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O-Zone: Too much

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL

I don't know, Zone. Everyone has the polarizing view of the season: Playoffs or picking first overall again. I'm not sure why the idea of a progress-making season of six-to-seven wins is not sinking in. Here are three specific things that make me believe the team can make a real playoff run in 2023. 1. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be playing in a familiar system for the first time in the NFL (no coaching change). 2. It is the year in which the team gets an extra home game. 3. The AFC West will not be a division in our rotation like in 2022. Next year is setting up nicely. This year is about development, progress and gaining experience – however unpopular that may be. Thoughts?

There's merit to those thoughts, particularly to No. 1. While I expect Lawrence to improve noticeably this season, I don't know that he will reach lift-the-team-by-himself-and-win-three-or-four games heights in 2022. At least not consistently. This indeed will be Year 1 for Lawrence under Head Coach Doug Pederson, who multiple times in recent weeks has discussed the challenges Lawrence could face at times in the first year of a new offensive scheme. Pederson seems to expect some hiccups, and the offense indeed could take a year to reach full potential under Lawrence/Pederson. I'm not as big on your second two thoughts because I'm not as much of a "schedule guy" as many observers. Yes, playing an extra home game is a positive. And I suppose playing the AFC West makes this season theoretically more difficult than next season for the Jaguars. But if/when the Jaguars are ready to contend for the postseason, it will be because they have become a good team. Good teams win games no matter the venue and they beat good opponents. Those traits define winning franchises.

Jonathan from Jax

I think none of you have the "guts" to predict anything more than "six-to-seven" wins. When the Jags are sitting at nine wins and fighting for the playoffs, I hope your "guts" grow into man-sized ones.

My guts are big and impressive, but that's neither here nor there – and it's not true. Either way, guts have nothing to do with how I project the Jaguars' 2022 season. I see them as a six-to-seven-victory team for reasons I have discussed often in this column. A young quarterback adapting to a new offense. A lot of new pieces everywhere on the roster. A lot of key young pieces still gaining NFL experience. And so on. Perhaps they will be better than I expect. That's possible. We'll see.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey, John. I am excited and really hope the Jags will be contenders in December and January somehow. We hear a lot about the stable environment since Doug Pederson is there. But what if they lose the first two or three games? Will they still be positive because he is a good leader? Or will it be like the last several years?

I don't expect the Jaguars to lose their first two or three games this season. But if that should happen, I don't remotely expect players to lose confidence in Pederson. I think it will be a lot easier for all involved if they win one of two of those first two or three games. Winning is cool. Players like it. And it inspires confidence.

Dmiz from Jagsonville

I just read the article about the Washington Commanders. It sounds like they have upgraded areas that were much-needed and they will probably have a solid year. How do you see the Jags stacking up both offensively and defensively with them (on paper)?

The Jaguars could have a few matchup advantages in this game. I expect the defensive front to do well stopping the Commanders' running game – and if that happens, I expect the front to be able to pressure Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz into a few key mistakes. I see this as the key matchup in the game, one that could turn the game in the Jaguars' favor. I expect the Commanders' defense to be a tougher match up for the Jaguars because Washington has a very good defensive front – even without injured defensive end Chase Young – and because of the youth and newness in the Jaguars' skill positions.

Gary from Wesley Chapel

_Hey, John. The much-ballyhooed, highly-anticipated, all-important suggestion for a future response to Gary from St Augustine: "Thanks for keeping in touch." Keep those zingers coming. Always enjoyable. :)      _

That would tell him.

Don from Marshall, NC

You noted the Jaguars' wide receivers being on the small side. That seems very interesting and different. Seems more like the "three amigos"-type set up. Fast little cutters. I would guess that the Jaguars are planning on passing a lot. They all have to stay healthy – and if they do, you're going to see 40 attempts-plus a game. That is fun to watch, if that is the case. Anybody who has played defense knows you hate those fast little guys. You're looking to get a good hit on them to slow them down. Pretty, pretty, pretty interesting. Go Jaguars!

The Jaguars certainly plan on passing this season because the NFL is a pass-centric league. Still, I expect they will have a heavy mix of running backs Travis Etienne Jr. and James Robinson as the focus of the offense. Lawrence certainly indicated as much Wednesday when discussing the Jaguars' ideal offensive identity. As for the Jaguars' receivers being on the small side … there's no rule that that can't work. The NFL these days is about speed, quickness and winning matchups. This core of receivers – Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones Jr. and Zay Jones – certainly showed in preseason it should be able to get open consistently and give Lawrence legitimate options in key situations. That's something he didn't have often enough last season. Not nearly enough.

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, one thing is for sure: The Jaguars will make history Sunday. Whatever happens, the Jacksonville Jaguars are the first opponent that the Washington Commanders will face. Hopefully it's also the Commanders' first loss. Go Jags!!!

Nathan is "all in …"

JR from Callahan, FL

Last year, I thought four wins would be a great season. Turns out three was pretty darn good all things considered. This year I see seven-to-nine wins AND I think we are competitive every week with the defense we've put together. There will be some slip-ups for sure, but I think this is going to be a fun season! Go Jags!

… as is JR.

Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL

Hi, John. Greg compared Trevor to being a chef. Either you can cook or you can't. In that vein, Trevor in 2020 was an Italian chef, a short-order cook in 2021, and this season is being asked to become a French chef. Doable? Sure, but not without difficulties.

Greg in an email earlier this week indeed used a chef analogy when discussing quarterbacks and Lawrence. I hesitated to lean into the analogy for fear it would become an O-Zone thing and a little voice told me I probably would get confused by this "thing" at some point. I should have listened to that little voice.

Marcus from Jacksonville

I'm sure if you asked most professional chefs, they would tell you that moving to a new kitchen doesn't make you forget how to cook, but it may cause you to be a little slower and make some mistakes. If you're having to learn where everything is, things are going to take longer, then you tend to rush to try and catch up. That's when mistakes happen. Same with an NFL quarterback. It's not that Trev is gonna forget how to throw a ball, but when he's having to process all that new information, it may take him a split second longer. That's when you're slightly late on a throw, or you miss a read, or you press to try and make something happen that isn't there. I see the new system as probably the biggest hurdle for Lawrence to overcome this season, but I think he can do it, and I'm excited to see it happen!

I take back all I said about the chef analogy.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, through my fan eyes, I'd say we are going to win in a big way on Sunday. Who do you think takes game one?

I expect this game to be close. I expect the Jaguars will get a big turnover or two. I expect one to happen in the first half and give them a small lead entering the second half. I expect another in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. Or something like that.

David from Ada, OK

Remind Toomy from Fernandina Beach that two years ago we kicked the Colts' ass coming out Week 1. And only after that was there horrible disappointment.

I'll be sure to let Toomy know.