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O-Zone: High hopes

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Vince from St Augustine, FL

For the past few years, after watching a Jags game, I felt embarrassed and depressed. So far this year, I've felt happy twice – and disappointed and frustrated four times. I consider that an improvement.

I understand fans being depressed when their teams lose – and while I never have quite understood fans being embarrassed by a team's performance, enough Jaguars fans have expressed that feeling here in the O-Zone that I suppose it's indeed "a thing." Either way, your assessment of the 2022 season makes sense if you're looking at the Jaguars from a long-term perspective. They have led in all six games this season. They have led by at least eight points in five of six games. They have scored 20 or more points in five of six games. They have led in the second half of five games. They have looked really, really impressive twice and just barely lost three times. None of those things make losing less disappointing and frustrating, but all absolutely represent significant improvement from where this franchise was the past two seasons. Losing in the short-term sucks. It's frustrating. If it wasn't frustrating or disappointing, then the winning wouldn't matter so much – and it sure wouldn't feel as good. But there's little question this team's closer. Now it must make plays late to turn frustration into fun. That's what must come next.

Greg from Section 122, Jacksonville

Given the talent we are getting ready to face (Giants 5-1), do you see us beginning a spiral? Seems this happens once we get a good losing streak under our belt.

I don't necessarily believe the Jaguars will lose Sunday. While I expect the Giants will win because they have proven to be good in late-game situations and the Jaguars have yet to do so, there are plenty of scenarios in which I can see the Jaguars winning. Either way, I don't see the Jaguars "spiraling" this season. This team has been in every game. They have played well offensively most games. They have played well enough on both sides to have a chance late in all four losses. They seem to believe in Head Coach Doug Pederson and the direction of the franchise. It doesn't feel like that effort, focus and/or level of play will suddenly go away because of one more loss – if that loss even happens.

Dean from Rochester, NY

The only games we have won this season was while I was in Hawaii. The key to future wins is obvious. Khan needs to send me for the rest of the season. Make it happen, for the team.

You didn't have to go to Maui to be treated like a jerk.

Bill from Palm Beach Gardens, FL

I think the biggest concern isn't Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence but rather the inability of Josh Allen and Travon Walker to get to the quarterback. What's your assessment of the pash rush so far?

It hasn't been good enough. The Jaguars have 10 sacks in six games, with five of those sacks in Week 2 against a Colts offensive line that was struggling at the time. It didn't struggle as much Sunday. Quarterback Matt Ryan getting the ball out quickly helped that, too. But overall, the Jaguars have been in enough obvious pass-rush situations that it's fair to expect more than 10 sacks.

MrMakersMark from E 3rd

O - I was always curious why defensive backs would let their mouthpiece dangle from their helmet (because it is required by the NFL), but do they need to "jaw" so much they need it out? Learn how to trash talk with it in and it will protect your teeth and that weird time when the running back uses it to guide your head away from them!


P FunkfromMurray Hill

Trying to think this out. We are aggressive on fourth down when the situation makes sense. I'm not opposed to that. In fact, I like what it can do build confidence. So, we want to keep the drive going but our red-zone offense is struggling. Our losses have been one-score games. So, taking a field goal (given that they are made) on those fourth downs would give us a better shot to win. I guess I'm asking if the trust in the offense as whole outweighs the trust in our kicker who we targeted in the preseason?

Pederson looks at this differently than you, it seems. He's an analytics guy, and he coaches in that vein – and his belief is that successful fourth-down conversions significantly raise your chances of touchdown drives, which in turn significantly raise your chance of winning games in a league in which games often are decided by a touchdown or less. I have no sense these decisions are based on trust or lack of trust in kicker Riley Patterson as much as an overall philosophy that you're going to win more games over the long term being aggressive on fourth-and-makeable situation than by kicking field goals in those situations. Remember, too: Pederson's not going to coach those situations assuming the offense will get into the red zone and not convert. He coaches assuming the percentages will play out there, too.

Andrew from Halifax

How have our rookies fared so far this year? Travon's penalties have made the headlines recently, but how has he performed as a rookie? Lloyd is DROY?

Jaguars outside linebacker Travon Walker and inside linebacker Devin Lloyd have both started all six games. They both have played OK at times and both have struggled at times with pretty typical rookie stuff, particularly recognition – as would be expected for linebackers. They both have flashed some high-end athleticism, as would be expected for players in their draft positions. The Jaguars are better defensively with them than without them. Their presence has made this a stouter front seven capable of more big plays than last season. They also both have a lot of experience to gain. They're rookies.

Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL

Your response to questions about Pederson going for it on fourth down essentially has been, "Pederson is going to be aggressive on fourth down," essentially saying it is what is. Would you go for it so frequently? I don't like it, but I like Pederson's approach to "culture" and the roster. Good with the bad? Basically, I'm saying I don't know. Six games in the jury is still out.

I probably wouldn't go for it as often as Pederson, but I'm also old-school football guy and I'm old enough that change happens slowly. I will say this: The more I see Pederson going for fourth downs in previously unconventional circumstances, the more I like the approach. And the more I see the benefit outweighing the reward. When Colts Head Coach Frank Reich opted for a punt in an early fourth-and-short situation this past Sunday, I immediately thought it odd and thought the approach favored the Jaguars. And my immediate thought was the punting at the time seemed antiquated. And "too old school." So Maybe I'm coming around. And if you want to walk across my lawn, feel free. But only small corner. And only once.

Dylan from Boulder, CO

The Jags have a lot of young talent that is still developing. One player that I hoped would show up more, though, is Josh Allen. How would you assess his performance so far this season? Are offenses game planning to take him out of the game or is he just not getting pressure?

It's a little of both. Allen could get better pressure at times, but he certainly draws chips and double teams – and in a game such as this past Sunday's loss to Indianapolis, it's difficult for pressure the quarterback if the passer releases the ball quickly. From this writer's view, Allen has played OK-to-good for the most part. He makes multiple plays that show up in most games. It seems there are times he could benefit from more push from interior pass rushers, because that would keep quarterback from stepping up in the pocket to avoid his rush. At the same time, you would like to see impact plays more consistently from your best edge defender.

Diego from South of Tierra del Fuego

Is it not time for our head coach to get more involved with the defense? Whatever schemes the Jags are using, other teams are exploiting and the Jags have no answer. Talent going to waste because of poor game planning. Doing the same thing over and over with poor results is insanity. Diego for defensive coordinator!

Let's not go overboard here. The Jaguars' defense had a bad two-and-half quarters when it didn't have an answer for the Colts' up-tempo, crossing-pattern offense Sunday. The Jaguars have had three really good games and three difficult games, and are ranked 11th in the NFL in total offense. This isn't "same thing over and over." We're not there yet.

Dallas from Cotter, AR

On the positive side, the Jags can still finish 13-4.

Damned right they can.