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O-Zone: Reason for hope

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Cristiano from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sorry for your loss. Having your Mom, you and your family in my prayers.

Thank you, Cristiano. My mother, Mary Elizabeth "Liz" Oehser (Polk), indeed passed Thursday afternoon. She battled ovarian cancer for 17 months and passed peacefully, listening to "America" by Neil Diamond – which considering her passion for him from the mid-1970s forward, was very appropriate. Thanks to my coworkers at the Jaguars, I was able to spend much of the last three weeks supervising her care – and thankfully, too, I was with her when she passed. She was 83. Born in 1939, she came of age in the 1950s and her sports allegiance reflected that. She loved the New York Yankees, Notre Dame football and Kentucky basketball. She loved the Jaguars mostly because I worked for the Jaguars, and she loved her family and friends more than anything. She will be missed.

James from Jacksonville

The starters looked better than before, but I still saw passes dropped and an offensive line that was pushed around. I know that it is preseason and Rome wasn't built in a day but it sure looks like we still need better offensive line play and wide receivers who can catch. What did you see from the game that gives you encouragement? It can't be our backups.

What did I see in the Jaguars' 24-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns Friday? Mostly, I saw what we haven't seen in a while around these parts – i.e., a Jaguars team in the preseason that offered its fans some legitimate hope for the short- and long-term future. The Jaguars played their offensive and defensive starters three series each Friday. They led 13-0 when the starters left, had forced a turnover, had outgained the Browns 137-7 and left after a touchdown drive. That was the best I can remember seeing the Jaguars' starters look in the preseason in some time, though it's possible I'm forgetting something. I mostly paid attention to the first quarter because the starters left after that and my experience tells me not to overthink/overanalyze anything in the preseason after the first quarter. Did the Jaguars play perfectly Friday? No. It was their second preseason game under Head Coach Doug Pederson. Perfection perhaps takes more time than that. But the starting defense looked good and so did the starting offense. They were the worst team in the NFL the past two seasons. They're not going to immediately look perfect. But they did show enough to make you think they're going to be better. That's the first time we've seen that around here in some time.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

No in-depth analysis. Just an overview: the first-team offense and defense, while not perfect, showed significant improvement. The second and third teams less so. Still early days, but it is fair to suspect our depth?

I have received many emails since Friday's loss about depth. This is to be expected because the Jaguars' starters have looked good and their backups generally have looked much less good. So, yes … it's fair to suspect the depth. And there's a decent chance the Jaguars won't be particularly deep this season. They won four games over the past two seasons. They have been in the process of rebuilding the roster for an offseason or so now. It appears they have some significant front-line talent from the last two draft classes and some more good front-line talent from parts of the last couple of free agency classes. That's a good start in the right direction. Depth could take a bit more time.

Charles from Riverside

Hello, John. A quarterback-centric league also contributes to a scoring game, basketball on grass, compared to back in the day. Guess they feel scoring contributes to the game day/TV experience? For those of us in the old school category, defensive struggles were just as entertaining. Think the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens. And hey for the new school category how about those 2017 Jags, we have to thank the defense?

I have said and written often in recent years that the quarterback-centric nature of the NFL has changed the sport more than is ideal. One way to look at the current NFL is that it is deeper at the quarterback position than ever before, and there truth to that. There's also truth to the theory that the league's rules have skewed so much in favor of the offense that it makes quarterback far easier to play than was the case a decade or so ago. Or two decades ago. Or three. This trend likely will continue. Many of the rules favoring quarterbacks are for safety, and the league never will move from making the game safer. Nor should it. Is the new game more exciting? I suppose. There are more highlights to go viral and scores are higher. That's a version of exciting, and such is the game in 2022.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

I'm not here saying this is the 1985 Bears or even 2017 Sacksonville. But you can't look at the starting front seven and not think, "Damn." Add on the potential of the defensive backs with Andre Cisco and Tyson Campbell, and you could be looking at a DAMN good unit. Top 3? Eh. Five?

There is a lot to like about the Jaguars' defensive front seven. Pederson long has said he believes it will be a team strength. It certainly looked on Friday against the Browns that that could be the case.

Steve from Nashville, TN

By now I think Jags fans are feeling positive with the starting 11 or so on both sides of the ball. Depth past that looks to be a concern? What can be done at this point to make any improvements to the second and third teams?

Develop young players and sign a few players who are released by other teams. That's the route, though neither option is guaranteed to improve depth immediately.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

Our defense isn't even whole yet, but we look like a potential powerhouse.

So far, so good.

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

These clowns that don't think Fred Taylor is Hall-of-Fame worthy must not have watched him. His seasons, when healthy, were full of amazing highlights. His non-flashy demeanor probably garnered him less attention than others. Bottom line, he was amazing and worthy to be considered for the HOF.

Former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor was more consistently capable of the spectacular than any running back I've ever covered. He was a rare combination of size, strength, quickness and speed. I believe he is a Hall of Fame running back. I believe he will get enshrined eventually.

Gary from Fleming Island

Do they have to keep 53? There's not that many worth playing.

Most NFL teams do not have 53 players who teams would want in the starting lineup, but yes … the Jaguars will keep 53 players on the roster.

P Funk from Murray Hill

My girlfriend speaks English and neither of us has ever played or coached on the offensive line. Our backups did indeed look poor for the remainder of the game. But a lot of those players (Dawuane Smoot, Andrew Wingard, K'Lavon Chaisson, Will Richardson Jr., Jake Luton, etc.) were our starters at one point. I'd say improvement. You?

Yes.

Bo from Winter Springs FL

Muma was quick to the ball. I saw him fly in and get to the ball carrier a couple times. Maybe not as flashy as the two picks before him but that speed is going to be seen this year.

Jaguars linebacker Chad Muma, a third-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft from Wyoming, indeed looked fast to the ball and sure in tackling Friday. The Jaguars believed Muma was too good to pass where they selected him and believe he has the potential to be very, very good. They could be right.

Richard from Duval

Seeing how the first team dominated on both sides of the ball, there is much to like and be excited about this season. While depth is a concern, most teams are actually in the same boat as we are. Health will be paramount throughout the season for this team to do great, but as I said in the last sentence, that is no different than all of the other teams. I truly think the Jaguars will shock many this year with their overall competitiveness and grit. They may not win every game, but I certainly think they are very capable of an eight-to-10 win year if all the cards fall right. We should all be excited if they get in the six-to-eight win range given how horrible last season was. That would mean after one more offseason of continuity, the draft, and free agency, I believe we would contend for the playoffs. Good things are happening at the bank and every fan should be excited.

Good eye.

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