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O-Zone: Warm blanket

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

James from Jacksonville

I believe that Evan Engram was the most important free agent we signed this year. He has been very important to the progression of Trevor, in my opinion. Who do you believe was the best free agent pick and do you believe that we will be able to re-sign Evan? Thanks.

I do believe the Jaguars will re-sign tight end Evan Engram, who this past offseason signed a one-year contract as an unrestricted free agent. It was a "prove-it" deal, and the six-year veteran absolutely has "proven it." I believe the Jaguars will re-sign Engram because he wants very much to be here and the franchise wants very much to re-sign him. While I don't expect the Jaguars to be overly active in unrestricted free agency in the 2023 offseason, I do expect they will work hard to – and succeed in – re-signing some of their own free agents. As for the "most important" free agent last offseason, I don't know that it's possible – or necessary – to look at it that way. I wrote often early in the season and in the offseason that I didn't think it was right to pick apart the details of wide receiver Christian Kirk's contract because the Jaguars needed Kirk to help elevate quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the offense. The same was true of wide receiver Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram. And to a degree, right guard Brandon Scherff. The Jaguars needed to raise their talent on offense, and they needed players to fit into a scheme with complementary pieces who all would help Lawrence grow and help each other. All those pieces have come together in remarkable fashion in recent weeks in the No. 6-rated offense in the NFL. Kirk was really important to Lawrence's development. So was Engram. So was Jones. Which one was more important? One answer is pretty much as right as another on this one.

Josh from Fernandina Beach, FL

Zone: I can't help but harken back to the end-of-season feelings over the last 15 years when seeing the Jags in first place in the division today, in late December. Win or lose against the Titans, I am just so happy for this team and fan base to finally be able genuinely believe that the corner is being turned. It's been one of the wildest (and arguably most difficult) stretches one could or should endure. Hoping for a playoff spot. Thanks and Go Jags!!

These indeed are cool times. Evidence suggests these times are just the beginning of a sustained run of more cool times. I believe that will be the case. But even if this is the beginning of a lot of cool times, fans should savor this moment. A beginning is like being young and you're only in the good flush of youth once. There's no excitement like it. Enjoy.

David from Saint Marys

What was the real reason why Darrell Henderson was waived?

As opposed to what?

Nick from Annapolis, MD

I can't wait to watch 3.5 hours (21 episodes) straight of "Sounds of the Game" in mid-February. Its going to be a glorious recap of the season.

The Jaguars' production department has done fine work on the weekly "Sounds of the Game" feature. Nice job doing their jobs, one might say.

Gary from Suffolk, VA

Looking at the stats from the last time we played the Texans, ETN had a super-productive day running and receiving. I am sure the Texans will try to negate that. I feel like they will have to pick their poison and that could lead to a very productive day for one of our three pass catchers. Do you feel the Texans will try to take ETN out and risk it with the pass catchers or will they stick to that cover 2?

The Texans held the Jaguars to six points in their first meeting this season – a 13-6 Houston victory at TIAA Bank Field in Week 5. They did this largely by playing Cover 2, forcing Lawrence and the passing offense to prove they could make winning plays in key moments and by allowing the Jaguars to move efficiently between the 20-yard lines with the idea they would struggle to score in the red zone. This was a sound strategy against the Jaguars at the time. The Jaguars are a better offense now. I expect the Texans to take a similar approach until the Jaguars force them to do otherwise. The Texans are a good defense and they have played well lately, so I expect them to have some success. I don't expect them to have nearly the success they had in Week 5.

Paul from Jacksonville

As we patiently wait for the Week 18 flex schedule to come out what are your thoughts?

I expect the Jaguars-Titans Week 18 game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville to be played in the prime-time, nationally-televised slot either January 7 or 8.

Marc from Duval

Well, John, it appears we will have another storyline to add to the Week 18 de facto AFC South title game as on the same day Doug announced any and all healthy starters will play on Sunday, Mike Vrabel ruled OUT multiple starters for their game this week, including Henry (Doubtful) and Jeff Simmons. Clearly, this will be a talking point leading into next week and following the ultimate result of which ideology played out more favorable.

Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel indeed held out multiple starters from their game against the Dallas Cowboys Thursday. Considering the Titans have lost six consecutive games and are one of the most-injured teams in the NFL, it was an understandable move. The Titans have been sliding and need an unusual measure to save their season. It's hard to blame Vrabel for the approach, just as it's easy to see why Pederson would want a team playing well to continue approaching games as it has all season.

Gary from Centerville, OH

Isn't it nice to have the discussion about sitting players because the Jaguars have such a big January game?


Josh R. (and Carter R.) from Fernandina Beach, FL (Beech and 9th)

Zone: The ostensible Henry hip injury sounds as believable as one former Jags' back injury. In that vein, what are your thoughts on resting players this week knowing that the last wild card spot is not a viable path to the playoffs? Thanks and Go Jags!!

A Wild Card spot is viable until it's no longer mathematically possible, and the Jaguars' Wild-Card chances should they lose to the Titans are as of this writing still quite viable. I'm fine with resting players if a game is meaningless in terms of postseason implications. Until that's the case – and that's not yet the case with the Jaguars game against the Texans Sunday – I'm not for it.

Art from Glassboro NJ

If the Jags make the playoffs, how does Doug not win Coach of the Year? I understand that other coaches are doing well, but going from back-to-back number 1 picks to the playoffs is something no other coach has done this year.

I think Pederson should be Coach of the Year, particularly if the Jaguars make the postseason. Many Jaguars fans likely will feel strongly about this. I suspect San Francisco 49ers fans and observers will feel equally strongly about Head Coach Kyle Shanahan considering the team is on its third starting quarterback – and has an eight-game winning streak. I suspect Minnesota Vikings fans and observers will feel equally strongly about Head Coach Kevin O'Connell considering the team has won 11 one-score games. I suspect Philadelphia Eagles fans and observers will feel equally strongly about Head Coach Nick Sirianni considering the team is close to securing the No. 1 seed and NFL's best record. I suspect …

Mike from New Milford, NJ

What a wild December ride. There was actually a moment earlier this month when Trevor Lawrence was lying on the Ford Field turf writhing in pain and I was just hoping the injury wasn't so catastrophic that he'd be ready for opening day in 2023. When he jogged back to the locker room rather than ride on a stretcher, I was relieved and elated. They ended up getting hammered by the Lions and playoff aspirations never crossed my mind. I was simply thrilled the franchise quarterback dodged a bullet. Fast forward to the Jaguars winning three games in 12 days and here they are controlling their own destiny to an AFC South title. Let's steal it like a thief in the night. DUUUVAL!!!

I wrote and said often after Lawrence's injury against the Detroit that the game's biggest story was that he hadn't been hurt worse. I'm wrong a lot. I, in fact, have been wrong enough that wrongness is like a warm blanket that wraps me and protects me from the cruelness of this world. I was not wrong that time. I am the king of all funk.