JT from Palm Coast, FL
The Jags needed to put out a showing like they did. Offense, defense, and special teams handled business. Side note: Pay Josh Allen and Travon Walker is blossoming right before our eyes. Enough about Hutchison.
Jaguars outside linebacker Travon Walker had two sacks Sunday and has nine for the season. He has been good in each of his two NFL seasons. He has been really good this season and he has improved in recent weeks. It's cool for him that he's getting the statistics to allow more people to understand this.
Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ
Find a way to re-sign Allen and Robinson!!
You're referencing left tackle Cam Robinson and Allen. Both players will be offseason storylines, with Robinson having a very high salary cap figure for 2024 and Allen scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. The specifics of their situations are conversations for another day. Both matter to the Jaguars very much. From this view, both are critical and part of the team's foundation.
David from Maplewood, NJ
John, I would like to apologize to C.J., I was wrong. I admit it. To C.J. and his family, I apologize unreservedly.
I'm sure he will sleep more soundly now.
David from Broward County, FL
Shatley starting at left guard? Over Little and Cleveland? I am sure there will be no answers as to why. Our center and both right guard and left guard stink. Really bad. They cannot run block between the tackles at all. Like less than zero. Now, they are getting blown up the middle in pass protection. Who thought this was good enough? There needs to be changes in personnel on the offensive line, in the front office and coaching staff.
Why wouldn't there be answers as to why? Tyler Shatley started at left guard Sunday because left tackle Walker Little and left guard Ezra Cleveland – both of whom have started at left guard this season – have been battling injuries in recent weeks. The decision therefore was made to start Shatley Sunday – and give Cleveland and Little a week to rest. And yes … the interior of the line has struggled in recent weeks. That has been pretty well-documented.
JK from NY and Fernandina Beach
Happy New Year, John! The defense had its best game of the season against a not great Carolina Panthers. They showed up to play when it counted the most and turned in an excellent effort. Josh Allen led the way. Allen is a key to the Jaguars' defense and he now owns the franchise single season sack record. Is it too early to start the conversation whether Allen is a "must" to bring back to Jax next year?
The Jaguars absolutely need to retain Allen moving forward and I expect they will – either with a long-term extension in the coming offseason or with the franchise tag.
Andrew from Little Elm, TX
It seems like whenever this team gets in a roll or makes a big play, they immediately go to a run right up the middle on first down and gain nothing, putting this team in a quick hole. Other teams see it coming.
JT from Palm Coast, FL
Injuries have wrecked our season. Prayers to Agnew. Young man can't seem to stay healthy.
The Jaguars are 9-7 and can win the AFC South with a victory next weekend. Their season is therefore not wrecked, though it is true that injuries have played a role. Wide receiver Jamal Agnew has had a tough season. That he sustained an ankle injury on a 48-yard reception that set up a key field goal Sunday seemed fitting. When Agnew has played, he has been really good but he absolutely has battled injuries.
Richard from Jacksonville
I just want loyal O-Zone contributors, and they know who they are, to know how nice it is that I can come to a column about football and end with a Counting Crows question one day and start the next day's with a Monty Python question. When times are hard, and for me they are at their literal hardest, not only do I enjoy observing the organization that I was a part of making happen by reading this column, I also know I know I am not alone in my observations. That is why the NFL is special. It doesn't matter your religion, political affiliation, race; whatever. Right now we are a bunch of Jacksonvillians watching our warriors go to battle for our civic pride. We are one of thirty-two cities that have this honor. It doesn't matter if we have 12 wins or nine. We are competing for the playoffs in the last game of the season. Winning records two seasons in a row for the first time in a long time. Possibly two AFC South titles in a row for the first time ever. Enjoy this. This is what it's all about. A perennial loser playing their first first-place schedule. It's supposed to be hard. Let's enjoy this no matter what happens. This is the fun part, we have a shot, we've had some bad luck but here we go!
Happy New Year.