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O-Zone: Quite a thrill

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …      

Brandon from Rochester, NY

What are this year's draft targets? Receivers plus a quarterback could make this offense electric next year.

While no NFL team is without holes, the Jaguars don't have too many overwhelming needs entering the 2023 offseason. That hasn't been true in a while. Because they select No. 24 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, it will be difficult to identify specific targets – though I expect cornerback, tight end and defensive line to be areas of focus. As for the offense … the Jaguars ranked 10th in the NFL in total yards and 10th in scoring, so they were maybe at least "sort of electric" in 2022. Could they select wide receiver somewhere in the draft? Perhaps. But with Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Zay Jones expected to be the top three receivers, I don't know that the Jaguars will feel pressure to select the position too early.

Nicholas from Fort Hood, TX

Zone: You write often that drafting and developing your own players is the recipe for long-term success. When it comes time to re-sign quarterback Trevor Lawrence, will the Jaguars have more leverage to retain Lawrence long-term at a lesser cost per year average versus another team trying to acquire him if he hits free agency? Is it more ideal to draft multiple high quality (non-elite) players that complement each other and produce results since they wouldn't demand elite-level money or is it better to draft multiple elite players that you know you can't keep on the roster after their initial rookie contracts?

Predicting Lawrence's long-term contract terms is tricky. The Jaguars under league rules will be eligible to sign him to a long-term extension following the 2023 season, and there's every reason to expect they will do so. There's also every reason to expect the contract will reflect his talent and importance to the organization, which means there's not going to be much "lesser-cost-per-year" involved. He will be paid astronomically, as franchise quarterbacks and faces of the franchises are paid in the NFL these days. As for draft approaches, there's no "ideal" in this area. But you always want to get a franchise, generational quarterback and Lawrence showed signs last season of being that. If you get one, you build around him whatever the cost and trust that he will lift the organization.

Ray from Orange Park, FL

John: The officiating issue will never be fixed (assuming there is anything to "fix"). We just saw a situation in which a cornerback who was called for holding near the end of the league's premier game actually admitted that he held the receiver. Well, surely that ended any discussion about the league fixing games or favoring certain teams, right? Nope.


John from The Land of Indian River

O-Zone. The draft process and player evaluation seem to be how teams maintain success for many years. We see the drills and measurements of skill and speed, but what are the tests of knowledge and personality? How much time do teams spend with players privately?

NFL teams do give tests of knowledge and personality to draft prospects, with the most well-known being the Wonderlic. Such tests, as is the case with all parts of the pre-draft process, are generally considered a piece of a puzzle rather than an end-all point in evaluation. Different members of the team spend different amounts of time with prospects. General managers and coaches typically will meet with prospects for 15 minutes or so at the NFL Scouting Combine or a postseason All-Star game, with teams then able to bring 30 prospects to their facility for pre-draft visits. Scouts and other representatives often meet with prospects at Pro Days and in on-campus visits at various times in regular season and offseason.

Gabe from Washington, DC

Just because we're being paranoid doesn't mean the league and the refs aren't all out to get us.


Richard from Jacksonville

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't what makes Ridley dangerous is that he can create separation no matter what route he runs? That he can run all routes on the tree, including the deep ball? Let's play the game at Kansas City again just as it was with him. Our returner isn't playing wide receiver. Maybe he has fresh legs when he needs that one step. Maybe we score a touchdown because he isn't in the game at wide receiver? Perhaps we aren't asking our slot wide receiver to catch a deep ball? Who would have had a better night ever time Ridley was double covered? What would his stat line have been? This is what his addition potentially means. Another shrewd move be the front office. I'm on the record, I like this move.

It's difficult to find something to not like about the move. The Jaguars acquired Ridley in a 2022 trade with the Atlanta Falcons. He remains on the indefinite NFL suspension that kept him out last season, but he applied for reinstatement last week and there's nothing to indicate he won't be reinstated. Ridley indeed could potentially help every other receiver on the roster. He also is a potential No. 1 receiver who – as you note – can create separation everywhere on the field. He also was acquired at low risk to the organization, with the Jaguars trading a conditional sixth-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft and a conditional fourth-round '24 selection to the Falcons. There are no guarantees with this move, but there are no guarantees with any NFL transaction. It was absolutely a shrewd move, and one that could add a playmaker to an offense that added them everywhere around an improving offense last season.

Kevin from Jacksonville

Your answer to the question about why Jaguars outside linebacker Travon Walker was regarded as more of a project at edge compared to Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux seemed to not even mention the main reason. Travon played mostly on the interior in college. In fact, Travon didn't play edge at all until his last year when he dropped from 290 pounds to 275 pounds and then moved from exclusively defensive tackle to playing all along the defensive line. Thibs and Hutchinson played exclusively edge in college. So, Travon was regarded as a project mostly because of his relative inexperience playing on the edge and rushing the passer.


Taylor from Landrum from Columbia, MD

It's awesome having questions answered in the O-Zone! Following up on my question about outside linebackers and sacks, what would constitute a dominant player on the edge in your mind outside of sack numbers? Do you have any good examples of a player like that? Thanks! I like Walker a lot but feel better needs to be at least a borderline elite rusher to justify his selection.

While fans and media love and lean on comparisons, those comparisons ignore the reality that all players are different. Readers throughout last offseason emailed wanting examples of quarterbacks who became elite after difficult starts to show Lawrence wasn't a bust after his difficult rookie season. Lawrence indeed improved in his second season, but that improvement was about his ability in his circumstance – not because another quarterback did or didn't improve similarly a decade and a half ago. Walker's size and athleticism make him a unique player. I don't know that he'll ever be a "pure pass rusher" and statistical top sack guy, but I do know offenses worried about him enough to double him a lot last season and the Jaguars were stouter up front than they would have been without him. As for an example of an edge player who impacted a defense without being a monster sack guy … maybe Jadaveon Clowney. He was never a "sack specialist," but in his prime he was an impact player and offenses worried about him. That doesn't mean he's Walker's ceiling. Or his floor. It's just an example of a highly drafted player who mattered a lot without huge sack numbers.

Rob from Northside

I am at the point I don't want replay because it slows down the game and refs have to make calls at game speed. Let the call stand and play ball; the call breaks tend to even out over a game and the season, so, like the weather, deal with it and move on.


Chance from Tecumseh

Let's keep this brief. Who do you think the Jags will release this offseason? Who do you think might get traded this offseason?

I expect cornerback Shaquill Griffin to be released before the March 15 start of the 2023 NFL League Year. I don't see any other clear-and-obvious candidates the Jaguars would try to trade or release.

Roger from Houston, TX

I have a very good friend who encountered Howard Cosell in the lobby of a hotel in Las Vegas. When Howard noticed him staring, he casually removed the cigar from his mouth and said: "It's a thrill, isn't it?"

That's fantastic.