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O-Zone: New Year, same tune

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Ed from Jax by Lionel Playworld

I don't recall any reports about Doug Pederson interviewing for any other head coaching position last offseason. What was the conventional wisdom at the time surrounding him, making him an undesirable candidate for head coach? In retrospect, our slow roll approach to hiring him was very risky and could have been a disaster.

I don't know that anything made Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson "undesirable" last offseason, though I recall being a bit surprised he didn't draw more publicized interest from multiple teams. It was perhaps a bit strange that a Super Bowl-winning coach with a reputation as a strong offensive mind – and a reputation for being a quality leader – wasn't far and away the hottest candidate. And in retrospect, he probably should have drawn more interest. A lot more. As far as "conventional wisdom," there seemed at the time to be a leaguewide leaning toward "hot, young offensive coordinators" – and perhaps Pederson was seen by some as a recycled candidate. That's speculation, and the reality of NFL coaching searches is speculation and conventional wisdom matter little. What matters is an NFL owner sitting across from the potential leader and heartbeat of his team and saying, "Yes, this is the right guy." A year earlier, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan had said he had the hire right. With Pederson, he did.

George from Arlington VA

I am really happy on how the season is going but what position do you think the Jaguars should focus on in free agency or the draft and what would be some good candidates to pick up?

These are pertinent topics. And there will come a time soon enough that we will dive headfirst into free agency and the draft with the intensity of a wolverine. (Avenge me, boys!!!!) But I have covered 12 Jaguars teams since returning to Jacksonville in 2011. This is the second team to enter the regular-season finale in contention. Pardon me if I wait until after the season before turning full focus to offseason needs.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAGF - It's hard to believe that the Titans can take a nap, possibly lose six games in a row, and still win the division if they pull out a victory against us the last game of the season. It's the crazy NFL and an odd division.

It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it.

Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL

The Jags D is ranked eighth in quarterback hits, but 28thin sacks. Other than the obvious that the rushers aren't getting there on time, how do you explain the discrepancy? Scheme, talent, "coaching?"

Some of it is bad luck. Some of it also could be explained by the Jaguars struggling in coverage much of the season. When you struggle in coverage, it often allows the opposing quarterback to get rid of the ball under duress.  And, of course, it's always coaching in the NFL.

Dan from Jax

_Many of the Jags, if not all, are going to find themselves in a not-so-familiar position next week – a game to decide they're moving on or going home. I'm sure the coaching staff will be working on their focus, but being a young team, do you think some will be playing as such as not wanting to be the one to lose the game, and could in fact do so with that mind set?   _

I doubt it. The Jaguars have been playing pressure games for pretty much the entire second half of the season. The mindset will be slightly different when they play the Titans in the regular-season finale next Sunday with the AFC South title at state, but I would be surprised if they "play not to lose."

Dan from Fernandina Beach, FL

What are the chances of next week's game being on prime time?

Very good.

Mike from Cartersville (AKA Trevortown), GA

A question recently asked about the best free agent signing and so wide receiver Calvin Ridley was left out. If we ask what was the best acquisition was of 2022 could that possibly be Calvin Ridley? When the Atlanta Falcons drafted him, I thought there's no way he will replace Julio Jones. He didn't exactly but the drop off was small if there was a measurable drop off. If this offense is the sixth best in the NFL what will it look like with Calvin Ridley?

Ridley, acquired by the Jaguars in a 2022 midseason trade with the Atlanta Falcons, hasn't played since Week 5 of the 2021 season. Players such as tight end Evan Engram, wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and offensive guard Brandon Scherff have contributed at a high level for the Jaguars this season after signing as unrestricted free agents last offseason. The same is true of defensive lineman Arden Key and linebacker Foye Oluokun. So, it would be somewhat disingenuous to call Ridley the best acquisition of the offseason. He absolutely could help the offense and add a No. 1 go-to receiver to the mix, but he must show he has returned to his former level – something that is perhaps probable, but far from guaranteed. What will the Jaguars' offense look like with Ridley? It's already dangerous and potent. If he is pre-injury Ridley and a No. 1 receiver that can force defenses to shade defenders his way, it will be dangerous(er). And potent(er).

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

Can you explain how the waiver process works after the conclusion of the regular season? Can any team make a claim on a waived player or only teams still alive in the playoffs?

There are no waivers after the end of the regular season until the day after the Super Bowl.

The real JT from Plano, TX

Two quick ones: 1) You know we're starting to look different to the rest of the league when opposing coaches no longer need to be fired the morning after losing to the Jags and 2) Hats off to you. It's been said before, but after spending some time in other team websites for perspectives preparing to enjoy our games, the back and forth we get in O-Zone is light years ahead of the rest of the division's and league's fan mail bags. So much high-quality insight and daily team intel that all of your snarkiness is such a small price to "pay" for all of this league-best free content. Thank you, JO. #DTWD

Two quick responses: 1) The days are past when losing to the Jaguars is an embarrassment. They have beaten three postseason teams already this season – the Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans -- and also have victories over the contending New York Jets and Titans. They are very legitimately in the postseason chase, and signs are they are building a foundation that should enable them to contend often in the foreseeable future. As far as the back-and-forth in the O-Zone being ahead of that of other team websites … why wouldn't it be?

John from Jacksonville

Hi, KOAGF. Humor me if you are in the mood today. Let's assume the Jags have a chance in the Titans game to tie for overtime or to go for the win in regulation. If they go for the win, they risk not making the play and losing their chance for the playoffs. This could be a two-point conversion attempt to win versus a one-point attempt to tie or a play for a touchdown to win versus a field goal to tie (final seconds of regulation). What does Coach Peterson do?

He first reminds everyone that it's P-E-D-E-R-S-O-N. Then he does whatever he thinks gives the Jaguars the best chance to make the postseason. In your scenario, I would lean toward Pederson being aggressive because of confidence in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the offense.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

Oluokun has 162 tackles before the last two games. One massive one fer Foye.

One fer Foye.

Brian from Round Rock, Texas

What's your sense of the team's mentality going into this game? Does it feel like the past few weeks or do you see the possibility of a let down? By the way, a letdown would also be fine for the team because it would focus them for the Titans game. From a mentality standpoint, playing to win is a no brainer. Injury risk is the only downside.

I sense the Jaguars will be ready for the game. I also believe concepts such as letdown and "up for games" are sometimes overanalyzed. The Jaguars could lose to the Texans Sunday. If they do, many observers will say they had a letdown. The reality is the Texans have pushed two playoff teams – Kansas City and Dallas – in recent weeks and they beat the Titans last week. It's professional football. Sometimes teams with good records lose to teams with bad records. It doesn't take a letdown.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Happy New Year. We'll see if you suck in 2023. I bet you do.

Happy New Year.