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O-Zone: Looking up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jim from Middleburg, FL

Hi, O. Just wanting to say I was wrong about the O-Line. They are better than most people thought, at least me. Jaguars running back James Robinson is running like MJD and you can't do that alone. The line is getting good at pass protection, too. I was wrong. Sorry, guys. Jim Bob.

It takes a strong man to admit he's wrong – or so I would assume. I'm not strong, and I don't recall being wrong – so I'm admittedly a little out of my depth here. Either way, you're correct about the Jaguars' offensive line this season. As I've written and said often, this is not a perfect group – and I don't know that it's necessarily among the NFL's best groups. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor still must improve footwork issues in pass protection, and the group overall has been penalized a bit too much this season. But as was the case last season, this is a good run-blocking unit – and the group has been helped in that area this season by the offseason addition of veteran tight end Chris Manhertz. It's also an OK-to-good pass-blocking unit, and the line as expected has been helped exponentially in that area by rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence being dramatically better in the pocket than any of the Jaguars' three starting quarterbacks last season. This is going to be a major area to watch in the offseason, with decisions pending on the futures of pretty much the entire line – particularly guard A.J. Cann, guard Andrew Norwell and left tackle Cam Robinson. The team also must figure out at some point this season if rookie Walker Little is going to be the future at left tackle. But those issues are part of the deal in the NFL; units don't stay together forever. Within the context of this season, the line indeed has been consistent – and it even has been deeper than many expected. Good eye. And good apology.

James from Gainesville, FL

I know it's too early to talk draft, but what direction should the Jaguars go with their first pick in the first round?

When you're right, you're right: It's too early to talk about the 2022 NFL Draft – for a couple of reasons. One, we don't know who will be available in the first round – and we also don't know when the Jaguars will select. We also don't know what direction the Jaguars will want to take with the selection – in part because we won't know how certain Jaguars players at certain positions will play the rest of this season. But generally … if the Jaguars are selecting in the Top 10, which seems a real possibility, it likely will make sense to go with a premium position such as defensive end/pass rusher, wide receiver or cornerback. Or perhaps offensive line. That's too general. But it's October.

Adam from St. Johns, FL

Why do I get the feeling the Jaguars are going to force James Robinson to sit next season out? Not that he will or would want to, but they have to pay him this offseason. This will look so bad on the team. Continuingly not re-signing players like the Clippers used to. Maybe we'll get a fifth-round pick for him.

I suppose you get that feeling because the Jaguars weren't able to sign cornerback Jalen Ramsey or defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in recent offseasons – and because they eventually traded those players. Your point is correct – that the Jaguars generally haven't re-signed enough players to second contracts lately. You're also correct that running back James Robinson's contract will be an issue this offseason. As an undrafted rookie following the 2020 NFL Draft, this will be the first offseason he is eligible to sign a second contract – though the Jaguars still have him under contract through the 2022 season. I would expect this issue to be tricky not so much because of the Jaguars' past history re-signing their young players, but because running-back contracts are always tricky. Stay tuned.

Willis from Jacksonville

Which version of Gardening at Night do you prefer?

Chronic Town original.

Frank from Jacksonville

John, I've got news for you … your cat didn't like that little laser pointer. It drove him nuts and frustrated him to no end never being able to catch that little red dot. OK, I'll get off your lawn now. Question, can we string together back-to-back wins next Sunday?

Weird. The cat never complained. As far as the Jaguars stringing together back-to-back victories, I doubt it. This is not to say the Jaguars aren't improving. I believe they are absolutely improving, and I believe they will continue to improve and I also believe the reliability of the offensive line and Robinson – and Lawrence's rapid recent development – give this team something around which to build for the final 11 games of the 2021 regular season. But the Jaguars' lone victory this season came over a Miami Dolphins team that was struggling mightily entering the game and the Jaguars needed a lot to go right late in that game to win. There are some significant holes defensively, particularly in coverage, that will be difficult to fix quickly. While the Seattle Seahawks – the Jaguars' next opponent – are struggling, the game is in Seattle and the Seahawks didn't look against Pittsburgh last week like a team that had given up on the season. I see this being a tough one for the Jaguars. We'll see.

Robert from Key Largo I Wish

Seem to be a new sheriff in the AFC. Beating the Bills and then the Chiefs is impressive.

The Tennessee Titans indeed have been impressive – as was expected to be the case in the offseason. But while they beat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday – and the Buffalo Bills in Tennessee last week – I still the Bills as a huge factor in the AFC come December. And don't count out Cincinnati. Or the Los Angeles Chargers. Or the Baltimore Ravens. No team is consistent right now, but that happens in October. Teams don't go unbeaten and they struggle at midseason. This conference looks very balanced at the top. The best teams – and the new sheriff – will be decided in December and early January, not the week before Halloween.

WJBIII from Yulee, FL

Who do you think is the fastest player on our roster?

Wide receiver/returner Jamal Agnew. He's the only player on the roster I've seen score two 100-yard touchdowns this season and he consistently runs away from the fastest players on the field. When someone else starts doing that, I suppose I'll consider that player the fastest player on the roster.

Philip from Coral Springs

John, I haven't seen much info on DJ and Travis...

You're referencing wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. and running back Travis Etienne Jr. Chark sustained a fractured ankle in Week 3 at Cincinnati. That was a little over three weeks ago, so any return – if it happens this season – there isn't imminent. Etienne sustained a season-ending Lisfranc injury in the preseason. He underwent surgery in early September and won't play again until 2022.

Renee from Jax Beach

Hey, John. Watching football on our bye week. Observation: NFL replay trying to get the goal-line replays right … you better be perceived as the better team. Second observation: We may be 1 -5 but we are playing better than a lot of the NFL. Just saying. GO JAGS!!!

I watched a little NFL over the weekend, though I didn't dive into every game – so I can't speak to perception or the nefarious goings on involved in replay. As far as your second observation … I'm not all the way on board. I see the Jaguars as improving – and they're certainly better than they were at the beginning of the season. I sense this probably means they're playing better than some struggling teams – i.e., the teams around them in the standings. This seemed to be proven to some degree with their victory over the Dolphins. I get no sense that they're ready to match up with – and actually beat – contending teams consistently yet.

Rudy from Sacramento, CA

With Agnew developing into such a versatile chess piece on offense and special teams, is there a chance he gets reps in the secondary given the defensive struggles and his history as a defensive back?

I doubt it. Agnew is developing as a receiver, but he's still in his second season trying to adjust to that position. I don't know that complicating things and working him at defensive back. This might be an option in an absolute pinch considering Agnew's background playing secondary, but it's hard to see the Jaguars adding a third area of full-time responsibility at midseason.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, two Sundays in a row without a loss. Things are looking up around here, aren't they!?

There's a little more hope and optimism than was the case two weeks ago. Winning does that. It hasn't sucked.