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O-Zone: Pretty simple

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jacob from NY

I could try to make a snide/sarcastic comment, but why bother? Jags are the same as they have been for 10-plus years (minus one random year). Why should we have hope for this season? Or the next?

I got many, many – did I say, "many?" – versions of this email Sunday. Understandably so. The Jaguars' 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans in the 2021 regular-season opener at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, was a massive disappointment for many Jaguars observers believing this would mark a new era. Here's a reality: This is a new era, and there is hope for the future with quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Head Coach Urban Meyer. But here's another reality: Going from where the Jaguars were last season – a 1-15 season in which the Jaguars were often outmanned and overwhelmed – to competitive is difficult. It's also difficult to win in the NFL with a rookie quarterback starting Week 1 – something that's true no matter how talented that rookie quarterback may be. A lot went wrong Sunday. The good news for the Jaguars is a lot that went wrong early was self-inflicted and therefore pretty correctable. But they must correct it. You can't make the mistakes the Jaguars made early Sunday – and later, too – and expect to win with a rookie quarterback trying to learn his way in the NFL.

Larry from Palatka, FL

How long do you think it takes to realize you should be running the ball a little – if not more – in the first half of a game?

I got many versions of this email, too – and again, with reason. Along with early mistakes, the Jaguars' lack of running offense was one of the game's postgame themes. I came away with the same feeling – that the Jaguars didn't run enough – but when I reviewed the game quickly Sunday night it seemed the Jaguars wanted to run early and circumstances prevented it. The circumstances were the seven penalties that peppered through the first four drives. The Jaguars were, for instance, in long-yardage situation the entire first drive. On the next drive, they ran running back James Robinson following a 33-yard pass from Lawrence to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.; that Robinson run gained 14 yards only to have holding penalty on center Brandon Linder call it back. The same thing happened on the ensuing series when running back Carlos Hyde's nine-yard run was negated by a holding penalty on wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. As Meyer said afterward, early penalties got the Jaguars out of their rhythm offensively – and suddenly you're throwing 51 times. That wasn't the plan. But when you commit four first-half holding penalties – and multiple other penalties – and fall behind by double digits, running effectively gets very difficult. And calling run plays does, too.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Gotta admit, Zone. A couple of those holding penalties? Pretty ticky tack.

I didn't love the first holding penalty on Linder. I thought the penalty on Chark sort of had to be called because he had him from behind. I didn't see a hold on right tackle Jawaan Taylor's first holding penalty, but maybe I had a bad angle on television. Taylor's second holding penalty looked pretty obvious and probably had to be called. The holding penalties in retrospect seemed mostly marginal. More concerning was not getting lined up and some of the other pre-snap stuff early. Those aren't judgement. Those can't happen moving forward.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey, John. Wow all my hope for the season gone. New team, same mistakes we already know too well … very, very disappointing to be honest.


Royce from Jacksonville

Wow Mr. O confusion penalties, interceptions, no defense, what's changed?

That's a fair assessment early. Shoot, any criticism of the Jaguars was fair early Sunday. The Jaguars dropped a slew of passes in the first half and committed seven first-half penalties for 53 yards. The result was Lawrence was playing in bad down-and-distance situations throughout the first half. He overcame some of them. That was impressive and reason for optimism. He didn't overcome them all because you can't overcome all bad down-and-distance situations. This is where the Jaguars must improve in a hurry. Like this week.

Chris from Mandarin

The defense isn't really stopping the run. I'm concerned.

The defense at first glance didn't appear quite stout enough against the run, but my original impression wasn't that this was disastrous. They did a decent job on a couple of early drives. This didn't seem to define the early part of the game defensively as much as letting Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor outside the pocket and Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks making better plays on the ball than the Jaguars' secondary.

Jason from Da 'Hass

John, How can Meyer talk all offseason about running to set up play action then go call like 10 straight pass plays to begin Lawrence's rookie season while giving Robinson only five carries all game?

They didn't really call 10 consecutive pass plays. They called run plays mixed in and got called for holding penalties. I'm not saying they shouldn't have run more early. But they were trying to run – and actually running pretty well – if not for the penalties. The Jaguars were trailing by too much late in the first half and throughout the second to run much more than they did.

Jason from Green Cove Springs, FL

It's going to be a loooooong season. This was a BAD Texans team that looked like a playoff team against the Jags. We clearly don't have the players to be competitive this season. I was so hopeful that things would start going our way this year, but there was zero signs of that happening.

You're right that Sunday didn't look good. But it didn't feel from this view like it was so much players getting overwhelmed than them making key mistakes. If those early holding penalties don't get called – and a couple of them were marginal – then there's every chance that's a 14-10 game and a 17-10 game late in the first half. Then, maybe things play out a little different. That's the glass-half-full-assessment. But yes … a lot has to get corrected. Quickly.

Chris from Jax

OK, so I know what you'll say, "It's too early to panic," but can I at least be disappointed? I really feel like we beat ourselves more than the Texans beat us …

Yes, you can be disappointed. It was a disappointing performance. Hell, you can even panic if you like. But the Jaguars shouldn't panic. What they should do is eliminate the mistakes that forced them into bad situations. If they do that, they can be more competitive quickly.

Earl from Middleburg, FL

It doesn't look like they were training in training camp.

The self-inflicted errors were a major issue Sunday. Meyer emphasized it throughout his postgame media availability. He said the issue wouldn't be an issue moving forward. If he's right on that front, the Jaguars have a chance to look a lot better quickly. But he must be right.

Al from Orange Park, FL

I'm struggling here and maybe you can help me. Did you see anything at all positive to take away from that game?

Yes, and I can't emphasize this enough on what for many Jaguars fans understandable is a very difficult Monday morning: Lawrence was a positive Sunday. Even in a game in which he made a lot of mistakes, He absolutely showed poise and talent that makes you realize why he was selected No. 1 overall. That's not just "a positive." It's the most important factor for this franchise.


Embarrassing (sigh). Are they capable of executing a rushing play without committing a penalty? We're so hard to watch John.

The first quarter was rough Sunday. The second quarter aside from an early touchdown drive was, too. Penalties were a major reason. Rookie quarterbacks usually can't overcome four holding penalties in a half. Shoot, veteran quarterbacks – really good veteran quarterbacks – usually can't overcome four holding penalties in a half.

Bobby from Summerville, SC

Hi John, If the coaching staff thinks the offensive line is one of our strengths why is every good rushing play called back because of holding?

This is a fair point, because the Jaguars were called for four holding penalties – including three in the first half – on Sunday. Those penalties set the offense back in terms of down and distance, and they represented a few of the mistakes that defined the first half – and the game. I rewatched the game quickly Sunday night to see if the penalties reflected poor play on the part of the offensive line. That didn't seem to necessarily be the case, but I'll try to watch more thoroughly and see what Meyer days on the issue Monday. He's typically pretty forthcoming when assessing things. Stay tuned.

Allen from St Clairsville, OH

Are you kidding me? At this point it looks like another first-round pick if we can't be competitive with an expected terrible opponent. Can only go up, no lower to go. Any way to stop the bleeding on either side of the ball?

Stop making avoidable mistakes. That's a start.