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O-Zone: Not so funny

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Steve from Nashville, TN

Hopefully, Trevor Lawrence is a quick study – as you suggest. One important lesson would be to get rid of the ball or go to the hospital, his choice. In the NFL an incomplete pass (that is not grounding) is a fine play if a sack is the other option.

This has become one of the Jaguars Topics of the Week – one of them at least – and I suppose it will be a talking point until it's not. And I expect that to be relatively soon. Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence indeed held the ball too long two or three times in a 23-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the 2021 preseason opener Saturday. At least one of those occurrences resulted in a sack. Because of Lawrence's high profile, I received many emails concerned that this will be a long-term thing for Lawrence. Will that be the case? We don't know for sure. I can't predict the future. What I can tell you is this was Lawrence's first NFL game of any kind. It therefore was his first opportunity of any kind to play against NFL speed. I suppose because Lawrence was so highly-regarded that people assume his transition to the NFL will be seamless. It does not work that way. He must smooth out rough spots and learn on the fly. It's perfectly understandable his instinct is to hold the ball and make plays. That's a good instinct. You also want enough football IQ and field sense over time to know when it's time to throw, run or just get out of the way. There's no reason to think Lawrence doesn't have that IQ and won't develop that field sense. I'd guess that will happen relatively quickly.

Steve from Sunroom Couch

Dear John, The offensive line looked worse than most observers believe.

Speaking of Topic of the Week … the Jaguars' offensive line is perhaps THE Topic of the Week – and understandably so. What was close to the starting offensive line contributed to allowing three sacks against a Browns defense that wasn't playing its starters Saturday. While it's true that Lawrence held the ball too long on at least one of the sacks, it's still not a good start. Rookie Walker Little appears to be playing well. Perhaps he will get a look with the starters. Perhaps that will mean moving a tackle – either Cam Robinson or Jawaan Taylor – inside. There hasn't yet been much indication if the Jaguars will do this, or what direction such a move would take. Stay tuned.

Billy from Shreveport, LA

I made it a point to keep an eye on rookie tackle Walker Little Saturday. I didn't see one bad play. How is he not one of the Top 5 offensive linemen on this team?

It's August 16. The regular season starts September 12. That means there is far more time until the start of the regular season than has passed since Jaguars 2021 Training Camp began. It also means the regular-season roster is not set.

Kyan from LeMars, IA

If we are going to blitz as often as we did Saturday, we are going to need to get there a lot more often than we did.


Michael from Westfield IN by way of Jacksonville

It appears that management continues to make blunders. Joe Schobert was one of two backfield players that performed well. Myles Jack being the other. The Steelers have what could be very good tight ends. So, we get a late-round draft pick without a tight end. Seems like we took it in the shorts again. What do you say?

This references the Jaguars' trading inside linebacker Joe Schobert last week for a late-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Management continues to make blunders. Does it appear that way? I guess the Jaguars have struggled enough for a decade that the automatic assumption many people have is that every decision – even decisions made by new decision-makers – are automatically wrong. The Jaguars didn't believe Schobert was a great fit for this scheme, and it didn't appear he was going to play extensively in the base defense. Myles Jack is the superior player in nickel packages, so Schobert's role was going to be minimized. You say "we took it in the shorts" because they didn't trade Schobert for "what could be" a very good tight end. What do I say? I say it's difficult in the NFL to get much trade value for a player when you're trying to deal him in training camp. The Jaguars wanted to part ways with Schobert and get rid of some of the salary obligations. That's what they did.

Mike from Jacksonville

Are the Jaguars showing their new offensive scheme in preseason?

Bits and pieces, here and there. Remember: While teams run their scheme during early preseason games, they do little – if any – game-planning for opponents, so they're not designing plays based on strengths and weaknesses as much as just giving opponents basic formations and looks.

Tom from My Couch

I too hope Schobert leads the Steelers to the same success he had in Jacksonville.

Tom's got him a good old-fashion case of the funnies.

TC from Kingsland and Section 124

I figured out the Joe Schobert trade. They had to make room for Tebow to bable to play both ways. Is he working out as a linebacker now?

Everybody's got 'em a case of the funnies, it seems.

Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL

In his very limited play, Lawrence's ability to make a big play right after a negative play impressed me the most.

Good eye. Lawrence indeed responded to a sack/fumble on the Jaguars' first play Saturday by turning second-and-seven into a first down. That's encouraging, even if it was "just" preseason.

Dave from Duval

Hey OZone, I agree with Urban, I prefer an up-tempo offense too. However, I don't view James Robinson or Carlos Hyde as up-tempo style running backs. Travis Etienne, yeah, but the other two …

When Meyer talks about "up-tempo," he's talking about more about how quickly the offense gets in and out of the huddle, gets to the line of scrimmage and gets the ball snaped than he is speed once the play begins – though he certainly likes speed during the play. Robinson and Hyde aren't burners, and they aren't as fast as Etienne. But both Robinson and Hyde can be very effective within the scheme Meyer wants to run – and in the up-tempo style he prefers.

Brian from the Depths of ATL

Well, we did indeed see the promised consistency from the starting offensive line: they consistently failed to protect the quarterback on passing downs, just as in previous seasons. Same old Jags with a different grass-stained quarterback.

These cases of the funnies just keep comin'.

Keith from Soon to be St. Augustine, FL

Does it bother anyone that our first string got their asses handed to them by the Browns' second and third strings?

Yes, I would say it bothered some people – a lot of Jaguars observers and no doubt a lot of Jaguars coaches. Fortunately, the Jaguars coaches have been around football long enough not to be panicked and to understand preseason is a different beast than the regular season … but sure, they're bothered.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

CJ Henderson deserves a little shine in your email column. Obviously, this is your show, but he has been getting killed by fans and everyone in the media put him on the first plane outta Jax. As someone who has PTSD, I can understand mental health better than most. Ever since the Gators recruited him to Gainesville, CJ has always been reserved. I very much look forward to him locking down his opponent this year … in a JAGS uniform! I'm rooting for CJ hard.

I wrote about Jaguars cornerback CJ Henderson several times following his very good effort in Saturday's preseason opener, bur sure … he deserves mention in this space. Henderson, the No. 9 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, is a big-time talent. His issues with COVID-19 during 2021 Training Camp and injuries last season are pretty well documented. Regarding your understanding mental health … I can't speak to Henderson's mental health or how he has handled what he has been through in the NFL because he has not spoken about these matters – not publicly and not to me. I can tell you the Jaguars haven't given up on him. He's a big-time talent. Head Coach Urban Meyer seems heavily invested in getting the best from that talent – and from a football standpoint, it's a major story. The Jaguars are significantly better in the secondary when he's playing well. They need that to happen consistently.

Chuck from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

I think our offensive line has spent too much time on backpedaling drills

Sometimes these cases of the funnies just aren't that funny.