JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Nick from Annapolis, MD
Speed at receiver is obviously a problem. In defense of Head Coach Urban Meyer and General Manager Trent Baalke, it seems they knew this very early on. How many players did we bring in to try to solve this? The ones that stick out are Phillip Dorsett, Tavon Austin, Tyron Johnson and Travis Etienne. Jalen Camp and Devin Smith aren't slow, either. Sadly, none of those have worked out. Maybe this isn't as much of a defense of Urban and Trent as I thought it was. Is it surprising that the Jaguars have taken so many swings without success, or understandable since none of those swings were very "big" outside of the injured Etienne?
Acquiring dynamic wide receivers isn't always easy. Really good ones rarely enter free agency and even great ones can take a season or so – at least – to become "go-to" players after being drafted. The Jaguars indeed took a lot of swings here this past offseason. They swung somewhat at Marvin Jones Jr. in free agency and swung big-time in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at Travis Etienne Jr. – who while not solely a wide receiver absolutely was an effort to add speed. A lot of areas needed to be addressed last offseason beyond receiver, and Meyer and Baalke therefore had to cast a wide net at many positions rather than a deep one at a specific position. The approach seems to be working on defense while not as well on offense. My guess is this wouldn't be quite as much of an issue had wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. and Etienne been healthy – and that the swings will be more focused, and bigger, this offseason.
Tony from Richmond, VA
Why do I see an Allen Robinson situation all over again with Chark? Pro Bowl season sandwiched around a couple inconsistent seasons (with inconsistent quarterback play), injury during a contract year, let go only to become a 90-catch 1,100-yard receiver with another team for years to come...
There are indeed similarities, though it felt in the 2018 offseason as if Robinson had established himself a bit more in terms of consistency and reliability than currently is the case with Chark. Either way, the Jaguars and Chark are in a tricky situation. Chark, who will become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, has shown he can be productive if healthy. He has shown some nice flashes, and I thought in 2019 he had a real chance to be special. The 2020 season became something of a lost season for him, and he was showing some flashes early at times this season – though not enough to give a clear picture or market value. That last part is the Jaguars' dilemma. These decision-makers know Chark has potential. They know they need playmakers at receivers. Chark has a chance to be such a player. But there would be risk on the Jaguars' side of paying Chark a long-term, front-line-receiver type of contract. And I don't know that Chark will want "one-year, prove-it" contract. Can the sides meet in the middle? Do Chark and his management team believe that there are teams willing to pay bigger, long-term money than the Jaguars might be willing to pay? All are currently unknowns that should get clearer as free agency approaches. Situations such as this aren't so simple as shouting, "Pay the man! Give him the bag!" You must build an entire roster and make decisions on value versus production. In this case, there's projection involved, too. That makes it very tricky.
Brandon from Louisville, KY
If the Jaguars are going to be paying wide receivers in free agency for speed, wouldn't it make sense to just pay Chark?
Bradley from Sparks, NV
I figure Lawrence will have a good game or two before the season is over but next year how many new starters would you estimate on offense and defense?
Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence already has had multiple good games this season – though he has struggled statistically in recent weeks. And yes … I suspect he will have more good games the rest of the season. Regarding "new" starters next season … maybe two-to-three or so on defense and perhaps one or two more than that on offense. Something to remember here: We're nine games into a 17-game season. The perception of multiple players on the roster has changed dramatically since training camp. It's reasonable to think a few more perceptions could change before the end of the season.
Marcus from Jacksonville
It's frustrating to see one side of the ball play well while the other side struggles so much. It's frustrating because the defense is playing well enough to win games, but the offense isn't putting up the points to make it happen. But the silver lining is if the defense continues to play this well, that means the offseason focus can be on the offense. I hope the offense makes significant improvements between now and the end of the year, but even if it doesn't, let's at least hope the defense continues to show enough that we don't have to use a ton of draft capital and free agent bucks on that side of the ball.
Mark from Greenville, SC
Back in the day, if a player made a bonehead play or two, you would see the coach have a stroke on the sidelines and pull the player for the rest of the game. Big mistakes are happening every weekend with the Jags with no reaction from Urban. The player is left in and sometimes makes another mistake. What message does that send to the player and the fans?
This is something with which many NFL coaches wrestle. No coach wants players to make mistakes, and many coaches lean toward having "a stroke" and pulling players from the game if they commit a ridiculous penalty or two. At the same time, the player is in the game for a reason – and that's that he's the best player available at that position. If you pull him from the game, you're lessening that position. It's quite the quandary, and that's why many coaches – not just Meyer – err on the side of trying not to have the stroke and pull players from the game. I don't know what message is sends to fans, but that's why it happens.
JT from Palm Coast, FL
Do you believe that we will start to see more two tight-end sets with O'Shaughnessy coming back? Dan Arnold has been as advertised. I just wonder if our offense has the chance to look slightly different with a potentially healthy James O'Shaughnessy. Although he and Brandon Linder seem to be in the same box as highly skilled oft injured players.
I do think you will see O'Shaughnessy contribute quickly upon his return from an ankle injury, and quite possibly in some packages with Arnold. The Jaguars haven't had multiple, capable receiving options at the position in a long time. So, yes … there could be situations when the offense looks different.
JR from Orlando, FL
Is anyone besides me looking forward to seeing two tight end sets with Shack and Arnold?
Yes. JT is, too.
John from Jacksonville
Do you think NFL teams get enough time to practice? I know the NFLPA has set limits but what's the rule for "after hours" work? If I were a receiver, could I stay late and catch 100 balls from the jugs machine? How about the QB getting with receivers for a little extra work?
Receivers practice on the Jugs machine during practice. They also do so after practice – and yes, receivers and quarterbacks often get together after practice to work on specifics. Do NFL teams as a rule get enough time to practice? That depends on the definition of "enough." It's not nearly as much as used to be the case. Preseason once lasted six weeks. I left for the first Jaguars training camp I covered on July 5. The preseason now is three games, with padded training-camp practices beginning in late July/early August. Two-a-day practices were eliminated with the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, which also reduced in-season contact at practices. At the same time … the rules are the same for everyone. The rules are about safety and have been agreed upon by owners and players. We're not going "back in the day."
Ken from Rabun Gap GA
Hey Zone, DJ broke his ankle in Week 3, with bones taking six-to-eight weeks, any chance he returns this year? Or is he on season ending IR?
There hasn't really been a "season-ending" injured reserve the past two seasons, with the NFL allowing more flexibility because of COVID-19. But Chark won't return this season.
Steve from Random Locations
Is this picture of the" blonde mane flowing in the breeze" Oehser a pipe dream or does it really exist?
Oh, it's a dream. It's definitely a dream.