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O-Zone: Niceties

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jerry from Jacksonville

Hall voters? Idiots.

The fallout from former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor not being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame continues – as it should. Taylor, the Jaguars' all-time leading rusher, was not among the five modern-era players elected to the 2024 hall class Thursday – but while Taylor very definitely deserves to be in the Hall, him not being elected doesn't make the voters idiots. Five players – defensive end Dwight Freeney, returner Devin Hester, defensive end Julius Peppers, wide receiver Andre Johnson and linebacker Patrick Willis – were elected this year. Freeney, Peppers, Johnson and Willis from this view definitely had to be elected at some point. As previously stated, I'm less enthusiastic about Hester – not because he wasn't a great returner, but because I wonder if a return specialist merits being remembered as one of the great players in history. Voters decided he indeed did deserve that. Either way, remember: While Taylor is Hall-worthy, every one of the 15 finalists fits that description and all 10 unelected finalists have a fan base convinced of the idiocy of Hall voters.

JT from Palm Coast

Wide receiver Andre Johnson gets in, but he has similar stats to former Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith. Not sure that makes sense to me. Johnson played two more years than Smith, but that's basically it. Fred Taylor getting passed over continues to speak to the Jaguars bias that has and still exists. It's frustrating John.

I have zero problem with Johnson being elected, though I absolutely agree that Smith is Hall-worthy. It's fair to point out in this that Johnson had 200 more receptions (1,062-862) and nearly 2,000 more receiving yards (14,185-12,287) than Smith. I would say they're similar in terms of merit, but numbers do matter. The shame for Smith is he had four years at the start of his career – two catch-less seasons with the Dallas Cowboys in 1992-1993, one out of football in 1994 and one with the Jaguars in 1995 – before he emerged as a Pro Bowl-level player. Those missed years and a year or two at the end of his career undoubtedly keep him from the Hall.

Dave from Grafton, VA and Section 115

Logically, if Devin Hester gets in, what's the argument for Rick Upchurch not being in?

Upchurch played nine seasons for the Denver Broncos (1975-1983), scoring eight touchdowns on punt returns and 24 touchdowns as a wide receiver – and was a five-time All-Pro selection. Hester played 11 seasons for the Chicago Bears and three other teams, scoring 19 return touchdowns and one as a receiver – and was a four-time All-Pro selection. The arguments for Hester over Upchurch? More touchdowns, including one in the Super Bowl – and playing in the SportsCenter-highlight generation.

Scott from Jax in DE

Super bummed for Freddy T on the HOF snub, again O-man. He'll get it next year!!

I believe he eventually will be elected.

Tom from Charlottesville

HOF should be ashamed of themselves! Devin Hester over Fred Taylor!! Rename yourself Hall of Most Popular! Like baseball … too many so/so players being inducted.

I would say Hester's the greatest returner in NFL history. I don't know that many knowledgeable football people would have wanted Hester over Taylor.

Jay from So-Cal

With all the upcoming contracts the Jaguars will be dealing with offseason, does it sound "crazy" to offer Lawrence in the neighborhood of $35 million a year for four years with guaranteed money, signing bonus, and incentives to be able to then get back outside linebacker Josh Allen, wide receiver Calvin Ridley and left tackle Cam Robinson for the upcoming seasons? Top-tier quarterbacks are making $40-50 million a year or so and while I want Trevor to lead this team, he has not proven himself to me so far that he should get that top-tier QB money. If the Jags want more consistency, cohesiveness, chemistry and success, I believe they need all those players back. I am probably wishing on a star, but this team needs more continuity with these players all playing together for the Jags. What do you think is fair in regards to Trevor's new contract? I really hope we can stay out of cap hell by signing him to a new contract and losing the ability to keep other major pieces of the team with us.

It doesn't sound crazy for the Jaguars to offer Lawrence such a contract. Whether he would sign such a contract this offseason is another question. What's fair for Lawrence's contract? I would say something a bit less than the range you cite. That's this offseason, based on what Lawrence has done so far. But you negotiate contracts for the future and based on projection. I don't have a feel for how that projection will play out, or if this will happen this offseason. Such is the nature of contract negotiations. You often don't know until sides start talking.

Jason from Duval

We had a rough stretch last few games. No one disputes that. But the way the mailbag reads is like the Jaguars of the past. We finished with a winning season, a tight end with the second most receptions in NFL history, a top ten running back, two receivers that are good with one that eclipsed 1,000 yards, a defensive end with a Jaguars record of 17.5 sacks, another with double digits, six or seven alternates to the pro bowl and three actual Pro Bowlers. The Titans fired their head coach, have nothing at quarterback solidified, Colts are not much better or proven at quarterback – and yes, we have a good rival which will make memorable memories for showdowns for years to come. The glass is half full O-Zonious.

There's a lot to this, particularly your assessment of the Jaguars' roster. The Jaguars went 9-8 in 2023. They did not finish 3-14. They missed the postseason by one game and were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion in the final game of the regular season. Work must be done in the offseason. Lawrence still must take steps. But all is certainly not lost.

Bryan from Lutz

This team is entering a fascinating offseason. They have gaping holes at center, left guard and defensive tackle They have invested heavily at linebacker, yet the position is regularly attacked by opposing offenses. They have spent first-, third- and fifth-round picks on running backs, but can't gain a yard when they need to. If they let Calvin Ridley walk, they have a gaping hole at WR. If they don't, they have limited cap, a first and a third to improve. Can this be fixed in one offseason?

We'll see.

Blaine from Prescott, AZ

Dear Mr. O. In 2022, running back Travis Etienne Jr. had 220 carries, 1,125 yards and averaged 5.1 per carry with five touchdowns. In 2023, he had 267 carries, 1,008 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. Through the first 11 games of 2023 we were 8-3 with Etienne averaging approximately 18 carries per game. The last six games of 2023 he averaged 12 carries per game. Concerning Jaguars center Luke Fortner … in 2022 as a rookie, I do not recall anyone discussing Fortner and his play which tells me he was doing his job. Why now in 2023, with a 33 percent reduction in carries in the last six games of the year is Fortner to blame? Why the target on his back? What are we missing? Thank you.

Whatever the statistics, and however many carries Etienne did or didn't have, the interior of the Jaguars' offensive line didn't run block well enough in 2023. Why the target on Fortner's back? Because he struggled at times, and because there were times he appeared to get overpowered. Some of those times resulted in some plays that looked very bad – bad enough for him to be the focus. The Jaguars' struggles on the interior were not just Fortner.

Matthew from Townsville, Tropical Australia

Hi O, I like Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator. As well as obvious accomplishments, he seems kind of tough, which for me balances the gentle, polite niceness I see everywhere else with the Jags, and which perhaps isn't the ideal mindset to do battle (even though I'd enjoy meeting such nice people). I think the defense is also already perhaps better than it seems. Do you think there's a fair argument that the defense got worn out rescuing the offence again and again over the last couple of years, feeling more and more frustrated with every turnover?

I think offenses have some level of frustration when defenses struggle, and I think defenses have some level of frustration when offenses struggle. I don't think the Jaguars' defense was "awesome" enough the past two seasons for this to have been a reason they struggled late in the 2023 season. As for the Jaguars' "niceness" being a problem … they were a pretty nice team late in the 2022 season and for the first 11 games of 2023 when they won 14 of 18 games. I don't know that that's "a thing."