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O-Zone: Really tough task

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Paul from Lake City, FL

At this point, I'll be surprised if the team contends for the postseason next year. There's more wrong here than a young team that needs to learn how to win.

I won't be surprised at all if the Jaguars contend for the postseason in 2023. Yes, there are some significant areas that must be addressed – particularly on defense. I would put cornerback atop that list, and the pass rush must improve. But young players often improve in Years 2 and 3, and players such as linebackers Travon Walker, Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma can – and must – make strides next season. The team drafted them this past spring with the idea that they will develop into core players, and that must start happening. But the biggest reason the Jaguars can contend in 2023 is quarterback Trevor Lawrence will continue to improve, and I expect this offense to improve in its second season in Head Coach Doug Pederson's system. Remember: This team has lost a slew of close games this season while adjusting under this regime. They are a few key mistakes from contending this season, which would have been remarkable considering where this team was last season. Considering that, it's not ridiculous at all to think the Jaguars could contend in 2023.

Jason from North Pole, AK

I am typically a players-not-plays kind of guy. but defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell is pushing it. It just feels like we aren't getting the most out of what we all believed to be a very talented defensive front seven at the beginning of the season. We can't even blame injuries right now.

This is an understandable feeling because many indeed spoke about the Jaguars' defense in training camp and early in the season as being a team strength. The reality was the secondary had a major hole at cornerback, and the rookie linebackers struggled as a whole to adapt to the professional game – as often happens in the NFL. And while the front was said to be a strength in the preseason, there was a nagging concern that pass rush – even if outside linebacker Josh Allen played to expectations – could be an issue. With Allen not playing to his expectations or those of observers, that concern turned out to be merited. Are there changes and moves Caldwell could have made this season? Sure. But to think that the Jaguars' defense – or defensive front – is an incredibly talented unit that's dramatically underachieving? Nah, this isn't that.

Steve from Nashville, TN

So where do we go from here?


Paul from St. Johns, FL

How ridiculous does all the excitement about playoffs seem now? After a week of people seriously thinking we were going to make a playoff run followed by Sunday's game, permit me this simile: Jags fans are like a high school freshman. The scrawniest guy you've ever seen. He decides to lift weights for the first time, for maybe five minutes. After he's done, he starts flexing in front of the mirror making tough-guy faces at himself. But then, the mirror rolls away and it's revealed it was a two-way mirror, and behind it is an auditorium full of all of the high school's prettiest girls laughing hysterically at him.

I think your simile is off base and unnecessarily nasty. The Jaguars' fan base has been starved for success for a long time. Too long. The team entered Sunday's loss to Detroit having won two of three games with a quarterback and offense playing well. Are there flaws defensively that will be tough to overcome? Yes. Were the Jaguars realistically going to win six of seven of their final seven games to make the postseason? Probably not. Were fans "ridiculous" for hoping and getting excited about that hope? Absolutely not. What are they supposed to do? Not have fun and get excited about their team? What's the point in that?

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, is it too early to set next season's goal for Lawrence? Goal: postseason nod. Is he a pro-bowl caliber QB?

I suppose you can set whatever goals you like whenever you like. Yes, Lawrence is a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback – or at least headed that way quickly.

Alan from Jacksonville

On the plus side, we didn't lose any ground in the race for the AFC South crown.


Jim from St. Augustine, FL

Do we have a Bob Sanders to bring in and fix the defense?

I assume you're referencing safety Bob Sanders for the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. Sanders missed 12 regular-season games that season, but returned for the postseason and helped a struggling run defense play at high level as the Colts won their lone Super Bowl title in Indianapolis. No, the Jaguars do not have a defensive player on the level of Sanders. No one is going to return to health to magically help this situation.

Joseph from Living in St. Johns, down by the river

Hey, John. We all know that was tough to watch, but we have to reset and focus on Tennessee. When the Jags beat the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3, we bought tickets to the game in Nashville hoping that we would have meaningful games in December. So, we have skin in this game. I think next week's game is meaningful because it is an opportunity to rebound from a brutal loss. I'm not thinking playoffs. I just want to see the Jags finish strong and get a few more W's. We still have a shot at that, do you agree?


Chuck from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Have we seen anything creative from our defense to improve our pass rush? We don't seem to blitz much, and it doesn't look like we do much creative stuff with the DL. When we blitz, it's often blocked or tackles are missed. Any quarterback given as much time in the pocket as we give will have a lot of success. Pressure needs to be significantly improved or our defense won't stop anyone.

Blitzing is fun and cool when it works. It's not as fun and cool when it leaves few players in coverage and further exposes a secondary that already is struggling.

Allen from St. C

Now that the template is there for other teams, I see no games where Jags will stay close enough to win other than maybe Houston. Do you still see a couple of winnable games?

I believe you're overreacting a bit. I don't know that the Lions established a template for playing the Jaguars. Teams know that the Jaguars struggle in coverage and pressuring the passer, and they have known this for a while. A lot of teams have taken advantage of those issues this season, though the Lions did it perhaps more efficiently than most. But yes … the Jaguars absolutely can stay close enough to win their remaining games. The Dallas Cowboys appears to be the best team remaining on the schedule, and they have a dominant offense that likely will be a very difficult matchup. The rest of the Jaguars' remaining opponents – the Houston Texans, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans (twice) – are obviously capable of beating the Jaguars, but their offensive firepower won't automatically make the games mismatches.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

If there is any good news, of the cluster of teams around us with similar win loss (and tie) records in next year's draft, many need a franchise quarterback that may be available in the first 10 picks in 2023 leaving other highly rated defensive players available to the Jaguars or creating trade-out opportunities.

Yes, that would be good news.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

All joy from last week is gone. Our defense made Lions quarterback Jared Goff look like prime Montana.

It's a week-to-week league. Sometimes that means a team can look really good one week and really bad the next. And when a young team has some serious flaws, that really bad week can look really, really bad. Or something like that.

Rusty from New Iberia, LA

It looks like another one of our first-round picks won't get a second contract. There is no way we pay Josh Allen. There was absolutely zero pass rush in that game! Can't build a team with so many misses in the first round.

Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, indeed could be a tricky situation in terms of his contract. He hasn't had the impact expected this season and has not shown he is a franchise-game-changing pass rusher. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in the 2024 offseason, so I don't know that we yet know what his future will hold at that point.

Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

Zone, do you think the Jags should go back to a four-three defense? Put Walker and Josh on the line, have Foye Oluokon as the mike linebacker, Lloyd as the will linebacker and Muma as the sam linebacker.

It's tough to overhaul scheme during the regular season.