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O-Zone: Staying cool

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Wade from Westside

It feels like the Jaguars' season ended with the loss to the Lions.

Whether that's true depends on your perspective. If your perspective is that an NFL season ends when a team's postseason chances end, then … yes, the Jaguars' 40-14 loss to the Detroit Lions this past probably did end the season. While the Jaguars can still make the postseason, they must make up a three-game deficit on the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans in the final five games. Even if the Jaguars were to beat the Titans twice – once Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., and once in the regular-season finale in Jacksonville – the Jaguars would have to win one more game than the Titans in the other three games to win the division. Though that's possible, it's not likely considering how the Jaguars' defense has played much of this season. But if your perspective is that something can be gained from the Jaguars' season even if they don't make the playoffs, then the season is far from over. They have four games remaining against postseason contenders – two against Tennessee, one against Dallas and one against the New York Jets. They therefore have a chance to play well, win a game or two against contenders and start proving they are as good as they have believed throughout the season. Sunday's game is particularly important in that sense. The Jaguars have a chance to beat the Titans on the road, something they haven't done since 2013. A victory in that venue over a contending team would matter very much for a building franchise. In that sense, this season isn't close to over.

James from Jacksonville

I fear that Lawrence is a once-in-a-lifetime talent and that the Jaguars are going to squander his talent and end up ruining his career before it even started. A first-year coaching disaster, poor decisions by the general manager on contracts on serviceable players, a weak offensive line and they are going to get him hurt and burnt out from the continuous losing. Where do we go from here? And do you believe that Trevor isn't mentally broken by now?

Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has played significantly better this season than he did as a rookie last season, and he has played better in the last month than at any time in his NFL career. Nothing remotely indicates that he is "broken."

Scott from Gilbert, AZ

Zone, if a team uses the No. 5 overall pick and No. 9 overall pick on corners, the No. 33 overall pick on a slot corner, pays another corner $13 million per year and another slot $10 million per year while paying a safety $9 million per year and using the No. 65 overall pick on the other safety, wouldn't the expectation be to have a good secondary? It doesn't matter who the general manager is, the Jags are the Jags and always will be.

The Jaguars have spent a lot of money and draft capital on the secondary in recent seasons, doing so across multiple general-manager and coaching regimes. The coverage and play in that area don't match the equity invested. It's difficult to make up for big draft misses and player departures in free agency. The Jaguars' current situation is at least partly due to that difficulty.

Jim from Middleburg, FL

It is wonderful to see offensive lineman Tyler Shatley's selection as the Jaguar nominee for the Walter Payton. He has contributed greatly for this team. When he was not a " starter," he was holding up his end all over the line when someone was hurt. Great selection. Congratulations, Tyler. DUVVVVAL

Absolutely … one fer Shatley.

Mr. NFL from Unfortunately Jacksonville

You're nothing but a PR mouthpiece for the organization. Your reliability in truth is null and void when you have the audacity to say the defense isn't regressing. It's bad enough that even layman fans can see the pathetic defensive performance, but it's even more insulting when you flat-out lie to a fanbase with your cute, intentional mis-directions. Insulting? Absolutely.

I indeed wrote recently that the Jaguars' defense isn't regressing. I also audaciously wrote in the same answer that the reason it's not regressing is it hasn't been particularly good all season. I suck. Ask anyone.

Bill from Hammock, FL

Zone, as you say, "It is always coaching." Do you think the coaching has to consider some changes? We have spent significant money in free agency and a lot of draft capital and appear to have little to show for it. Time for some changes?

There's a limit to how much an NFL team can change midseason. The personnel is the personnel – and if coaches thought better players were on the bench, those players already would be playing. It's also difficult – if not impossible – to overhaul a scheme midseason The Jaguars added a defensive wrinkle over the bye week, playing a three-safety look against the Baltimore Ravens in some packages. You could see more of that and some similar changes, but not much more significant than that during the regular season.

Ron from Orlando, FL

Could you explain to me how we have three first-round pass rushers and continuously can't get a sack? How can any GM with this track record still have a job? The idea that we skip over Aidan Hutchinson for someone with little production, but "great measurables" is infuriating. In every other business, you lose your job by making such ridiculous decisions over and over and over…

Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke's resume isn't perfect, a trait he shares with most NFL decision-makers. But he has drafted just one pass rusher in Round 1 as the Jaguars' general manager. That's Travon Walker, who has played 12 NFL games. The other Round 1 pass rushers are Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson. Allen was selected in 2019, when Tom Coughlin was the Senior Vice President of Football Operations and making final decisions. Chaisson was selected in 2020, General Manager David Caldwell's final draft.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

The whole AFC South looks like it should be relegated.

Why should the Tennessee Titans be relegated? They have won seven of their last 10 games, and all five of their losses are to teams with winning records. They played two of the AFC's best teams – the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals – toe-to-toe before sustaining a bad loss Sunday to a Philadelphia Eagles that might currently be the best team in the NFL. The Titans aren't great. They're probably not as good as they were last season. But they're a worthy playoff team and one of the NFL's most-consistent franchises.

Richard from St Augustine, FL

I am huge fan of Jags, but I am also a realist. Jags are an improved team and do have quarterback and head coach in place to take us to future success. But realistically I doubt they challenge for a serious playoff run next year. More likely the year after – in Year 3 – of this most current rebuild of roster and staff. Merry Krimma to you on your family.

I'm a realist, too. And I believe realistically the Jaguars can compete for the postseason next season. They are a few plays from being 6-6 or 7-5 this season, plays that should increasingly go their way as Lawrence matures. This answer is not guaranteeing they will contend next season. But to say they don't have a chance to contend next season? I absolutely wouldn't say that.

Greg from Section 122, Jacksonville

Okay hang on, I love your work O-man, but this whole thing "But young players often improve in Years 2 and 3, and players such as linebackers Travon Walker, Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma can – and must – make strides next season." OK, based on that logic what happened to Josh Allen? K'Lavon Chaisson? I mean we drafted these guys in the same theory in the first round. They have yet to deliver much of anything. I suppose the point is I am getting very skeptical the defensive drafting is going to ever yield a pass rush. Now is that because we are drafting talent wrong for the scheme? Or just drafting "potential" not actual talent?

The Jaguars' results make your skepticism is understandable. My point in the answer you cite is that at some point a team has to stop being overdependent on free agency and have drafted players develop into what was expected when they were drafted. There's no guarantee that those drafted players indeed will fulfill expectations. Then again, there's no guarantee free agents fulfill expectations, either. Both are risky and the cost of free agency is much higher – and much more crippling in the event of failure.

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

I get a kick of the fans that ask you "what if" questions regarding changing defensive schemes or moving players around. It's like me asking Santa for a new Corvette.

Santa's cool. People like him.