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O-Zone: Tough transition

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Justin from Jax

Hey, Zone. Let's say a slice of Sbarro is on the line. What do you think is more likely, Travis Etienne wins Comeback Player of the Year, or Devin Lloyd wins Defensive Rookie of the Year? How likely do you think either is legitimate contender at this point in the season? One, being "it won't happen" and 10 being "virtually certain."

I'd consider it more likely that Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. wins comeback player of the year than Jaguars rookie inside linebacker Devin Lloyd wins defensive rookie of the year. This is because Etienne appears to be improving dramatically as the season progresses while Lloyd has dealt at times lately with the learning curve that is common for NFL rookies. Etienne is a remarkable story for multiple reasons, most of which center around him being a player rapidly developing into one of the NFL's best players at his position. That he missed his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury sustained in 2021 preseason? Yes, that makes what he is doing this season all the more remarkable. And his story absolutely merits serious consideration for Comeback Player of the Year. I'd put the chances around five or six, depending on the familiarity of those voting with Etienne's story. Awareness means a lot in such things.

Crash from Glen St. Mary, FL

Obi Wan! I think Travis Etienne is a clone of Marshall Faulk.

There are some similarities. While Etienne hasn't yet shown the high-end, breakaway speed that made Faulk a Hall-of-Fame running back with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams, he's an elite runner with a striking knack for explosive runs. But what made Faulk truly unique among NFL running backs was his ability as a receiver. Faulk for four or five seasons played receiver at nearly as high a level as he played running back – to the point that some believed his route-running and hands on a similar level to very good receivers. Faulk for three seasons with the Rams – from 1999-2001 – averaged nearly 900 yards and seven touchdowns receiving per season at nearly 10 yards a reception. Etienne, while capable, hasn't shown near that level as a receiver. Then again, few backs have done that.

Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL

Hi John, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sometimes the best way to improve the secondary is to improve the pass rush. Not sure that is possible at this point of the season.

The Jaguars' pass rush has shown more consistent pressure in recent weeks than it did several weeks before that. The area is critically important Sunday against Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

John from Jacksonville

Hi, KOAGF. I say less focus on our defense's challenges in stopping the Chiefs' quarterback and more focus on our offense keeping up by trading scores. Good strategy?

I suspect the Jaguars will prioritize both Sunday. They realistically probably need to score in the mid-to-high 20s Sunday to have a chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. That's a difficult task, but it's attainable. The Chiefs' defense, while good, has allowed 20 or more points in seven of eight games this season. The Jaguars have played well enough offensively that it's reasonable to expect they will have scoring opportunities Sunday. The key, as has been the case in most Jaguars games this season, likely will be scoring touchdowns in the red zone. That doesn't mean focusing less on defense and stopping Mahomes Sunday, though. While stopping the Chiefs' offense completely probably isn't realistic, the Jaguars need to force a turnover or two and get some big stops Sunday. Even if they manage to trade scores, at some point they must get those stops.

Brendan from Yulee, FL

Josh Allen might not be a lousy tackler, but sure has issues with staying in the right gap when opposing teams run the ball. Particularly against the teams with mobile quarterbacks. I'd go on a limb to say his drop-off in performance is due to a lack of discipline on a play-to-play basis. I hoped for more out of No. 41 considering we moved to 3-4 defense and all…


Steve from Nashville, TN

Of the eight games remaining for the Jaguars, six of them are against opponents that are playoff bound on their current trajectory. You are predicting three or four more wins this season, meaning we need to beat Houston and Detroit on the road (a tall order) and then beat two winning-record teams. I am just not seeing it.

The Jaguars have been close late in every game they have played this season. I see no reason they won't be in six or so of the remaining eight games. Can they win three or four of those games if they eliminate avoidable mistakes that have cost them in pretty much every loss this season? That's reasonable.

Nathan from Utah, US

Zone, maybe now isn't the best time for this. Maybe it is. This is the place I get to be with the rest of you, when days are darkest and times are blue. For when skies are bight, and the wind fills our sails, the O-Zone is the pace, fellow fans connect to their Jaguars. May I be the first this holiday season to thank you and yours, and the rest of the Jacksonville Jaguars family. #DUVAAAL!


Steve from Hilton Head, SC

John, I don't rewatch games, but I have noticed that Travon Walker gets double-teamed at times. Is this routine for the Jags' pass rushers, who are expected to get sacks?

Walker, an outside linebacker for the Jaguars and the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, does get double-teamed at times. Josh Allen, who starts opposite Walker and who was the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, also gets double-teamed at times. Neither seems to get double-teamed that much more than the other, but it's routine for a team's top pass rushers to get extra attention at times.

Roger from Houston, TX

To the Jaguars fans who lament the large number of an opponent's fans attending games in Jacksonville, I would offer this perspective: I now live in Houston and attended the Thursday Night Football Game Houston Texans-Philadelphia Eagles game at NRG Stadium. There were so many Eagles fans in the stadium that the Texans were booed when they took the field. Take heart; it could be worse.

This lamenting of this phenomenon indeed is somewhat overblown and those lamenting seem not to pay attention to the rest of the league. Historical, long-established NFL teams with strong national followings such as the Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, etc., often have strong fan presences when playing on the road against less-historical franchises – particularly when those less-historical franchises have struggled in recent seasons. This phenomenon is hardly unique to the Jaguars and likely will lessen as the Jaguars win more consistently in the coming seasons.

Dan from Munich, Germany

Hi Zone, according to, the Jaguars' salary cap doesn't look that good for next year. How did they get in this situation? They haven't been great for a long time, therefore they didn't have great players in a very long time worthy of huge contracts? Thanks!

The Jaguars are in their current salary-cap situation in large part because they spent significantly during the 2021 offseason on unrestricted free agents such as wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, guard Brandon Scherff, tight end Evan Engram, inside linebacker Foye Oluokun and defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi with the idea of raising the talent level on offense and improving the run defense. This was needed to raise the overall talent level of the team after several years of missed draft selections. The general approach was that the team would be comparatively tight against the salary cap in 2023 and have significantly more room against the cap after that. I would expect a much quieter free-agency period for the Jaguars next offseason than this past offseason, with one reason being General Manager Trent Baalke likely won't want to start restructuring contracts to make room under the cap this offseason. Such cap machinations can create room for a player or two but tend to create problems for the future. The Jaguars' cap situation is pretty healthy, and I would expect it to remain that way with potential for some significant moves in 2024.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

Andrew Wingard has done exceptionally well considering where he came from (undrafted free agent). I can't help but wonder if he could make the transition to cornerback. Realistically, how difficult is it to switch those positions?

Wingard won't be transitioning to cornerback. Cornerback is more about short-area quickness, speed, agility and ability to turn quickly and react to the ball. Safety is more about tackling ability and having a combination of coverage/run-playing ability. Transitioning from safety to corner is difficult even for players with elite skill sets.