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O-Zone: Stay outside

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Pradeep from Bangalore, India

Hi John, it appears that James Robinson is running faster than before. Is that true?

Robinson, the third-year running back, is among the more remarkable stories in a Jaguars season that thus far has more than it share of remarkable stories. Robinson not only has started the first three regular-season games, from this writer's view he has shown no aftereffects from the torn Achilles he sustained nine months ago. What once was considered a career-altering or career-ending injury is becoming one from which NFL players can recover and return to their previous level. Robinson is the latest example of this, having rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns in the first three games of the regular season after not playing in the preseason. Robinson, who initially joined signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent shortly after the 2020 NFL Draft, never had high-end speed for a runner. That was the major reason he went undrafted. High-ended vision and miss-ability are what makes him really good. But he does appear to be at least as fast now as before the injury. Programmer's note: There appears to be a good chance Robinson could be the guest on this week's O-Zone Podcast. If so, I'll ask if he feels faster now than before the injury. It could be worth a listen.

Michael from New Orleans, LA

Eagles will be tough, but one feels like it won't suddenly all fall apart on the team.

Good eye. Winning in Philadelphia Sunday will be difficult. The Philadelphia Eagles are unbeaten, confident and playing well. I don't know that I will pick the Jaguars to win. This is because winning on the road is hard in the NFL and I don't expect the Jaguars to go undefeated in their final 14 games. But I absolutely don't expect the Jaguars to fall apart at any point this season. Or any time soon. This is a good team with good leadership moving in the right direction. What was true about the Jaguars before doesn't apply anymore.

Jordan from Lincoln, NE

While there's a lot of credit to go around, I think it's necessary to point out that General Manager Trent Baalke deserves his fair share of it. He has received a lot of heat because of his past jobs and even the job he has done up to this point but looking at this team, they're talented in a lot of areas and also young. So, one fer Baalke!

Baalke indeed received a lot of criticism late last season – with much of that criticism stemming from an association with past regimes, coaches, etc. This never seemed particularly fair considering the mess that was going on with former Head Coach Urban Meyer, but the NFL isn't always fair and unfair blame often comes with the territory. But yes … credit where it's due. And yes … an overdue, deserved one fer Baalke …

Russell from Jacksonville

The free-agent signings have made huge contributions on both side of the ball. Fans can question the $$ spent but not the production. One for Baalke (so far).

If you like a free-agent's production, there's no reason to question the $$ spent. Free agency is expensive. It costs what it costs. And another fer Baalke …

Al from Orange Park

You keep telling us to be nice in here, so I'm not going to write that I hope that all of the offseason Baalke haters are eating crow. But did he do a great job in both free agency and the draft to assemble this team or what?

It is indeed important to be nice. And hoping people eat crow – or many other birds, for that matter – is not nice. And another fer Baalke …

Phil from Woodmere, NY

In Trent we trust. I, for one, want to apologize for how fervently I called for the firing of that man. He is doing a great job.

Fans fan. It's what they do. And another fer Baalke …

Matt from Jacksonville

I understand that there is a fire sale on clown costumes. Just in time for Halloween!

And one fer Jaguars Owner Shad Khan. And why the hell not?

Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL

I know it's only Week 3, but this has a 2021 Bengals feel ... a young team that believes can go a long way.

Week 3 means 14 games remain in the NFL season, and 14 games is a phenomenally long time in the NFL. Remember 2018? The Jaguars looked like the NFL's best team after a Week 2 victory over New England. They were never the same after that and finished 5-11. But yes … this has the feel of a team moving in the right direction. Much must go right to replicate the sort of turnaround the Cincinnati Bengals accomplished by making the Super Bowl following the 2021 season. But this Jaguars teams feels like it can compete every week, play well enough to beat contending teams and win more than it loses. They've played very well two consecutive weeks. It feels exciting. We could be beginning a very interesting time for this franchise. This feels real.

Bill from Jacksonville

John, do you believe last year's Jaguars team could have beaten the Chargers team that we just beat, even with the injuries to the Chargers?

No. I expect last season's Jaguars team would have played a close, low-scoring game and committed a late turnover or given up a long drive to lose late. Had they won, I expect it would have been close. That's the obvious difference in this season's Jaguars from last season: They are good enough that they can play an outmanned, injured team such as the Colts in Week 2 or Chargers in Week 3 and take advantage of the situation with a one-sided victory. It's a trait of good teams, which at the moment describes the Jaguars.

Mr. NFL from Unfortunately Jacksonville

Well, well, well … so you, local radio hosts, and some fans have for years said "we need to run the ball, we need balance." Now, do you see what happens when you bring in an OFFENSIVE-MINDED coach that plays FAST?? They heavily controlled time of possession, as well as number of offensive plays. Welcome to 2022, all you 60s commentators and fans. It took you long enough, didn't it?

I've been saying and writing things for public consumption long enough to know people hear and read what they want to hear. While I'm sure at some point I have said and written that the Jaguars might benefit from running and balance in a given game, I never have been one to bang the table for a run-centric, run-heavy or run-first approach. It's simply not how I view the NFL. What's best for a given team offensively depends on how that team's offense is built, the skill level of an opposing quarterback and the defense it's playing that week. I get that it's important for some readers to have an "gotcha hot take" when writing into this forum, so yes … you got me. Thanks for having me, and educating me. I am a lucky man. And all cities should be so lucky as Jacksonville to count football scholars such as yourself among their residents. Goodie for us.

Steve from Jax Beach

So, how much higher did our ceiling go Sunday?


Mike from Neptune Beach, FL

So, is it true that the other games do not matter if you take care of business? I want to go back to sleep and continue this dream.

Feel free to stay awake and don't worry so much. This is a good team. The Jaguars are pertinent again. They're legitimate again. They're not going to blow out every team, but there's no reason to think they won't be competitive and play well most weeks. This is solid.

Bill from Ponte Vedra

I don't want to criticize the defense after an excellent performance, so I will call this as "room for improvement:" The pass rush can be better, given the defensive talent we have. One sack against a wounded Q B is not exactly stellar. Does this defense have "Sacksonville" in its future or will they be middle of the pack at best?

The Jaguars have allowed 10 points in two games and are controlling the line of scrimmage. While they had "just" one sack Sunday, they pressured Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throughout the game. I don't know if this will be "Sacksonville," but if this defense plays close to the level moving forward as it played the last two weeks it will be very good. Very, very good.

Tom from Jacksonville Beach

John, I'm afraid to go outside; 2 wins in a row, a west coast win, 30+ points… did the earth's spin change direction?

First, there was fear of staying awake. Now, it's fear of the out of doors. Relax. Enjoy. This is how it's supposed to feel. Enjoy.