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O-Zone: One fer all

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Michael from Orange Park, FL

I smell victory Sunday, Zone. This is a tough game, but hardly the hardest on the schedule.

I smell something, too – though often in my case that "something" isn't something you want to discuss. I can't say I necessarily smell a victory for the Jaguars Sunday, though. The Baltimore Ravens are 7-3 this season and have won four consecutive games. Baltimore is a strong, veteran team that knows its identity and how to win late-season games. The Jaguars also face a difficult matchup in Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. He's perhaps the best running quarterback in NFL history, and the Jaguars have struggled against offenses this season with a strong running quarterback. None of this is to say the Jaguars won't compete Sunday – or that they can't win. Their history this season is they will play well and have a chance. If they score touchdowns on most red-zone opportunities and can get effective pass rush late in the game, they can win Sunday. But Baltimore makes doing those things difficult.

Dan from Munich, Germany

Hi Zone, with picking Darrell Henderson off waivers, what does it mean for Snoop Conner? Listening to Tony the other day, he is not even playing on special teams. Is he that bad?

Conner has yet to earn playing time. That's not ideal for a rookie running back selected in the fifth round of the draft, but it doesn't yet mean he's "bad" as much as it means he's not ready. Henderson, acquired off waivers this week from the Los Angeles Rams, has 28 starts in four NFL seasons and can produce as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. What the move mainly means is that the Jaguars now have an option for the rest of the season to take seven or eight touches per game – and to reduce running back Travis Etienne Jr.'s workload. That has been necessary since trading running back James Robinson to the New York Jets in late October.

Hank from Palatka, FL

Zone. Thanksgiving is over. You know what that means?


Greg from Mandarin

Your ridiculous defending of this team is hard to take. Losing is losing. Who the_ cares how close games are?

Writing that the Jaguars are improved and moving in a positive direction is not defending, though I understand that it can be frustrating for fans to read – particularly during the season, when losses are fresh still stings. I also understand that what I have written about the Jaguars in recent weeks is repetitive. But the repetition stems from the Jaguars this season losing a lot of games in similar fashion – enough so that we have a good read on the team's identity. They're a team that is good enough offensively to be in games and good enough defensively at times to be pretty good. But they haven't been good enough offensively in the red zone to pull away from teams and they haven't been good enough defensively late to close games. That gives me the overall feeling that they are closer to winning than they were last season. I also expect quarterback Trevor Lawrence to continue to improve, which should mean more consistent winning next season. Yeah … that's repetitive. But that's how this team looks right now. I'm not going to make something up just to avoid being repetitive. I'd rather make things up to annoy Alan from St. John's.

Richard from Orange Park, FL

I watched Calvin Ridley's highlights. While I didn't see any contested catches or 50/50 grabs, I noticed it was because he had two-or-three yards or more of separation on most of his catches. His route-running was super crisp and he was able to get open quite a bit. THAT is the kind of receiver I believe will propel Trevor to the next level of quarterback play and is just what the doctor ordered. With Christian Kirk also catching passes from Trevor, I can see the Jags' offense taking a significant leap next year barring anything crazy. What is your assessment on Ridley and do you see him really opening things up for Trevor?

The Jaguars acquired Ridley for the reasons you cite. He has the potential and skill set to be a No. 1 receiver, though he must prove he can return to that level after a season and a half away from the NFL. There's little question that – on paper, certainly – Ridley has a chance to be a perfect fit for this offense. If he's the No. 1 receiver, then Zay Jones should complement him as a very good No. 2 receiver and Kirk has the perfect skill set to be one of the best inside/slot receivers in the NFL. Lawrence in theory could and should benefit significantly. Time will determine how it plays out, but that certainly is the hope.

Jess from Glen Carbon, IL

"How you perceive it depends if you consider the draft a short-term or long-term proposition." Draft and develop. Is there any way to see and approach the NFL Draft other than a long-term proposition?

Not if you're being realistic.

David from Orlando, FL

Watching the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots play last night, I saw two teams with their desire to win turned up to 11. I'm not sure how a 3-7 team "just looking for a win" can match the intensity and enthusiasm of a team fighting for the playoffs?

Late-season motivation can be a challenge for teams out of the postseason chase. I don't expect it to be an issue for the Jaguars Sunday because they don't believe they're out of the postseason chase.

CC from Duval

Heard K'Lavon Chaisson is coming back but what's the word on Shaq Griffin?

Stay tuned.

David from Oviedo, FL

KOAF. Outside linebacker Josh Allen had his best year came when Yannick Ngakoue was lined up on the other side and the entire defensive line played at a higher level. This suggests that when the D-Line is better he is very productive, but when the supporting cast is weak, he isn't a difference maker. If this is true, is this enough for the Jags exercise the fifth-year option?

Your assessment has merit. Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, has been a good player and has shown the ability to get pressure consistently. He has yet to show the ability to get sacks at an All-Pro elite level. That doesn't mean he can't or won't do it. The Jaguars already have exercised his fifth-year option for 2023. That had to be done last offseason. What Allen's future holds with the Jaguars is to be determined.

Jonathan from Jax

Anyone who thinks Trent Baalke isn't doing by far the best job of any general manager in history is missing the boat. To me, other than the Robinson trade, I see a guy who has been the strength of this organization. You think it's just en vogue to put him down?

I don't pretend to be great analyzing fan behavior. I do believe it's easy to criticize Baalke because he is – correctly or incorrectly – associated with past failed Jaguars regimes. I also believe many fans/observers lose sight of the long-term responsibilities of a general manager and therefore criticize Baalke based on the Jaguars' 3-7 record. Either way … one fer Baalke.

P Funk from Murray Hill

Does Zone get an NFL MVP vote? If so, who are his top 5 this year?

Zone doesn't get an MVP vote. If he did, he probably would go Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and perhaps Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with no one else really all that considered. I'm not sure anyone will push Mahomes. He's currently a clear-cut choice.

Mike from Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL

Wait, Roxypunk7 is angry that people in Jacksonville favor the Jaguars QB more than the Jets QB?

You're referencing an email from someone named Roxypunk7 who was somewhat dismissive of – and condescending toward – Jaguars fans and the media who cover the Jaguars. The email's subject was something about Jets quarterback Zach Wilson and Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, how they are perceived and covered. Or something. Or whatever.

Mike from Cortland, NY

My streak is much less documented. But I have not missed reading a single O-Zone article since you took over for Vic. And I didn't miss a single one of his articles for a year or two prior. So a case could be made that bigger than yours ... the streak I mean. Anywho, today marks 90 days that my daughter Ellie has been in the NICU. Doing well, and coming home soon. She – born at one pound, six ounces – just may be the tiniest Jags fan ever. Can we get a one fer Ellie???

My son, Jacob, was in NICU for seven weeks in 1996 after being born at two pounds, 15 ounces. Ninety days is a long time in that situation. So one fer Ellie? Absolutely. And one fer the parents as well.