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O-Zone: Man with a plan

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Chris from Tampa, FL

You mentioned the first-place schedule recently, but is that really that big of a deal? Its context is the comparison to the rest of the division. The first-place Jaguars have three more difficult games outside of the division, but six less difficult games inside of the division. By comparison, the last-place Houston Texans have three easier games outside of the division, but six more difficult games within the division. All of the other games are the same.

Good eye, sort of. First, I don't quite get the argument about games within the division, but that's OK. Not everyone has to "get" everything. As far as rest of the "first-place schedule" … while a first-place schedule unquestionably is more difficult than a fourth-place schedule, its importance should be kept in perspective. All teams in a particular division essentially have the same schedule each season for 14 games – with three games decided based on division finish the season before. For the Jaguars this season, that will mean playing the San Francisco 49ers, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills – all division champions last season – as opposed to playing teams deeper in those divisions. Those games matter, but they make up less than 20 percent of a schedule. So, while a first-place schedule definitely is more difficult – particularly for the Jaguars in 2023 because it means facing quarterbacks Josh Allen of the Bills and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs – it shouldn't completely define the Jaguars' 2023 season. If they're good enough, they can overcome it.

Howard from Homestead, FL

Was second-year Walker Little better than second-year Jawaan Taylor?

This might not be an entirely fair comparison. Whereas Little played at a high level at left tackle in his 2022 second season – perhaps at a higher level than Taylor played at right tackle in his 2020 second season – Little played just three regular-season games and in the postseason. Taylor, for his part, played in all 16 regular-season games in 2020. Maybe Little was a bit better, but would he have been consistently better over an entire season? Who knows?

Eric from Jacksonville Beach

Feels good to be regular-season winners versus offseason winners. Hope to keep both streaks alive for a long, long time!

Winning is cool. Fans like it and want to keep liking it.

Jess from Glen Carbon, IL

Zone, if the Jaguars have any primetime games this year on Sunday or Monday night it won't be about the Jaguars but about the team they're playing. Best bets: Chiefs, Bengals, Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers or 49ers. Any other team will be Thursday night. Of course, London game won't be primetime but will be the only game on at that time.

I would that the games you mention probably have the best chance of being primetime games. All those teams were in the postseason in 2022, and networks and the league love matchups of postseason teams. But while the Jaguars indeed perhaps aren't quite the national draw as the teams you mention, don't underestimate the presence of quarterback Trevor Lawrence. And don't underestimate the importance of how this team played late last season and in the postseason. Lawrence and that style are going to make the Jaguars appealing. It started happening in 2022. If this team wins, it will be on primetime and it will be part of the reason games are appealing nationally.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

I know Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke gets credit for an impressive group of free-agent signings in 2022. The one that stood out to me after the conclusion of the season was wide receiver Zay Jones. Jones in a two-year span from 2019 to 2020 played in 31 games with 41 receptions and 370 yards with one touchdown. He had a career year in 2022 playing in 16 games with 82 receptions and 823 yards plus five touchdowns. It is hard to reconcile this more than dramatic turnaround for a player going from not having much impact in the NFL to being a significant contributor to this team's turnaround last year.

One Zay Jones. (And fer Baalke).

John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Do you think Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne Jr., wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram can be as productive as quarterback Mark Brunell, running back James Stewart and Fred Taylor, wide receivers Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell and tight end Kyle Brady?

The first group you cite are currently the core players of the Jaguars' offense. The second group formed the core skill players of the Jaguars' offense in the late 1990s. It's always tricky to compare eras, and the NFL game is far more spread out – and even more offensive-oriented – than was the case in the 1990s. I do believe the current incarnation of the Jaguars' offense will be more explosive – and probably produce more points and yards – than that 1990s group. Whether it will produce two Hall-of-Fame level players – and I do believe Smith and Taylor belong in the Hall of Fame – remains to be seen.

Eric from Jacksonville Beach, FL

I was listening to Fred Taylor on the radio yesterday and thinking of how underrated he is historically for how good he was. Made me wonder, who's another player that you think doesn't get the respect, either nationally or locally, that they deserve?

Smith comes to mind.

Justin from Jax

Hey, Zone. Now that Ridley is joining the team, I'm absolutely stoked about the potential of this offense. The combination of Year 2 of Doug's offense, the main core of players coming back, plus the assumed progression of players within the system, do you feel this offense has a chance to be scary good and compete with the top of the league?

I expect the Jaguars' offense to be among the NFL's best next season. That would have been true even if they hadn't traded with the Atlanta Falcons for Ridley. While he certainly has the potential to move the offense to a different level, the unit was going to improve next season for the other reasons you cite. A returning core of skill players. A year in Head Coach Doug Pederson's offensive system. A second season for Lawrence in that system. You started to see late last season what this offense could be when it's at its best. The biggest thing that's needed to improve is consistency. The consistency improved dramatically in the second half of last season. It's reasonable to expect another jump in 2023.

Scott from Atlantic Beach, FL

What is meant by the word "system" as it pertains to a head coach? I mean, there are only so many plays, so it must mean more than the playbook?

An offensive system indeed means more than "plays," though what plays are emphasized and details of how they are run does change from play-caller to play-caller. It also means how the quarterback should read certain plays, and how receivers should react to certain defensive looks. It also means comfort with terminology, and what reads a quarterback should make at the line of scrimmage based on pre-snap defensive formation. Perhaps the biggest difference between offensive systems is the coach's ability to tailor his system to players. That's one reason a second-year jump could – and perhaps should – be expected for the Jaguars in 2023. Pederson and the coaching staff now have a season's worth of film to study. Much of the offseason will be about trimming certain concepts that didn't fit this group particularly well and emphasizing concepts that the group did execute well. Such things constantly evolve, but there's a ton of evolution that should take place after the first season.

Jami from Wye Mills, Md

Calais Campbell reportedly visited the team this week. Is there much of a chance that he takes becomes the Mayor again?

Former Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell indeed reportedly visited the Jaguars Thursday. He reportedly visited the Atlanta Falcons Wednesday. I expect there's a good chance Campbell returns to Jacksonville because he likes the team, the city and the fans. There's a real connection there. He also could bring a veteran presence who can add some disruption and stoutness on the defensive front. If by "become the Mayor again," you mean returning to the team … yeah, that could happen. If you're expecting Campbell to return to the form he showed in 2017 when he was the dominant force on a dominant defense … probably not.

Ed from Jax by Lionel Playworld

So, you don't report signings until they actually happen - understandable. Why don't you report visits, like Campbell's this week?

Precisely the same reason. When an acquisition is official, reports it. When it's not official, it does not.

Jarret from Crosby, ND

Step 1: bring back the Mayor. Step 2: Draft well. Step 3: Win the Super Bowl. Step 4: Put Keenan, Mojo, Coach Cough and the Mayor in the Pride. Pretty straightforward, Zone.

Shad Khan … hire this man!