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O-Zone: Sheer madness

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Andrew from Halifax

O man, is it possible that the AFC South becomes a powerhouse? Three of four SUPER exciting young quarterbacks.

Sure, it's possible – as possible as this happening for any division, at least. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence led the Jaguars to an AFC South title in 2022 and has the Jaguars in first place through the first half of this season. Quarterback C.J. Stroud of the Houston Texans has been uberimpressive as a rookie, giving that franchise legitimate hope moving forward. Quarterback Will Levis of the Tennessee Titans has looked impressive enough in two games – with enough poise and arm strength – that that franchise likely believes he has a chance to be its quarterback of the future. While quarterback Anthony Richardson's durability must be a concern to the Indianapolis Colts, he likely has shown enough to make them believe he has franchise quarterback potential. Bottom line: It's hard to see any of these teams seeking a starting quarterback in the offseason. All those players in their first three NFL seasons with the ability to improve dramatically. The chances of all four being great over the long term are relatively slim because so many things happen that cause quarterbacks and franchises to struggle. But all four have a chance and that makes this division intriguing.

Bill from Ponte Vedra, FL

After watching C.J. Stroud in a couple of games, I am no longer happy that the Jags are in a "weak division." He is going to be a superstar and will be around for a long time.

Stroud looks like he's going to be good. The Texans look like they're going to be good. Most divisions have a good team or two in them. A lot of divisions have good quarterbacks. In the NFL you must beat good teams to win division titles.

Chris from Mandarin, FL

Where is the vertical passing game going to come from, O? That seems to be what is holding this team back.

The Jaguars see red-zone and third-down offense as more of an issue than the vertical passing game. Remember, though: The Jaguars are 6-2. From what are they being held back?

Greg from Boise, ID

As you mentioned several times, Trevor has yet to progress to the elite level but still progressing upward, is it possible that they delay his megadeal off a year? If they wanted to, they could even hold off and pick up the fifth-year option, which would give them more time to not only evaluate him, but more time to prepare the cap space for the huge hit it's going to make on the salary cap? Unless he totally lays an egg, I can't see him not being "The Man," but time is on the organization's side as far as signing him to a megadeal since they can keep him under contract next year, and then tag him the following year if they pick up the fifth-year option.

When you have a quarterback you believe is the franchise player on a rookie contract, you treat him as such. Treating him as such in this era typically means signing him to a long-term contract following the player's third season.

Brad from Jax

I'm noticing some handwringing over the Texans and Stroud. Let's not forget in Week 8, the Jaguars extended their winning streak to five games and the Texans lost to the previously winless Carolina Panthers. The Texans seem to be a good team. It's almost as if good teams can have bad games in the NFL, or something.

It's a week-to-week league. If you doubt this, wait a week.

_Marcus from Jacksonville         _

The talk about Trevor Lawerence's future contract is picking up steam as the season goes on, so I wanted to ask you about how teams manage those megacontracts. You mentioned that a new contract would likely include a big signing bonus with minimal cap hit in the first year. If teams can convert salary into bonuses that don't count against the cap, what is stopping them from doing that every year? Couldn't a team pay a player the league minimum, then put an incentive-based bonus that if they start a game, or come to practice they get $50 million? I know it's probably not that simple, but it seems like there's always a way to work around the cap problems that come up.

It's not that simple. What you're suggesting is a "likely-to-be-earned incentive," which counts against the current season's salary cap. And while you can manage the salary cap with bonuses and reworked contracts, you can only do this for so long with each player's contract. People like to say the salary cap is fake. It's not. You can maneuver it. You can delay its effects. But eventually large cap hits go on a salary cap. It's why teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs with quarterback Patrick Mahomes on a "megadeal" comparatively deep into the contract have a few star players around him – tight end Travis Kelce, defensive lineman Chris Jones, tackle Jawaan Taylor – and mostly first-contract players around him. There comes a point when cap hits go on the books. When they do, space must be found somewhere.

Don from Marshall NC

Houston, we have a problem! Go Jaguars!

Don remains all in on something or perhaps just on something.

Bill from Jacksonville, FL

John, who's the last quarterback to start a full season and play in the Super Bowl, after throwing for only 17 touchdowns? Because I can't think of one, and that's what Trevor Lawrence is on pace for.

Ben Roethlisberger threw 17 regular-season touchdown passes in 2008 while starting the entire season and quarterbacked the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Super Bowl victory in the postseason. The Jaguars are 6-2 through eight games this season. No AFC team has fewer losses.

Holger from Zurich, Switzerland

Big difference to last year is how Jags are leading versus being behind and playing catchup. If you are behind you have to air it out, and this year it's more managing a lead. That's why the offense is less exciting, perhaps, but it's a better way of playing. Jags fans should get used to it.

Good eye.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

Remember when a lot of people wanted to trade away a good offensive lineman in left tackle Cam Robinson? Imagine lacking one more player for depth on the line. There is no such thing as depth on the O-line in the NFL, I am glad we still have every player we do.

Fans and observers during the offseason often like to play depth-chart football. In depth chart football, players are easily released and replaced on depth charts. There are no injuries in depth chart football and things often look tidy. The real NFL is not tidy. In real football, injuries happen and good players matter.

Michael from Orange Park, FL

You say fans fan and it's what they do. But I seriously don't get why fans are complaining about leading the division and behind 6-2 at the bye.

Fans fan. It's what they do. Even at 6-2.

Travis from Jacksonville said: Cowboys learn margin of error is slim versus Eagles. Statistically, Dak Prescott outplayed Jalen Hurts. In fact, every key Cowboys weapon was more productive than their Eagles counterpart when it came to the numbers. But Dallas ended up on the losing end because in the most crucial moments, it fell short. This shows why the Jags winning how they have is so important. If the offense begins turning in better performances more consistently, this team has the markings of a serious post season run, do you concur?

The Jaguars have a chance at a serious postseason run because of the reason you cite and a few others. Yes, they know how to win close games. That means big stops and big plays offensively at critical times. They also have shown the ability to scratch out a lead in the first half and manage the game to win in the second half. They have shown the ability to get first downs and touchdowns to secure victories. Head Coach Doug Pederson talked a lot early in the 2022 season about this team learning to win. It understands and can do this now. That doesn't guarantee postseason success or even a spot in the postseason. It does make you feel good about the team's chances for both.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAGF - Can you help explain the Ozone? Each morning, I sometimes wait anxiously for the daily post. Sometimes, I'm stoked to see it there early and waiting for me. Within a few minutes, after reading the Q&A, I leave the page mostly empty and disappointed ... only to repeat the routine again tomorrow. Is this normal? Is this what they mean by insanity ... doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result? Am I insane?

I am the king of all funk.