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O-Zone: Past their primes

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Ben from Cuba, MO

O', as you see it, how many "big" contracts can a team support? Obviously T-Law gets one, J-Allen is due for one, how many more can we realistically sustain for the long-term? With that said, which players on the roster now would you be eyeing (as general manager) for those substantial contracts going forward with the eye on franchise building and sustaining? Campbell? Ridley? Cisco? Are you saving the money for Walker and Harrison? I'm loving being a fan of this team, you and your team take it to the next level, thank you.

This answer isn't as simple as it might seem – and the reality is managing the salary cap is a balance between the short- and long-term with constantly moving parts. The most important element of the Jaguars' salary cap for the long-term figures to be quarterback Trevor Lawrence's contract with all else revolving around that. There's also a decent chance outside linebacker Josh Allen will be a huge consideration for the long-term cap, though it remains to be seen if the Jaguars sign him to a long-term deal next offseason with the franchise tag still very much an option. Remember, too: Long-term mega-contracts are often heavily "backloaded," meaning they are comparatively very small in the first couple of seasons. The Jaguars therefore likely will be able to retain multiple valuable players around Lawrence and Allen for the next two or three seasons. I would expect wide receiver Calvin Ridley to be re-signed in the coming offseason – or for the franchise tag to be used there. My sense is we'll see cornerback Tyson Campbell and safety Andre Cisco retained, though there are admittedly so many moving parts that we'll have to see how the bigger contracts are structured to project the futures of many players.

Pug from Oklahoma

Why is our defense awesome in the first half (second in points allowed) then struggles in the second half (31st in points allowed)? I'm sure part of it is due to playing with leads but second versus 31st is a huge difference. Thoughts?

I'm not sure it's all that accurate to say the Jaguars' defense "struggles" in the second half. The Jaguars have won seven of eight games and have lost the lead just once in the second half of those seven victories. When you hold leads in the NFL, that's doing your job defensively. But yes … playing with leads likely contributes to the statistic. The Jaguars have allowed 152 second-half points, with 72 points allowed in the half while leading by double digits. You don't love allowing those points, but they're more manageable and forgivable in that scenario.

Lawrence from Blair, NE

I think I fixed officiating! Have 44 officials on the field. Two per player, they can then collaborate to make sure that they "saw what they saw." The game would be officiated perfectly! We'll ignore the fact that it will be a six-hour game due to 45 penalties being called a game, but whatever.

Roger Goodell, hire this man!

Dan from Munich, Germany

Zone, Can you please share your opinion on players position values? I know quarterback will be No. 1, but surprisingly even in the modern-day football it looks like the big guys are still up there in value.

This is always a tricky question, because elite talent can trump – or at least skew – positional values. Quarterback is obviously No. 1, with tackle and pass rusher essentially tied for No. 2. I would put wide receiver next followed by interior defensive line and interior offensive line with secondary following after that. Whatever the specifics, I'm not sure it's a surprise that big guys – offensive and defensive line – still rank high on this list. If you're not good in those areas, it's tough for anything else to work. If you're dominant in those areas, you're usually very good. Even now.

Matt from Jacksonville

Do increased sack numbers come from A.) More effort applied due to financial incentives or B.) Improved offense resulting in playing with a lead, forcing opposing offense into more obvious passing situations, improved run defense forcing opposing offences into more obvious passing situations, improved coverage by the secondary, forcing opposing quarterbacks to hold the ball slightly longer and improved play from the other defensive linemen, resulting in collapsed pockets and QB containment on the other side of the line? I think I'll go with choice A. Allen's just trying harder because it's a contract year.

The sarcasm gene is impressive in this one. Well done.

Deane from Daytona Beach, FL

Yo O-Zone! One, I am happy to see my fellow Gator and Jag, Fred Taylor in the hunt for the HOF this year! Secondly, give a "one fer" the defense with sacks and pressures when the Jags needed it the most! Lastly, provided that we continue to play complementary football, could we end up playing for a No. 2 seed when we take on the Ravens?

One, former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor is a Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist for a fifth consecutive year and more than deserves to be a finalist – and enshrined – sooner rather than later. Secondly, the Jaguars' defense indeed has made clutch plays at clutch moments often this season. Lastly, if the Jaguars continue playing complementary football at the level they have maintained much of the season, they could be playing for the AFC's No. 1 seed against the Baltimore Ravens on December 17 – and in multiple games thereafter.

Joe from Fleming Island

Mr. O, However superstitious one may be, it does make sense not to use prior years to predict this year. As you stated in a recent answer, "This is a new era and a new team with new history. What happened before isn't pertinent." In the 2023 Jags' case, with the same core players and coaches that they had last year, particularly the second half of last year, and the learning and culture changes that have occurred, do you think that although distant history is not relevant recent history can be?

Pretty much anything from the time Head Coach Doug Pederson arrived as head coach for the 2022 season is pertinent when analyzing this team. Enough has changed since his arrival that I'm not sure it makes sense to consider what happened before that as very meaningful to the current team.

Biff from Jacksonville

John, far be it from me to Police the Ozone, but it saddens me a bit that too many who write to you seek the negative narrative. Is there something missing from their life? Does it cut them open like a knife, leaving them vulnerable? Do they have a disease? If they shake like an incurable, God help them please.

Some may say I'm wishing my days away discussing these topics. I guess it's the price I pay.

Art from Just shy of the Ditch

O, not sure when I will ever be happy, but two games up with six to go and tied for AFC best record is a great start! Is there still a mathematical chance we are not conference champs two years in a row?

My Scooby Sense tells me you're asking if there is a chance the Jaguars don't win the AFC South this season. Yes, there's a mathematical chance of that. They have not yet clinched the division.

Chris from Mandarin

Why do you think the running game has struggled so much compared to last season?

The Jaguars, after averaging 124.5 yards per game rushing in 2022, are averaging 106.2 yards per game through 11 games this season. While the Jaguars at times struggled for consistency in this area last season – particularly in short yardage – the struggles seem a bit more pronounced this season. Perhaps one reason is the interior of the offensive line isn't getting quite as much push when run blocking. Another reason may be that the Jaguars' downfield passing game hasn't been as effective at times this season as last season, which allows defenses to bunch more near the line of scrimmage against the run. Either way, it's not as if the rushing game is awful this season. It has been effective at times. It needs more consistency and the Jaguars need to be able to run better when they need to run – i.e., in short-yardage situations and late in games. I expect that to continue to be an area of focus.

Liam from Glasgow

Zone, if you had to pick any former Jaguar to play on the current team to give the most impact, who would you pick and why? For me, fullback Greg Jones would be a fantastic choice, someone who will tremendously help in converting goal-line and short-yardage situations, plus would be the biggest upgrade over current choice and would add a huge amount of physicality to the team.

I don't know that I would replace any current player with a former Jaguars player. Most of those former players are out of shape and wouldn't help all that much.