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O-Zone: Perpetually distracted

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Iz from Bronx

Something you said to another Zoner regarding contracts resonated with me. Are we heading into a salary cap year hell next year because of the moves we did for this season?

Not exactly. "Salary cap hell" is when you overextend and restructure contracts to the point that you must release players you don't want to release because of "dead money" on the salary cap. This can have negative effects on a franchise for multiple seasons. That won't be the Jaguars' situation. They almost certainly will part ways with players and release players in the coming offseason, but they largely will be players who from the time they signed were unlikely to be with the team following the 2022 season. Many of the moves that will take place in the 2023 offseason were anticipated when they were made. The Jaguars are unlikely to be flush with salary-cap room and are therefore unlikely to be huge players in unrestricted free agency in the 2023 offseason, but they won't be in "cap hell."

Ansy from Canmore, Alberta

I know it's too late in the season to change, but did the Jags overestimate all the new picks and signings abilities to play the 3-4? The amount of times where outside linebackers Josh Allen and Travon Walker and outside linebackers Foye Oluokun, Chad Muma and Devin Lloyd are all in trailing positions is becoming comical. Whether it is simple crossing routes or flats passes to backs, it seems the D just can't figure it out. Everyone is harping on the secondary and rightfully so, but they need to figure out these back-breaking and drive-sustaining short passes. Wouldn't a 4-3 simplify assignments for everyone as I don't believe the IQ or cohesion is present for the 3-4? Disguising in 3-4 isn't working for Josh and Travon as it appears they are really struggling with both pass rush and pass coverage. Thoughts?

Yes, a 4-3 defense typically is simpler to understand and execute than a 3-4. I don't expect a full change in scheme before the end of the season. The Jaguars have employed some new looks in recent weeks, and I could see them continuing to work to figure how best to use players such as Walker and Lloyd in the coming few weeks. As for what big-picture scheme would work best for this personnel … that could be a topic for the offseason. And possibly an important topic.

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, there's a song, Nothing Else Matters. This week against Tennessee. Nothing Else Matters. DUVAAAL!

Nathan in somewhat obscure fashion remains "all in."   

Brad from The Avenues

Five percent, John. We're still in this thing. DUUUVAL!!

Brad also remains "all in."

John from Sebastian

_Good Morning, John. I see that you don't agree the defense is regressing. Can we agree at the least they are not progressing at all? So the holes in the defense are corner, defensive line and linebacker. The very things we spent draft capital and money in free agency. Is it really possible Jaguars have missed on every defensive player the last two years? Might it be COACHING on the defensive side of the ball? Whatever the reason, it's clear the defense seems confused.... _

Of course the defense isn't progressing. I have written and said as much often in recent weeks. I'm not just not one to automatically "blame" coaching for these things. Mike Caldwell certainly hasn't been perfect in his first season as defensive coordinator. All coordinators make mistakes. But it's just hard to expect Caldwell to consistently scheme well enough to cover up an obvious issue at corner without a dominant pass rush to negate that issue.

Marcus from Jacksonville

You're correct that the Jags are a few plays away from being 6-6 or 7-5, but they are also a few plays away from being 2-10 and on a nine-game losing streak.


Dan from Munich, Germany

Zone, what makes you believe that we will be a better team next year? Given the misses in the last decade in the draft I'm really skeptical. Even if quarterback Trevor Lawrence improves a lot, we all know that is not enough. See what Green Bay has done with Aaron Rodgers as quarterback. On other note, if the president gets only four years to prove that he is the right person to lead the country, why does a general manager who is not competent at what he does gets a decade to screw the organization?

I believe the Jaguars will improve next season because Lawrence is improving – and because the offense has improved around him this season. I believe Lawrence will continue to improve and that will continue to improve that area. And while the Packers have struggled this season, Rodgers for more than a decade has been a pretty good example of a quarterback being good enough to cover up a lot of deficiencies and lift a team into contention. As for your president/general manager question … Trent Baalke has been the general manager for less than two years. Neither Baalke nor anyone close to a decision-making capacity in football operations has been with the organization close to a decade.

Judson from Jax Beach

The Jags have a better point differential than the Titans, even after the blowout this week. Is the team better than the majority of fans believe? Or are the Jags just losing close games and the Titans are winning those same games?

I don't know how "the majority of fans" view the Jaguars. I think the Jaguars are legitimately a few plays from being .500, and that losses in close games are why they're not contending for the postseason. I think the Titans being an experienced team with a core of players who have played together is a reason they are good in close games.

Bill from Jacksonville

Is outside linebacker Josh Allen doing everything in his power to leave Jacksonville? He is producing nothing and it's almost like he doesn't even play he is so nonexistent. I bet you anything he will be released and he will go ball out for another team. Players don't want to play for the pathetic Jaguars. They want a paycheck to lose and a shot to play for a contender after. It's disgusting!

Allen is struggling. He's not living up to expectations or draft status. It's not about effort or not caring. And it's sure not about not wanting to play for the Jaguars.

Steve from Nashville, TN

It is unrealistic for fans of this team to hope for a worst-to-first progression (last in the division to winning the division in back-to-back years). Yes, it can be done and two prime examples this year are the Baltimore Ravens (eight wins in 2021) and Seattle Seahawks (seven wins in 2021). These teams were last in their respective divisions last year but started this year from much higher ground than the Jaguars and are contesting for their division lead this year. Second place in the AFC South is very attainable in 2022 and would be a sign of progress - albeit arguably in the worst division in the NFL.

Those two teams also have long-established head coaches/coaching staffs and veterans who have been around the franchise in systems for an extended period. The Jaguars in the 2022 offseason were essentially starting from the beginning on many fronts with a second-year quarterback. That's not to say winning and competing is impossible in that situation. It's not and the Jaguars very nearly competed this season. But the Jaguars' task in 2023 was different and far more difficult than a team in a more established situation.

Jeff from Renton, WA

The game against the Lions was disappointing, but that is to be expected. This team is still young and will have up and down games. Also, let's not act like Jared Goff is a sack of potatoes. When he gets a clean pocket, that guy can ball. The Lions are a talented team. No shame in losing to them. Just gotta pick yourself back up and get on to the next game. Fans can't live and die week to week on these games.

Can't they?

Larry from Wattsburg(h), PA

Ever step back and think it's pretty cool writing to fans complaining about a game!? Long live distractions! Keep up the great work, mister.

I always am aware of this and frequently acknowledge this in the O-Zone. Football is fun. This is not life and/or death. It is not war. It is entertainment and indeed is a distraction. I provide part of that distraction, and I feel fortunate to do so for a living. Even though I suck at it. Ask anyone.

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

My problem with the Jaguars is that for many years they put a dent on the holidays. I lose interest and desire to watch any other NFL games. I am tired of having a sucky team.

Merry Christmas.