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O-Zone: Toasty

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

RAF from Ponte Vedra Bch, FL

I've always considered myself a "football fan," but without the Jags playing I'm just thinking, "Who are we going to draft, who do we go after in free agency and trades?" It was so much fun and excitement. Now that it's over, I just can't seem to muster up any enthusiasm for the remaining games. My question is where do we draft and who do you see us drafting?

My sense is many Jaguars fans feel the same as you. How could they not feel that way? The Jaguars have nine selections in the 2023 NFL Draft – one each in Rounds 1-3, two in Round 4, three in Rounds 6 and one in Round 7. They selected No. 24 overall in Round 1. The Jaguars are in a decent position in Round 1 in the sense that they could use impact at any number of positions with comparatively few positions with a desperate need. Later in Round 1 is a good place for a team in that position. My early thought is that cornerback makes a lot of sense there. They were better there once Darious Williams moved outside from the slot, but you need three front-line corners in the NFL. The Jaguars don't appear to currently have that.

Denmiz from Jax

KOAF, what a trajectory we are on. This season was beyond comprehension. Going forward, it appears we need a better pass rush. Now that the season is over and we start to look forward, what's your view of Travon Walker? Good pick? Bust? What say you?

Jaguars outside linebacker Travon Walker, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, was solid as a rookie – for a rookie. Whether he is a good pick or bust won't begin to be determined until next season. While most NFL observers and fans want to pass judgment on players during or immediately after rookie seasons, little is known at that point. Remember the Jaguars' 2021 rookie class. How observers assessed that class after 2021 and how it is assessed now are dramatically different. How they assess Walker and the 2022 class will changed between now and this time next season as well.

Travis from North Dakota

Hey, John. With the way Walker Little has stepped in and played, I think he needs to be the starter going forward, but with Cam's contract how do you see left tackle and right tackle playing out? Can you see it playing out with Taylor at right tackle and Little at left tackle and Cam moving in to play guard?

This answer likely will depend at least partly on what happens with Taylor. He was outstanding all season. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and the Jaguars want very much to re-sign him. If that happens, I expect Taylor to start at right tackle with Cam Robinson starting at left tackle. I expect there's a good chance Little could play guard in that situation.

Gary from Suffolk, VA

No question today. Want to send a thank you to the coaches, players and staff. This year has been a fantastic ride. Looking forward to the offseason preps and moves for 2023. #DTWD #IWATJ #DUUUUUUUVAL

OK.

Dave from Jacksonville

King of all Funk is Super Bowl material in my book. Your insight this season has been elite on every level. My only reflection on the last game was the importance of the bye week. Kansas City and Philly had that extra twitch that a week's rest provided. Next year I hope we can focus on that number one seed. We already have the best writer. Thanks for the season.

I'm a big believer in the importance of a pre-playoff bye. A week's rest indeed can give a team fresher legs than the opponent, and therefore a big edge in the divisional playoff round. There's also a case to be made that teams that finish with the best record in the conference have a way of looking faster and fresher because they're often better than the team they're playing.

Owain from Sheffield, UK

First "normal" offseason in a while, right? No head coach search, no big retooling, no free-agent splurge, no gaping holes on the roster. We have "the guy" … work to do, sure, but as much as such a thing exists, this is what passes for normal, right?

Pretty much.

Nikki from East Hampton, CT

O, days later and the pain still resides due to believing that we very well had what it takes to achieve a Super Bowl berth and maybe even victory. The magic of this year's team was a true underdog story in the making. The comradery, respect and leadership of many players and coaches was a real treat to see. Out of curiosity, now that we know who our opponent would have been this week, if we had made it past the Chiefs how do you feel we would have matched up against the Cincinnati Bengals?

The Jaguars were good this season, better than anyone expected and good enough to win the AFC South and be among the last four teams playing. They weren't better than the Kansas City Chiefs or the Philadelphia Eagles. They played a total of three games against two Super Bowl favorites and never held a second-half lead. While they could have won those games, it's not accurate to say they should have won them. I'm not sure they would have matched up particularly well against the San Francisco 49ers or the Buffalo Bills – or the Cincinnati Bengals, either. Those teams are the NFL's elite right now, and the Jaguars – while improved – weren't quite there yet this past season. That's not unexpected. All teams just listed are further in their development with head coaches who have been there at least two seasons – and in most cases far more than that. The Jaguars are moving in that direction. This season was a major step.

Don from Marshall, NC

Luke Fortner was such a great pick. What a great year he had. Amazing really! He is my pick for rookie of the year and that's not a knock on the others who played great also. Whoever found him needs to pick again this coming draft. Keep that freak flag flying and Go Jaguars!

One fer Fortner.

Paul from Lake City, FL

I know it's always coaching in the NFL, but from last year to this year? It was always the coaching.

Coaching, like many things in life, matters very much if you're extremely good or bad – and matters a bit less if you have mediocrity. An argument can be made that the Jaguars in recent seasons have experienced their share of extremes.

Stephen from Fortson, GA

The 2023-2024 schedule. Ouch!

Maybe. Maybe not. We'll know a lot more four or five weeks into the season.

Derek from Brookings, SD

Tough to see this season come to an end because it really felt like they were never out of a game, and they always found a way to pull off the win. Looking forward to next year for sure, but do you think switching to a 4-3 may help improve the pass rush? Josh Allen had his best year with his hand in the dirt, and Travon Walker looked to be improving as well. Just wondering how we can improve the pass rush with the personnel we currently have after investing so much into it the last few years.

I don't anticipate the Jaguars switching schemes and I don't know that there are going to major overhauls in approach. I do anticipate them looking hard at the personnel and figuring how best to use it.

Michael from Middleburg, FL

O, One of the queries going on is if owners, etc., are considering neutral-site playoff locations. I think the biggest thing that needs changing is the bye-week. That is the most unequal benefit going on. The No. 1 team having two weeks to prepare for lower-ranked teams, which are playing each week.

The first-round bye being eliminated will only happen if the NFL adds a playoff team to each conference. Never say never to that because added teams mean added games, which means added revenue. But I have no problem with teams getting a bye week. If you finish with the best record in the conference, there should be a reward.

Micah from Chicago, IL

When I think about what the Jags need to sustain success in 2023, I don't really think, "Wow we really need [position] or we're toast." I just think the 2022 draft class needs to take the Year 2 jump. Or... we're toast!"

The Jaguars aren't "toast" if the 2022 draft class doesn't take the Year 2 jump. But if the defense is to move from being good enough to keep the team in most games to being a unit good enough to beat the best teams … yeah, then players such as Walker and linebackers Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma need to take a Year 2 jump.

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