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O-Zone: Tough start

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Richard from Jacksonville

O'Man, after looking at this defense on paper and considering the defensive fronts/packages it could run under new defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, I think it's safe to say this unit is prepared to take a substantial jump on paper. It showed some flashes last season. With the free-agent additions, drafted starters and sub packages, and a couple of second-year players stepping up, the ceiling could be higher than most observers believe. How good do you think they can be?

The Jaguars on paper indeed seem capable of a big jump defensively in 2022. It's striking to consider the massive overhaul the unit has undergone in the last two offseasons, with nearly all contributing/key players other than defensive end/linebackers Dawuane Smoot and Josh Allen new to the team since 2020. The newcomers in that span: Cornerbacks Shaq Griffin, Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams; safeties Rayshawn Jenkins, Andre Cisco and Rudy Ford; outside linebacker Travon Walker; linebackers Foye Oluokun, Chad Muma and Devin Lloyd; defensive linemen Roy Robertson-Harris, Foley Fatukasi, Jay Tufele, Malcom Brown and Arden Key. There are certainly a few other contributors, but that list represents essentially a two-year defensive turnover. It appears on paper a far stouter group against the run and a front seven more capable of disrupting the opposing offense. One question: Does it have enough "pure pass rushers?" That remains to be seen. How good the Jaguars can be defensively may depend on the pass rush, but it sure looks like this could be this team's best defense in about a half decade.

Steve from Nashville, TN

Analyzing the AFC South 2022 regular-season schedule, it seems the Indianapolis Colts have been dealt a bad hand by having five of six division games by Week 7 with only the Houston Texans remaining for the season finale in Week 18. With a team adjusting to a brand-new quarterback in Matt Ryan (albeit 2016 NFL MVP and four-time Pro Bowler) is this not a disadvantage to the Colts' division-title aspirations (and a benefit to the Tennessee Titans and Jaguars) as the Colts may not be "gelling" until midseason? I see Ryan is the Colts' fifth new starting quarterback in the last five seasons (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz,) so maybe they are comfortable with this churn at the most critical position?

I wouldn't call the Colts "comfortable" with their annual churn at quarterback. Like pretty much any NFL team, they likely would vastly prefer consistency there. They have continued to look for that since Luck's retirement, a search that led them this offseason to Ryan. That was a logical fit for the Colts, and the thought here is that the longtime Falcons quarterback could give them stability and production for two of three seasons. I suppose their schedule could be a disadvantage. But the Colts have managed to win recently through some inconsistency at quarterback. Comfortable or not, they seem like favorites to contend for the playoffs and the AFC South. I don't see their schedule being a big hinderance to that.

_Blaine from Jacksonville                       _

Was James Robinson's Achilles tear on the same foot as the reported heel injury/problems (prior to tear)?

No. Jaguars running back James Robinson had heel issues on his right foot early last season. He sustained a torn left Achilles in Week 16.

Charles from Savannah, GA

The Steelers' new general manager is Omar Khan. Any relation to Shad?


David from Chuluota, FL

Zone. One positive I've seen so far from keeping Trent Baalke as general manager is that he is in tune with the roster and didn't feel the need to gut the roster after a three-win season – like a new general manager might have felt the need to do. This time around the moves seems very methodical and intentional. I hope this trend continues and they invest in their high draft selections rather than being so quick to cut their losses.

The Jaguars want to invest and reinvest in their own draft selections. The key to doing so is those players being developed and playing to a level meriting that reinvestment.

Don from Marshall NC

This whole evolution of the quarterback turning into a running athletic running back/quarterback combo did not work in the past for sustained periods. Not because it did not work. It's because you knew at some point your quarterback was heading to the bat cave. I just hope the Jaguars do not expect Trevor to expose himself with running and getting hit and quarterback sneaks. Even though he can. Tom Brady is still playing. A running quarterback is like signing a deal with the devil to do some fiddling. It's popular with the fans, though. Go Jaguars!

Football is a physical game. When big men hit other big men, it takes a toll – even on the most physically impressive quarterbacks. Quarterbacks who run often typically endure more wear and tear than quarterbacks who tend to play from the pocket and avoid contact. And there eventually comes a point where those quarterbacks must rely more on pocket presence, field vision and throwing ability than escapability. There are exceptions. But until proven otherwise, a quarterback who can win from the pocket will usually have a more sustained career than a mobile quarterback. Perhaps that will change. Perhaps time will prove otherwise. Anything's possible.

Scott from Jacksonville

I kind of like the idea of making a team gain some ground to run out the clock, or – at the very least – not lose ground. And if anyone thinks a measurement is required, then the offense did enough and a measurement won't be used. Why do we always want to over complicate things? And why haven't the conspiracy theorists chimed in with this being another way for the NFL to dictate the outcome of games?

Good point. I don't know. I don't know.

Cliff from Everywhere with helicopter

When you're done rescuing the world from the scourge that is the Oxford comma, can you please address the use of an unnecessary apostrophe to form the plural of a noun? This is pervasive and annoying to say the least.

There's no "debate" about using "apostrophe's" to form the plural of a noun. That's simply incorrect English.

William from Savannah, GA

John, for what it's worth, I am very lukewarm on you.


Steven from Charlotte, NC

If Trevor Lawrence plays every snap this year and we subsequently pick No. 1 in the 2023 NFL Draft, do we strongly consider quarterback with the pick?

This is a fair question, because one would think if Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is playing at a high level in 2022 – or even if he's starting to move toward a higher level – then the Jaguars wouldn't select No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. There's a chance Lawrence would show progress and the Jaguars still finish with the league's worst record. One would think that chance is small.

Jason from North Pole, AK

If Jawaan Taylor loses the right tackle job to Walker Little, is there any benefit to having him on the bench instead of starting at guard to avoid injury? I'd be a little concerned about having all three of our starter capable tackles on the field at the same time.

There is benefit to your approach. There could be more benefit to having your best five offensive linemen on the field at the same time.

Earl from Middleburg, FL

John, recently JOHN from MO (whatever a MO is) at length buttered you up thicker than a grilled cheese sammich. Of course, you published it. Instead of posters and such adorning your office walls, should I hazard a guess at only a multitude of full-length mirrors?

I am the king of all funk.

Steve at Work in Jax Bch

When Andy Reid was hired by the Kansas City Chiefs, I recall a certain radio personality saying that the Chiefs were the runaway winners of the "free agency season" that year by hiring a coach with an outstanding pedigree. I remember nodding along to that at the time and now I have the same feeling about Pederson. Am I off base?

Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson's presence is having a positive impact on the players and the organization. He appears to be a head coach in whom players can believe and trust. That can have a dramatic effect on the entire approach of an organization. It's hard to imagine the Jaguars won't believe in the direction under Pederson over the long haul. That should help on the field. We'll see if it does.

David from Ada, OK

What are your thoughts on the season so far? I've been disappointed. Not a single yard passing, or rushing for that matter. Our defense has been nothing if not lackluster without recording a single sack all season. Our so-called improved linebacker corps has not been all that flashy. Honestly John, we haven't won a single game. I don't know how you can be so optimistic at this point.

Good eye.