JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Bradley from Sparks, NV
If you throw out Tampa Bay, I would say the three teams that improved the most in free agency are Denver, Las Vegas and Jacksonville. Good eye?
The Denver Broncos traded with the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Russell Wilson and the Las Vegas Raiders traded with the Green Bay Packers for wide receiver Davante Adams, so those acquisitions – while significant and potentially franchise-altering – weren't technically free agency … but I get your point: Those franchises appear to have improved this offseason, and the Jaguars also appear to have improved. The Broncos in particular appear to have improved because I tend to trust that a quarterback of Wilson's caliber can raise a new franchise more easily than a player at another position. Have the Raiders improved as much? Perhaps, though it remains to be seen if Adams will work as well with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr as he did with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Either way, the Raiders do appear improved. I emphasize appear because I am inherently skeptical of veteran NFL acquisitions – no matter the profile of the player – producing desired results for the new team. My old-guy-shouting-at-clouds approach is I want to see acquired veterans fit in and produce before projecting their true impact. That doesn't mean I don't believe the Jaguars can improve this season. I just believe the calming approach of Head Coach Doug Pederson, the development of quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the overall improvement of players already on the roster are as important as the players acquired as free agents last week – perhaps more so.
David from Chuluota, FL
O-Zone – At face value, the decision to let wide receiver D.J. Chark and linebacker Myles Jack leave in free-agency was a big mistake, but if we end up trading WR Laviska Shenault Jr., I'm going to lose it! That's the problem with all these regime changes, nobody on the team is their guy, so year after year, us fans see players who were centerpieces the last year, get thrown to the scrap heap. We can't keep taking one step forward and two steps back and expect to get ahead. With all the money the team just spent in free-agency, Jag fans should be dancing in the streets, but with the decisions being made, it feels more like we're scratching our heads, holding our breath and hoping for the best. Thoughts?
I agree that there are people who believe letting Jack and Chark go was a big mistake. I don't know that it can be said as fact – or even face value – that those people are correct. I also don't know that Shenault has performed well enough in two seasons to "lose it" if he is traded. I like Shenault and think he is capable of more than he has shown so far in the NFL, but what happens with him certainly shouldn't be seen as some sort of benchmark for the organization's direction.
Daniel from Johnston, IA
It seems like to me you'll only improve as a team if you find ways to keep your decent-to-good players while also adding more in free agency and draft. Don't you think more effort should have been made in keeping former wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. while bringing in Christian Kirk and a drafted wide receiver?
Keeping good players is every team's goal. That goal must be pursued while determining if the player and the team agree on the player's value.
Sal from AUSTIN
There's not another Myles Garrett in this draft. Taking Jordan Davis first overall, after what he did at the NFL combine, is a no-brainer. I just get the sense that the Jaguars are going to blow the first overall pick.
Selecting any player based solely – or even largely – upon what he did or didn't to at the NFL Scouting Combine is doing the job all wrong.
Josh from Fernandina Beach (via Fort Lauderdale)
What's up, Zone? I presume most regular perusers of this column are familiar with the concern that it is a challenge to fully recover from a Lisfranc injury. My layman's assessment of the Jaguars projected "core" of the offense suggests that running back Travis Etienne Jr.'s degree of contribution could play a critical, if not determinative, role this year. Do you have any insights relative to Travis' recovery that you can share with the Jaguar faithful? Thanks and Go Jags!!
Pederson last week when discussing the Jaguars' 2022 free-agency class spoke positively of Etienne and spoke positively of the running-back room overall. General Manager Trent Baalke during the recent 2022 Scouting Combine described Etienne as ahead of schedule in rehabilitation from his injury. Those are good signs. I expect we'll have a better feel for this in April.
Zac from Austin, Tejas
The Jaguars' offensive line situation is tricky and has room for a lot of creative solutions, but I still like Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson at No. 1. If you want to evaluate a player by one game, then I'm all aboard him not being good when they slide the protection towards him, because it frees up Josh Allen. Vice versa is true. They both are good at capitalizing when the focus is not solely planned around them.
Hey, one fer Hutchinson …
JR from The Squatchlands
No question here, just eager for a return to the old Sacksonville days. Edge rusher at No. 1!
… and another fer Hutchinson. Or maybe Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux. Or someone.
Marc from Oceanway
Juan de la Zone, I hear rumblings that Brandon Linder may not be back. If so, do you believe they plan to start the season with Tyler Shatley at center? How do you foresee our offensive line starting five come September?
Reports are that Jaguars veteran center Brandon Linder is considering retirement or could be released. Baalke said last week no decision has been made regarding Linder's future. I expect the Jaguars would be comfortable starting Shatley and I also expect – if Linder indeed is not with the team – that the team would select a center in the 2022 NFL Draft capable of possibly starting in 2022 and capable of definitely starting after that.
Steve from Wallingford, CT
Hey, John. We often talk about the different receiver roles and how we have yet to find a solid #1 receiver. So why spend all that money on a slot guy? We already have Laviska Shenault Jr., Jamal Agnew, and I expect Etienne to get some plays out of the slot, too, but now we spend big bank on another player who excels out of the slot and is mediocre on the outside. I know you can't read minds, but it seems illogical to me.
I think the Jaguars see Christian Kirk as significantly better than Shenault, Agnew and Etienne. I also expect the Jaguars to address wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft with the idea of selecting a player at the position who can develop into the sort of "solid No. 1" receiver of which you speak.
Bill from Jacksonville
Hall of Fame voting often takes All-Pros and Pro Bowls into account. With the quarterbacks in the AFC now there will likely be some serious implications on HoF voting. Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers, Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos, Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders, Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns and Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens are all in the AFC now. Not to mention Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones of the New England Patriots and Zach Wilson of the New York Jets. Didn't it just get a heck of a lot more difficult for a quarterback playing in the AFC over the next 10-12 years to make the Hall of Fame?
Making the Pro Football Hall of Fame is supposed to be hard.
Kenny from Youngstown, Ohio
O-Zone, it appears that Foley Fatukasi was a captain this past year. How often does a sixth-round pick become a captain on their rookie deal? Seems like that should really speed volumes for Foley and the player that the Jaguars are getting.
Fatukasi, a defensive tackle who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Jaguars last week, indeed was a team captain for the New York Jets last season. It's comparatively rare for a late-round selection to become a captain so quickly – and yes, it does seem to reflect the sort of player and person the Jaguars have signed. All seven players signed in the first wave of free agency last week seem to be good-character, team-first people. That's a good thing. It's not the only thing, but it's a start.
Brian from Jacksonville
With the greatest of respect to Holger, we have no idea if people will die if you break the O-Zone streak. A wise movie baseball player once told me a player has to respect the streak.