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O-Zone: Taco time

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Let's get to it …

Taylor from Columbia, MD

Hi, John. Have you changed your opinion on offensive-line depth as a necessity? In the past you wrote that quality offensive-line depth is a rarity/myth. How do you reconcile that with a potential backup lineman in Round One?

I indeed have written that offensive line depth is rare – which perhaps is a better term than "myth." If you describe offensive-line depth as more than five really good players at the position, then it's really rare. Most teams don't have even five really good offensive linemen – much less one or two ready to play at a high level in the event of injury. The Jaguars in that case were a rarity last season. They offensive line also was helped by quarterback Trevor Lawrence's ability to escape pressure and extend plays. As for your question … I'm not sure I've changed my opinion on offensive-line depth too much. I do think the Jaguars could select an offensive lineman in Round 1. Such a move initially likely would be perceived as depth. But the thought here is that an offensive lineman late in the first round not only could be the swing offensive tackle behind Walker Little and Cam Robinson but perhaps push for a starting spot at left guard. Either way, that player being depth would be short-lived. If that player were a backup at tackle in Year 1, he almost certainly would start somewhere by Year 2.

Zac from Austin, Tejas

If you brought the entire defense back for another year and had them start again, they would be significantly better on the whole than last year. Imagine being able to play defense when you're actually ahead in games thanks to an improved offense. I think the offensive struggles to get ahead misleads evaluators in their assessment to what we have now.

There's some truth to this. The Jaguars' defense did feel more effective late in the 2022 season once the offense became more consistent. The defense, after allowing at least 400 yards in three consecutive games in late November and early December – losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions and a victory over the Baltimore Ravens – didn't allow more than 400 yards in the five regular-season games that remained after that or in the postseason. The defense also produced 11 turnovers in those final five regular-season games after forcing seven in eight games before that stretch. Some of that improvement likely stemmed from continuity gained from the defense having played together all season. But it's also very likely that some of the defensive improvement stemmed from playing with leads and therefore being in better pass-rushing situations, which typically leads to more pressure on quarterbacks and more turnovers. The Jaguars' offense absolutely should improve – and be more consistent – in 2022. There's a good chance more defensive improvement could follow.

Scott from Jacksonville

"I will write multiple stories based on [Jaguars Head Coach Doug] Pederson's comments in the coming days, and we'll discuss his comments on multiple Jaguars media shows this week." How much do we have to pay for THAT?!

How much you got?

Sal from Austin, TX

I'm sensing some anxiety among fans about who the Jaguars will draft, but I think it's unfounded. I was one of the louder voices that wanted General Manager Trent Baalke gone, but it turned out the guy knows his job – pretty well, actually. I think the Jaguars are in good shape heading in to the 2023 NFL Draft: 1. A rising young quarterback; 2, a solid offensive line that needs basic offseason upkeep; 3, an ascending front seven and secondary with a few holes, but with young players who took a major step forward in the second half of last year. This is a clear example of whichever BEST player falls to the Jaguars at whatever position (with the exception of running back, quarterback and possibly wide receiver), they take him.

Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke absolutely deserves credit for his moves the last two offseasons or so – and he deserves credit for his approach this offseason. The Jaguars had to spend big in 2021 and 2022 to fix roster deficiencies. The second part of that approach is to draft and develop well alongside that spending to get the salary cap to a point where it was functioning and sustainable. As for the Jaguars' approach in the '23 draft … I do expect Baalke to emphasize best available player with an eye on long-term need. I expect that formula likely will lead to a cornerback, offensive lineman or tight end being the Round 1 selection. Just a guess.

Gary's wife from St. Augustine

You do not suck. Gary does.


Mike from Azores

Hey, John. I've heard you say more than once that the NFL is a franchise-quarterback driven league! Looking at the Jags 2023 opponents, I see at least 10 games – all of the AFC South and NFC North teams – with very questionable quarterback situations. I can't see any way that the Jags aren't a double-digit-winning divisional champ in 2023! Agree?

Your unbridled optimism is admirable – and understandable. And yes … the Jaguars as the 2022 AFC South Champions with a stable quarterback/head coach situation have a right to be the preseason 2023 division favorites. But can I see a way the Jaguars don't win double-digit games? Absolutely. This team needed to rally from nine or more points to win its last five home games. This was a team that won one more game than it lost in 2022. That season was great and there's reason for optimism. And I believe the team will improve in 2023. But the team must make those improvements to be as good as you expect. Winning one year is one thing. Being consistent winners is another and the Jaguars' step now is to show they can be that.

Jim from Middleburg, FL

Hey, John. Go for best player available that you can afford is the goal now, I think.

It sounds as if you want the Jaguars to sign the best possible free agent that's available that will fit under the salary cap. This sounds a lot like spending for the sake of spending. No, the Jaguars should not do that.

Tom from Jacksonville

I suppose a case for Coughlin in the Pride can be made but I remember a good not great coach that was inaccessible and short with media, refused to let his coaches talk to media and missed badly in the AFC Championships before the teams salary cap was ruined.

I admit some I'm a bit surprised that more than a few people question whether former Head Coach Tom Coughlin should someday be in the Pride of the Jaguars. My sense is those questioning his merit don't quite appreciate the job he did building the franchise in the 1990s – or how difficult it is to take something that didn't exist and build it into a four-time postseason participant. It's not easy making two AFC Championship Games or finishing four consecutive seasons with a winning record. From this view, the question around Coughlin and the Pride of the Jaguars is not "if" but "when." I should think that's the question anyway.

Daywane from Jacksonville

"I wasn't." Okay. "I'm sorry." We all know that. "I'll do better." No you won't.



I would retort that winning two division titles and losing two championship games is below what hopefully will soon be a new standard. If Pederson and Lawrence win the Super Bowl next year, it will far surpass anything that Coughlin ever did. At this point, since Coughlin is not in and it is possible that Doug could actually take us to the promised land, doesn't it make sense to hold that spot open? I feel like our perspective on Jaguars history can change real quick if we make it to the Super Bowl and especially if we win.

Your email suggests that the Jaguars winning big in the future would somehow make what the 1990s teams accomplished less important. One has nothing to do with the other. Honoring Coughlin and others from the past would in no way prevent future Jaguars successes from being honored. And even if the Jaguars do win future Super Bowls, it wouldn't mean the franchise shouldn't acknowledge what Coughlin meant to the franchise. A couple of more thoughts seem pertinent here. Don't talk down four consecutive playoff appearances and two appearances in conference title games. That's a good run of success and should be remembered that way. Also: You don't have to hold a spot open for Pederson at Coughlin's expense. TIAA Bank Field is a big stadium. There's plenty of space on the wall.

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, do you know what's going to look better than the Jacksonville Teal against 49er Gold this Super Bowl? No, John - not the Fish Tacos at Half-Time, but rather the Lombardi Trophy held against that gold hair of Trevor Lawrence.

Nathan is "all in."