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O-Zone: Special feeling

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Chris from Mandarin

I see plenty of reason for optimism around this team. The Jaguars could be about to turn the corner. They paired a great quarterback prospect with an even-keeled – and successful – coach. The team has an owner willing to spend around the franchise. The business side of the team is in preliminary talks on major renovations to the stadium and beginning construction on state-of-the-art practice facilities. More than just the quarterback and coach, though, the talent level has been raised. Only time will tell how much, but I think we're going to be pleasantly surprised by the end of this season. Let's get to it.

Optimism, and the reasons for it around the Jaguars, has been a consistent O-Zone topic throughout the 2022 offseason. We've also in recent weeks covered plenty of reasons to be concerned. Both topics make sense considering the long history of recent frustration around this team, and considering legitimate reasons for hope that include Head Coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The thought here is the real reasons for optimism outweigh the concerns. Lawrence gives this team perhaps the best foundation it has had in two decades, and all early indications are Pederson indeed is a capable head coach who can maximize his situation. Head coach and quarterback are two very good starting points when building an NFL franchise. I can't quite get on board with unbridled short-term optimism – mostly because the team has won four games over the last two seasons. Yes, the franchise has made a lot of good moves the past two offseasons. But a lot must go right and come together to make the dramatic improvement necessary to go from 3-14 to a winning record. I, too, believe Jaguars fans will feel good about the future by the end of the 2022 season. I believe they will feel good about quarterback and team direction. I believe they will look like a team that will contend in 2023. Stay tuned.

Al from Orange Park, FL

I thought at the time, and still do, that much of the 2017 Jags success was due to being extraordinarily lucky (at least by NFL standards) when it came to injuries that year. Agree? Or no?

Many good NFL seasons are at least somewhat attributable to staying injury free; injuries and attrition by definition determine much about most teams' seasons. A quarterback-dependent team needs its quarterback to stay healthy, and when elite guys get hurt seasons such as the 2011 Indianapolis Colts (Peyton Manning) and other nosedive seasons can occur. The Jaguars in 2017 were a dominant defensive team and they remained stunningly healthy defensively that season. I can't say the 2016 team, for example, would have been great had it stayed injury free. But the 2018 team almost certainly would have been better had it been healthier. So, yes … staying injury-free helped that '17 team. It wasn't the only reason that team was good, but it certainly helped.

Duval Red from Zihuatanejo, MX

I have had some long off-seasons in Jacksonville. Alone in the dead zone with nothing but your thoughts, time can draw out like a blade. That was the longest offseason of my life.


Marlin from Lottieville, FL

Hey, Zone. Glad to see Debbie Harry of Blondie on your Mount Rushmore of lead voices, she is one of my favorites and in fact I was just listening to some Blondie this morning before work. By the way, I was today years old when I found out that the title of Rapture, Blondie's outlandish number one hit from the early 80s, was a pun. Because, you know, she raps in it. I am thick as sausage gravy sometimes.

Lead voices are about more than just the voice. They're about "cool" and stage presence, too. No one had better stage presence than Debbie Harry in her prime. And no one was cooler.

Crash from Glen St. Mary

O Man! Here are some more worthy big hair rockin' lead singers. Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Paul Rodgers of Bad Company and Nancy Wilson of Heart.

All good. No doubt.

Ben from Cuba, MO

O', Are we looking at the pinnacle of the quarterback position right now? It seems there are a large number of teams with "franchise" or "potential franchise-"level quarterback, along with the ageless Tom Brady. Going back to your time, which group would you put against this group? John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman?

I have multiple thoughts on this email, the first being that I am perhaps disappointed – nay, alarmed – to realize my "time" apparently has passed. Decades ago, I guess. My second thought is that there are multiple ways to look at the quality of quarterbacks in the NFL right now. There's no doubt that many franchises have franchise quarterbacks – and that there probably are more players playing quarterback at a high level than at any point in NFL history. Is that because these players are very good? Yes. Is it because high schools and colleges throw more now and have trained more young quarterbacks to be good than ever before? Yes. Is it also because NFL rules are more skewed to offense and passing, and that the position therefore is easier to play at a high level than ever before? There is unquestionably an element of that, too. The game is different now than in the 1990s and early 2000s, and it's dramatically different than the 1980s and 1970s. That's why it's so difficult to compare teams or players across eras. No doubt players such as Elway, Kelly, Marino and Aikman would thrive today. My sense is other quarterbacks such as Neil Lomax, the aforementioned Jurgensen and many others also would have thrived in today's offenses and rules. The game is catered to success at the position, and there are many quarterbacks capable of taking advantage.

Joe from Jacksonville

Happy belated birthday, John! Really appreciate you from all of us O-Zone readers and Jags fans.

Thank you. And you're welcome.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, have you been mowing lawns with a helmet on in order to prepare for camp?


Diego from South of Tierra del Fuego

Fair to say that you would have a different opinion of Roger Staubach if he had played for Washington back in that era. You probably preferred Billy Kilmer over Sonny Jurgensen. Washington would have beaten Miami in Super Bowl had George Allen started Sonny.

Of course I would have liked Staubach had he played for my team. Jaguars fans would love Manning or Tom Brady had he played for the Jaguars. That's how fandom works. As far as Kilmer/Jurgensen, I was a bit too young to have a real opinion on that. My father, however, was a Jurgensen fan and he as I recall did believe the outcome of Super Bowl VII might have been different had Allen started Jurgensen over Kilmer.

Michael from Crestview, FL

New fan of Captain Bob and historical references. Throwing shade in a sunny place works on multiple levels.

One fer Captain Bob.

John from Daufuskie Island, SC

Does Gary from St. Augustine really exist?

Does anyone?

Nathan from Utah, US

Dead Zone, I say this is not the same team as last year. That you can't really call it a jump or a drop in wins regarding next year's record. Considering the coaching staff, it's practically an entirely different team. One whose mantra should be "Division Title". Give us your reasons why the Jags make and don't make the playoffs.

The Jaguars can make the playoffs because Lawrence should improve, because the team should believe strongly in its direction under Pederson and because the defensive front seven – and by extension, the entire defense. If Lawrence is special and begins making special plays, and if a stouter defense can keep the Jaguars in more games, that could change the team's dynamic enough for a lot more victories. If the Jaguars can stay healthy in addition to that, and if running back Travis Etienne Jr. and tight end Evan Engram have the playmaking impact I expect, then maybe the Jaguars can make the playoffs. If they don't make the playoffs, I would expect it to be because Lawrence and many of the other players whom they expect to grow and be core players, aren't qui-i-i-ite ready to be a postseason team. This is still a young team. Needing such growth is not unexpected.

Don from Marshall, NC

The Jaguars played a supreme game against the Colts last year. To me that is the game that Trevor became a force in the NFL. I expect that will happen a lot this year. That six-to-seven win season is not his goal I would bet. There is not a reason why the Jaguars cannot have a special year. The vibe is strong. Lots of good players it can get rolling pretty quickly. Go Jaguars!

Don is "all in."