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O-Zone: So much beauty

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Eric from Jacksonville Beach, FL

Does Calvin Ridley's age worry you in re-signing him? I really would love to have him here and think Year 2 in the system, and with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, would show some real progress. But we'd be investing in a receiver that will be in his 30s for almost all his contract. I know he was out for almost two years. Does that pause the clock on some of those age concerns or do you see it as the same as if he had played?

This is a fair concern. Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who caught 76 passes for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns in his first season with the team in 2023, indeed will turn 30 in December. That almost certainly will be a factor when considering his contract extension, and Ridley is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in mid-March. Remember, though: Many "second" contracts are signed with the idea that the player will play on that deal for two-to-three years. It's reasonable to think Ridley will perform at a high level for that long.

Ed from Jax by Lionel Playworld

You've discussed ad nauseum Lawrence's injuries as possibly having a negative impact on his play. What happened to the defense? Earlier this year I asked you what the identity of this team was. Among your defensive accolades was the ability to stop the run. How did this defense turn an identity-making strength into an embarrassing weakness?

The Jaguars' run defense indeed began the season as a strength, becoming inconsistent at best and a weakness at worst. A couple of issues seemed to cause this. One was that the interior of the defensive line didn't seem as stout late in the season as it did early. The second and bigger issue was that defenders seemed to jump out of gaps more often late in the season, particularly in a loss to the Tennessee Titans in the regular-season finale. The Jaguars allowed about 50 more yards per game rushing through the final six games than they did the first 11. When you're weak against the run, it's hard to force a lot of turnovers because teams aren't passing in as many bad situations. It all added up to a tough finish and a new defensive approach.

Big Jags Fan from Jacksonville

Will you please provide insight on the duties and responsibilities of the pass-game coordinator? Is that position support staff for the offensive coordinator and head coach, and is that person an influence with the weekly game plans?

I've received a few emails like this in the wake of former Jaguars passing game coordinator Nick Holz becoming the Titans' offensive coordinator this past week. This came one offseason after Jim Bob Cooter – the Jaguars' passing game coordinator in 2022 – became the Indianapolis Colts' offensive coordinator. The passing game coordinator is an assistant who assists with the passing game. He's support staff in the sense that any assistant is support staff to the coordinator on his side of the ball and he has influence in the sense that any assistant has influence into the game plan.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAGF - I know this topic is getting old but so am I. As a coach, be aggressive all you want during the regular season. However, when you are playing in the final half of a championship game to get all of your players, staff and fans to that next game (the Super Bowl), do the right thing and kick the field goals. This would have kept the Lions an extra score ahead or at least within one score. I call it selfish and boneheaded to go for it on fourth downs and to be careless in those key decisions.

Your view on this is understandable. You, like me, have an old-school approach to the game. Remember, though: The aggressive approach that many NFL head coaches now take on fourth down isn't a matter of them deciding willy-nilly in the moment to go for a first down on, say, fourth-and-3 from midfield. It's a staff-wide, organizational approach with coaches determining in the offseason that they plan to pretty much always go for it in certain situations. I don't love the approach. I'm not advocating it. But it's not selfish or careless on the part of the head coach.

Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

Hey, John. Any thoughts on the Jags adding another passing game coordinator? Maybe Bryon Leftwich or Frank Reich?

I expect they will do this. When they do this, it will be fine. You can't have too many passing-game coordinators in the NFL.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

If right tackle Anton Harrison becomes a solid, borderline All-Pro for 10 years then 2023 will go down as a very good draft (for a team drafting in the mid 20s) even if no other draftee does much of anything. Right?

Pretty much.

Joe from Jacksonville

How would you grade the play and acquisition of left guard Ezra Cleveland? I'm a Boise State Broncos football fan and have followed his career closely. He's been open about wanting to move back to left tackle, which I don't foresee as a Jaguar. Think he'll be on the roster next season?

The Jaguars acquired guard Ezra Cleveland from the Minnesota Vikings for a sixth-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, trading for Cleveland shortly before the trade deadline late last season. It was a good trade because Cleveland is a starting level guard. Yes, I think he will be on the roster next season. He's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but I expect the Jaguars to re-sign him. We'll see.

*Doug from Jax Beach   *

As is typical of many of your answers, if the question isn't explicit, even though you know what was meant, you use the ambiguity to concoct an answer that suits your agenda. In my case, I basically said that going 0-5 in five games couldn't be any worse for you win-loss record. I'm sure you knew that and yet went in another direction. As far as your record is concerned, going 0-5 in five games can't get any worse. Never.

There are many "awesome" things about this job. Nothing is more awesome than being told how I do it. It's what I think of as a "big help."

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

If one of the biggest keys to a long-term competitive franchise (along with great QB play) is to draft and develop, then we are in trouble. Baalke hasn't drafted one superstar yet. He's drafted a bunch of very OK players except maybe TL and the jury is still out on him. Get ready to introduce a new GM next year.


Josiah from Plymouth, NH

Is it understood that this team's identity is balance on offense with well-coached defense? For our offense, running back Travis Etienne Jr. is the guy I want the offense to design around. He's too good.

A team's identity is formed when the team is playing well. When this team has played well the past two seasons, quarterback Trevor Lawrence has played well with the offense making big – and clutch – plays and the defense stopping the run and forcing turnovers. It's a little early to say when the "new identity" will be moving forward with a new defensive coordinator. I expect the identity on offense will always be Lawrence-centric. I also expect it will be a bit more about protecting the ball offensively and not allowing big plays defensively. Etienne certainly will continue to be a big part of this, though I don't know if this offense ever will be "built around" a running back.

Mason from Jacksonville

Mr. Oehser. Please excuse me for somewhat questioning one of your answers. I didn't want to be like that. When you said that Belichick was one of the best coaches, I looked at his record. He was fired after the then-Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. He was about to be fired by the New England Patriots until Drew Bledsoe got hurt. The Patriots indeed parted ways with him after Tom Brady left the team. If you take out the years that Brady was the Patriots' starting quarterback, would Belichick still make your top coaches list?

No, but you can't take games out of a head coach's career – just as you can't take games out of a quarterback's career. Deciding such things is not an exact science. Belichick's record without Brady is why I don't think you can just categorically call him the best head coach in NFL history – though many without question do so. At the same time, you absolutely can't discuss the all-time great head coaches in NFL history without having him in the conversation.

David from Orlando, FL

KOAF – When are you going to respond to those most exceptional O-Zone questions, that you keep in a special folder, that you only read when you're in despair and need proof that there is still beauty in this world?