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O-Zone: No depression

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Thrill from The 'Ville

When considering the NFL's top coaches, the conversation usually starts with the Super Bowl winners: Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs, Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams, Bruce Arians of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, Sean Payton formerly of the New Orleans Saints. But Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson is rarely mentioned in the same circle. What do you attribute this perception to? Is it lack of tenure with the team he won with? Is it lack of sustained success to go with his Super Bowl win? I would suggest that he lacks the pairing with a superstar quarterback, but then I'd be repeating myself.

It does feel as if Pederson is excluded from this conversation. I suppose it is indeed because of his relatively short tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles – and because of the lack of sustained success. That exclusion probably isn't fair considering Pederson did coach the Eagles to three consecutive playoff appearances – a run that included the Super Bowl victory following the 2017 season. It's a little unusual for a Super Bowl champion coach to be dismissed by the team with which he wins the Super Bowl. Things reportedly went a little sideways for Pederson in Philadelphia. That doesn't have much – or anything, really – to do with the job he will do in Jacksonville. The big thing I take from Pederson's tenure with the Eagles was his undeniable knack for succeeding in adverse situations. The Eagles won the Super Bowl after losing starting quarterback Carson Wentz to a season-ending injury, doing so with backup Nick Foles starting at quarterback. They also made dramatic late-season runs to qualify for the next two postseasons. That's a sign that players respond to Pederson when the going is difficult, and that speaks well to his ability as a head coach.

James from Jacksonville

I have seen over the years of being a Jaguars fan several new rookie quarterbacks come in and try to lead our team to victories. Trevor Lawrence seems to be at a totally different level when it comes to his confidence and leadership abilities when watching him with the media. He talks as if he has been leading the team for years and knows exactly what to say and when to say it. I was so afraid that Head Coach Urban Meyer was going to ruin him with his first season. Do you believe that Trevor is just that much better prepared than his previous counterparts or is it just his elite talent that seems to make him rise to the top? I pray that he will be as good on the field as he is with the press and adversity.

It's hard to say precisely why Lawrence is so confident and such a top-level leader. It is a rare attribute for his age, and he indeed showed last season an elite ability to handle adversity. My guess is these traits partly stem from his experience as a high-level recruit in high school and as a high-level player at Clemson. That experience probably got him used to the spotlight and the pressure of outside expectations. I assume it also partly stems from his upbringing and family; such things tend to shape people. I assume, too, that it's partially just how he is; he has a rare awareness, poise and maturity – not just for a player his age, but for a player of any age and experience. He's just different in this area, which helps explain why so many believe him a generational quarterback prospect. Will he be as good on the field as he is off? Who knows? But there's no reason he won't be really good. It's all still very much in front of him.

Jim from Neptune Beach, FL

Greatest NFL name of all time? No contest. Dick Butkus ... just say it and you'll know it. (Also, one of the greatest middle linebackers of all time).


Alan from Ellington, CT

Seems like a lot of people want to know how Travis Etienne will be used. Could he be a player like Brian Westbrook? Brian always had as many receiving yards as rushing yards per year. Was Doug Peterson on that coaching staff with Andy Reid?

Westbrook was a versatile receiver/runner for the Eagles from 2000-2009, and that's absolutely how Jaguars second-year running back Travis Etienne Jr. could be used. There are other hybrid-type backs that have played that sort of role in the last couple of decades, but Westbrook indeed is an example. Pederson was on Reid's Eagles coaching staff from 2009-2012 and on Reid's Chiefs staff from 2013-2015. Westbrook's final season with the Eagles was 2009, Pederson's first season coaching in the NFL. So, sure … Pederson has a decent idea of how to use such players.

Big on Blake from Philly

Big on Blake is neither Big nor on Blake. So what then is O-Zone? Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. In the third person.


Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL

Evan Engram seems to be the forgotten man when discussing impact players for the upcoming season.  Engram's skill set combined with Pederson's history of using tight ends is an intriguing combination.

Engram, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent this offseason after five seasons with the New York Giants, indeed appears to have been overlooked by many as a key offseason addition for the Jaguars. He's a former first-round selection with the kind of skillset at tight end that Pederson has utilized effectively in the past. The thought here is Engram could be one of the keys to the Jaguars' offense in 2022.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, why is everyone obsessed with how many nationally televised games we have? I for one am grateful we don't have many as our performance in most games for years has been embarrassing.

Fans "obsess" over nationally-televised games because they like to watch their team on national television. And because fans see nationally televised games as a sign of respect – and we all know critically important it is to be "respected." You're right that the Jaguars have struggled mightily in most of their appearances in those games in recent seasons. Then again, they too often have struggled mightily in many games in recent seasons. This is a "problem" that will solve itself in time. When the Jaguars win, particularly with a "brand" such as Lawrence at quarterback, they will be on national television more.

Ronnie from Jax Beach

I saw your reply to a question about the kicking competition and was perplexed. Ryan Santoso went undrafted in 2018, after being moved from placekicker to punter his senior year and has made 4 out of 5 NFL kicks in 4 years while now joining his 10th professional team in those four years. Rookie Mevis also went undrafted and is a complete unknown. Are you we shouldn't be concerned?

I'm sorry you were perplexed. Being perplexed can be … perplexing! NFL teams have kicking competitions all the time. Unknown kickers win these competitions all the time and have successful professional careers. Most NFL kickers are unknown until they're known. It's not exactly a position of huge names and five-star backgrounds.

Lawrence from Omaha, NE

I once read that Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette was playing a reporter on the sidelines, when he was secretly the coordinator calling offensive plays. When he didn't like the match-up, he could stare down the defense until they checked into a look that worked for his play.

Good eye.

Chris from Mandarin

Do you recall what a practice with Peyton Manning looked like? I remember an interview with him saying something to the effect of, if one of his footballs hits the ground it was a bad practice. If that is the measuring stick, the Jaguars probably have a long way to go … but he was one of the best to ever do it, so who knows?

That's perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. While there were practices when Manning rarely threw incomplete passes, there of course were incomplete passes and pass deflections in Indianapolis Colts practices during the team's remarkable run of success with Manning at quarterback from about 2002-2010 or so. No, the Jaguars' practices haven't quite looked like that in recent seasons. Or this offseason. They were a bad team in recent seasons. They're a young team now with a young quarterback learning a new offense with a lot of new pieces. Of course it's not going to look like one of the great offenses and great quarterbacks in recent memory. It takes time to reach that sort of level.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

Instead of referencing the Jaguars only winning four games in the last two seasons, try using they have lost 29 games in that same time period. It has less of a depressing tone to it?

Does it?