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O-Zone: Old news

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

We're all excited about Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. That's a given. But history shows us that rookie quarterbacks don't mean big turnarounds by themselves. What about the Jaguars makes us think we'll have a big turnaround?

I'm not sure how big a turnaround I realistically expect from the Jaguars this season, though significant improvement certainly is possible for a team that went 1-15 last season. I expect that improvement to produce around six or seven victories in 2021 – and to produce a more competitive team with a brighter future than was the case in recent seasons. But you're right that a rookie quarterback – even one who projects to be as good as Lawrence – guarantees nothing. Even quarterbacks destined for great, winning careers often struggle as rookies; witness Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning, who quarterbacked the Indianapolis Colts to a 3-13 record as a rookie in 1998. But the Jaguars do have elements that give them a chance for a better record than I'm projecting. One is a veteran offensive line, a group that – if it plays to its potential – could mean a more efficient offense than many observers expect. Another is what appears to be very-much improved defensive front; if this team stops the run better than past seasons, that alone will mean being competitive in far more games than past seasons. There's also some significant front-line potential at multiple positions – players such as wide receivers DJ Chark Jr., linebacker/defensive end Josh Allen, linebacker Myles Jack, running back James Robinson and cornerback CJ Henderson. And that's only a few. If a bunch of those players play to potential – and if Lawrence is turnkey ready – then yes … a big turnaround is possible. Stay tuned.

Josh R. from Fernandina Beach, FL via Fort Lauderdale, FL

Zone: Lo and behold, we find ourselves in a game week. My question relates to the general approach to the matchups in Week 1 for the Jaguars. On paper, and per your Opponent Focus piece, the Texans sound like they want to be run-heavy on offense. Will we be stacking the box more often than not? Can our secondary match up if we force Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor to throw the ball? What are the best matchups to watch during the game, in your opinion? Here's to hoping we don't look past Week 1 because of the Deshaun Watson situation and that we go into Houston and get a win. Thanks and GO JAGS!!

I would expect the Jaguars to stack the box until Taylor and the Texans force otherwise. The Jaguars' secondary should match up reasonably well against the Texans' receivers, with the caveat being that the Jaguars must stop the run well enough to allow the pass rush to generate pressure on Taylor; this secondary can't realistically shut down receivers without pass-rushing help because few NFL secondaries can do that. Watch the Jaguars' offensive line versus the Texans' defensive line and vice versa. Both teams want to win the line of scrimmage and establish the run. The team that does so most effectively likely will win. As for the Jaguars looking past Week 1, this team went 1-15 last season. It can't look past any team and win.

Chris from Mandarin

When did defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen show his potential during the preseason? I don't remember calling his number one time. Personally, I'm not convinced that Josh Allen can be the guy that makes plays when the opposing time keys in on him. His 10.5-sack rookie season came when defenses were more worried about Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue.


Brian from The ATL

KOAF - I'd wager that the Texans are going to come into this game with a chip on their shoulder, hyper-aggressive and looking to physically intimidate and dominate by running the ball, getting after Lawrence, hitting hard and forcing turnovers. I know Head Coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff are focused on speed and execution, but I'm really hoping they also have the team mentally prepared to fight and win the individual physical battles, particularly down in the trenches. A timid showing Sunday could spell disaster for the confidence - and health - of this young team ...

I agree that the Jaguars will have to be mentally prepared and win the physical battles Sunday. I don't know that I would be so dramatic as to say not winning the physical battle would be quite so disastrous as you suggest. There are 17 games in an NFL season, after all. But yes … this should be a physical test.

Greg from Section 122, Jacksonville, FL

You got to meet John McClain? He was awesome in Die Hard, tell me what is like in real life? Did he give you one Yipee Ki Yay My Friend? Seriously If there is one team we should be able to beat, it's Houston... hope the Jags prove us right.

I've known John McClain of the Houston Chronicle for more than two and a half decades. He's one of the most respected writers in the NFL. He did not give a Yippi Kay Yay My Friend, but believe me: the bad guys would be in trouble if he had anything to say about it – and indeed, the hostages would be saved. As far as the Texans being "the one team" the Jaguars should be able to beat, the NFL doesn't really work that way. This isn't college football. Yes, the Jaguars should be favored. And yes, this is among the games where they appear to match up well in terms of talent. But this is on the road. And it's a regular-season opener, which are historically weird games to project. There's no such thing as a guaranteed victory in the NFL. Particularly not for a team that went 1-15 the previous season. And this sure isn't one for the Jaguars.

Steve from McGavock, HS

JO. When our blocking tight end is in the game, will he be next to left tackle Cam Robinson or right tackle Jawaan Taylor most of the time?


Fred from Naples, FL

Is it ridiculous for the Jags to look at this game against Houston as a "must win" considering this could be a bad Texans team and well, if you can't beat a bad team …

It's always a little ridiculous to attach major importance to NFL Week 1. Remember: the Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 last season. The Colts made the playoffs and the Jaguars, well … didn't. That should be evidence enough for Jaguars fans to realize that there aren't guaranteed victories in the NFL – and that just because observes believe the Texans will struggle this season doesn't mean the Jaguars will win Sunday. That said, the game is important to the Jaguars. The early part of the schedule overall appears more navigable than mid-October through early December. They need to fare as well against as many early opponents as possible.

Jordan from Mandarin

The season opener is getting closer and still no WR on the roster with a number in the 80's. I'm tracking this John, don't you worry!

You go, girl.

Trevor from Cape Girardeau/MO

So, being our tight end room is one of our weaker points of the team, should the Jags be aggressive in trading for someone like Zach Ertz or wait it out and see how the season goes?

First, I don't know that the Jaguars would agree that the tight-end room is all that week. They believe Chris Manhertz is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. Now, as for how the Jaguars will approach receiving tight end … no, I don't sense they will aggressively pursue Ertz from the Philadelphia Eagles or any other higher-profile tight end from another team. Were they going to do that, it feels as if they already would have done so.

Kenneth from Fernandina Beach, FL

Ozone, Explain the waiver wire and building the practice squad.

The waiver wire is a roster management tool under which teams "waive" players, allowing the other 31 teams to place "waiver claims" on those players. The claiming team with the worst record at the time is awarded the player's contract and the player is bound to that team. This applies to player with less than four accrued NFL seasons; players with four or more accrued seasons become free agents upon being released by teams. The practice squad is a roster-management tool under which teams currently can keep 16 players who aren't on the active roster, with six of those players allowed to be veterans. Practice-squad players can sign with other NFL teams, but the signing team must keep the player on its active roster for three games. Teams currently can "protect" four players a week from being claimed by other teams.

Mark from Orange Park, FL

New week! New quarterback! New head coach! New era! New season! Same old you.