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O-Zone: Matter of value

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Let's get to it …

Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL

O … why? When do we have to admit that where there is smoke, there is fire? I was neither pro-Urban nor anti-Urban at hire - more open-minded and watched. The show isn't good, and the distractions are becoming the rule not the exception. When does the music stop?

You're presumably referencing a report Saturday by Tom Pelissero of NFL.com regarding Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer. The report stated that wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. recently argued with Meyer over the head coach's public and private criticism of the team's receivers – and that Meyer had challenged assistant coaches and made them "defend their resumes." The report also stated Meyer directed that running back James Robinson be benched following a fumble in a loss to the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, with Meyer having said during his postgame availability that Robinson's extended absence following the fumble was injury related. There was more in the story, but those seemed the essential high points. Pelissero is a good reporter and I have no reason to think he would purposely harm that reputation. If the story is true, it's disturbing. Has the season been too full of such stories and "bad looks?" I can't imagine anyone thinking otherwise. I have said and written often in recent days and weeks that I believe Meyer will be the head coach in 2022, and I have heard nothing to indicate that's inaccurate. When does the music stop? I don't know. I do know I'll get more questions on this. I'll try to answer.

James from Socorro, NM

NFL.com reported Saturday that "During a staff meeting, Meyer delivered a biting message that he's a winner and his assistant coaches are losers, according to several people informed of the contents of the meeting, challenging each coach individually to explain when they've ever won and forcing them to defend their résumés." Is it normal for a head coach to question assistants in that manner? I am not familiar with the inner workings of a coaching staff at the NFL level.

It's not normal.

Reuben from Pikesville, MD

Tom Pelissero is reporting that Jaguars players are complaining about Urban Meyer to others, including the Rams last Sunday. Criticism of the receivers got to point that Marvin Jones walked out and had to be persuaded to return. Pelissero went into more detail regarding the dysfunction and questioned if Meyer might be one and done. You have repeatedly opined that you expect Meyer to be the coach in 2022; can this situation be salvaged?

I don't know.

Ryan from Detroit, MI

John, usually when someone asks about playing the young guys for experience, your answer comes back to "playing the best players." So let me ask it this way - our roster of "best players" is objectively not very good. If Day 2 draft picks Little and Cisco still can't beat out those underperforming starters 13 weeks into the season - does that mean those were wasted draft picks?

When asked about playing young players for experience or to "see what the Jaguars have in young players," my answer almost always is that coaches usually play players they believe give them the best chance to win. While fans and observers – and even general managers and personnel people – often want to see young players late in a season, a coach's instinct is to "play to win the game" and to play the players who deserve to play. A rookie not playing does not mean he's a wasted draft selection. It means he's not better than the player in front of him as a rookie. Many, many, many rookies don't play – or don't play all that well that season – and develop into very good players; Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. and guard Ben Bartch are examples. Many go the other direction.

Art from Drexel Hill, PA

If half of what is being reported about Urban is true, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan has to move on. I know he's patient and really wanted Urban, but it's obvious it's not going to work. We have four years to convince Trevor to stay. Urban can't be unlikable and unsuccessful.

One not fer Meyer …

Josh R. from Fernandina Beach, Fl (via Ft. Lauderdale)

Yo J-Z: Some guy named Brent asks a bunch of leading questions to our young running back and elicits a few predictable responses and consequently Meyer should be fired and the dearth of talent on his team is seemingly overlooked and considered irrelevant? Seems legit. Anyhow, thanks and Go Jags!!

… and one pretty much fer Meyer.

Dave from Jacksonville

Zone can we start to move on from the Andrew Norwell experiment at left guard? They showed a head shot during last Sunday's game of the opening huddle with a closeup on Norwell and rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Norwell was dramatically fired up. Looked great on the first play. Ran to the line first on the second play. Another run. Except this time Rams defensive tackle Aaron Darnold launched Norwell two yards in the backfield and ran down Robinson for a strip fumble. Game over two plays in. Norwell is paid too much for too little. Am I wrong? Seems like they need improvement at that position to me.

Norwell has been one of the Jaguars' best offensive linemen in recent seasons – maybe the best offensive lineman. He is far more criticized by fans than should be the case and he has played well for the most part the last two seasons. Is he overpaid? Sure. But many veterans on second contracts are overpaid because teams face the choice of overpaying to maintain or upgrade a position or starting over and underpaying a far lesser or less-experienced player. There seems a good chance Norwell won't return to the Jaguars in 2022 because of his salary-cap number. Will they be able to upgrade that spot if he leaves? That's possible, but it's far from guaranteed.

Travis from Wisco

The Jags remind me of the Covid pandemic. It's feels like it will never get better and stupid people continue to make it worse.

OK.

Paul from Los Angeles CA

It's amazing that an offense can be so dysfunctional in a league that the rules are set up for passing games to thrive more than any era in the history of the NFL. With all the draft picks and cap space, how can the passing game be so inept. With all those picks why would they only select one wide receiver in the sixth round (Jalen Camp), from a team that rarely passed the ball. It's hard to be a fan of this madness.

The passing game struggled early in the season because the receivers for the most part were just OK and couldn't make explosive plays downfield often enough – and because Lawrence was adjusting to the NFL. It has struggled since because injuries have further hurt the receiver position, and because Lawrence seems to be struggling with accuracy – and perhaps confidence. The Jaguars only selected one wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft because they also selected wide receiver/running back Travis Etienne No. 25 overall to play a role with the unit – and because they believed with the addition of Jones in free agency and the presence of Laviska Shenault Jr. and DJ Chark Jr. they were in decent shape there overall. They probably needed to do more there, but it's difficult to add elite receivers in free agency and they addressed other areas in the draft. The focus almost certainly will be different next offseason. Stay tuned.

Marc from Oceanway

What's your current take on Cam Robinson's level of play this year and a possible future with the Jaguars? I thought he played quite well as a rookie and was part of the reason for our success in 2017. I also felt he was a significant part of the reason we went downhill in 2018, as we started losing right after he tore his ACL in the Patriots game. Many have criticized his play since coming back from that injury, but I always believed it would take a few years to get back to playing his best. I was glad we franchise tagged him as I thought this year would finally be an accurate test of how he would play at full recovered health. Many have assumed this would be his last year with Walker Little taking over next year. After watching Cam's play so far this year, wouldn't it be a mistake to let him leave in free agency?

Robinson has played well for the most part and is perhaps having his best season. His future likely will be determined by how he and his representation value him against how the Jaguars value him. He likely will receive a lot of interest if he becomes an unrestricted free agent, and it's rare for players to return to teams once they hit free agency. That makes this tricky. If you can bring him back at what seems reasonable, then bring him back. Is he worth franchise-foundation money? That will be a major decision facing the team's decision-makers in February.

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