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O-Zone: Way too inconsistent

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

James from Jacksonville

I would love to see our wide receiver group explode this year and outperform everyone's expectations. Wouldn't it be awesome to hear the media say, "Keeping up with the Joneses?" I know that it is too early to have lofty hopes, but hope is all we have had for a long time. What do you believe are the realistic numbers expected from the wide receiver group?

I believe this group can be very productive in Head Coach Doug Pederson's offense in 2022, though I hope media can be a touch more creative than saying "Keeping with the Joneses" should that happen. I don't spend much time thinking about individual numbers, but I would think wide receiver Christian Kirk can push to be above 1,000 yards and close to 10 touchdowns. I expect Marvin Jones Jr. and Zay Jones could be around 800 yards and five touchdowns. Something in that range with contributions from multiple skill players could mean a productive offense. Whatever the numbers, all three of those players – if healthy – could be capable of being the standout receiver in a particular game, and they appear to complement each other well. I think this receiver group could be better than many observers believe. We'll start finding out in about a month.

John from Jacksonville

I'd guess that the Hall of Fame Game is probably one of the most viewed games of the preseason. I'd also guess that the NFL would prefer it to be somewhat competitive and entertaining. I'd also guess that opposing staffs might communicate on expectations for how they'll approach the game. Would you guess that the NFL might have a problem with that?

I'd guess your first two guesses are pretty much correct. I wouldn't guess that your third guess – that the coaching staffs might communicate about how they will approach the game – is very close. There are really no incentives for coaching staffs to do this. Most NFL coaching staffs approach preseason games relatively the same – playing some number of starters for a comparatively short time before playing reserves far more. There's typically little game-planning in the preseason except for a game or so – and what game-planning does occur is very basic. Coaches generally would rather win than lose, but any coach with one eye and half sense doesn't care all that much about winning or losing in the preseason. I suppose on some level the NFL might not love it if opposing coaches talked about their approach to the game, but their level of concern would be minimal. The league has bigger issues. Much bigger.

Tudor from Saint Augustine FL

If they start wearing those things in live games, I quit. Why don't we just put bubble wrap on Formula 1 cars, too, while we're at it? How about this? You don't like the risk of head trauma? Cool, don't play. Nobody is forcing you!

Tudor does not believe the Guardian helmets are "awesome."

Pookie from Panda City

Don from Marshall's question on Monday officially completes the annual Jaguar Fan Circle of Lunacy and Delusion. Every year, Jaguars fandom seems to go through the same drill (and I've seen this progression in O-Zone questions this year, too): Time passes after a terrible season. A bunch of our players that couldn't do diddly last year will be "sneaky good" this year. Our players look like gods in OTA underwear practices, and the Jags are coming to shock the whole league. Training camp starts, and our receivers look amazing before contact is even commenced, and we'll surprise the league with our unheralded receiving committee of glory. Then the wide receivers get shut down in training camp and our DEFENSE is now going to be unstoppable. Boy, the league doesn't know what's coming! Doesn't matter that it's the 3-14 Jaguars playing the 3-14 Jaguars. Then – to the gist of Don's question – fans start getting anxiety because our coordinators are going to be whisked away from the team because they're so good! Every year. And then real football starts Week 1 and … we're the Jaguars. Remember when fans were nervous about Jedd Fisch being taken away to coach another team? I can't have that memory without spitting coffee all over my keyboard. And I'm not even drinking coffee.

You're not wrong. I'm not sure quite so harsh a tone is necessary, though. Fans want to see their team win and it's easy to be optimistic in the offseason. But yes … the Jaguars have followed a lot of hopeful offseasons with a lot of awful seasons during the last decade. This feels different because of Pederson and quarterback Trevor Lawrence. That doesn't mean I think teams will be lining up to hire the Jaguars' coordinators in January. That usually requires postseason success or contention and I think the Jaguars are a year from that. But I do think progress is attainable and I think the Jaguars will have fans feeling legitimately hopeful by season's end. Then maybe this cycle you detail so well at last will end.

Ryan from Apopka, FL

I took my five-year old daughter to training camp on Sunday. On our drive home she had a great question: Why is it called "camp" as none of the players are camping? So how did it become called training camp?

Everyone thinks their children are adorable.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

Has not been a whole lot of chatter on the front three in our 3-4 defense, assumedly because without pads on for most of camp there is nothing to see. Can you project the starting defensive ends and nose tackle for Game 1 of the regular season?

That's one reason there hasn't been much discussion about the Jaguars' defensive front three. Another reason is there's usually not much discussion about down defensive linemen in any three-four scheme;  the linebackers tend to be the stars of the scheme with the down linemen largely responsible for creating opportunities for linebackers. The Jaguars' first unofficial depth chart lists nose tackle DaVon Hamilton, defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris and defensive end Foley Fatukasi as starters. That's a good Week 1 projection.

Sal from Austin

Time to light the Mark Brunell/Tom Coughlin candles if you have them.

I don't, fortunately.

Josh from Lakewood

You ever feel like the Jaguars being so bad for so long has thrown off local fans' ability to judge which players are actually good?

Sure. Sometimes. It's also true that every team's fan base gets excited about offseason additions and assumes all offseason additions will be good. That's rarely true. Sometimes there are hits, sometimes there are misses and something there are adjustment periods.

Alan from Jacksonville

In Thursday's scrimmage, which will see our starters riding the pine, who are some of the unheralded players we should keep an eye on? In a related question, which bottom-of-the-depth-chart players have you see so far who could play their way onto the final roster?

Lawrence indeed will not play in Thursday's Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. Nor will running back Travis Etienne Jr. But that doesn't mean no starters will play for the Jaguars, and Pederson was pretty specific when discussing this this week that starters indeed will play. I expect to see most rookies play, and perhaps offensive linemen other that established veterans such as right guard Brandon Scherff, left tackle Cam Robinson and left guard Tyler Shatley. Players to watch? Young tight ends Gerrit Prince, young linebackers such as Shaq Quarterman, young cornerbacks such as Benjie Franklin and young wide receivers such as Kevin Austin Jr. And keep an on kickers Ryan Santoso and Elliott Fry. These preseason games will matter a lot to those last two.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, what sort of things are the offensive linemen communicating to each other that makes it so important?

Blitz pickup, run calls, audibles, changes in pre-snap looks. Communication is critical for the offensive line, particularly in a modern NFL in which defenses increasingly change personnel packages and bring pressure from various players from all levels of the defense.

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

From what you have seen so far, who do you predict will our No. 1 and No. 2 receiver this season?

I expect Kirk to be the Jaguars' top wide receiver in 2022 and I expect Marvin Jones Jr. to be second.

Earl from Middleburg

Kicking competition, John? If Pederson decides to scrap both of them, how is it even a competition? I'm pretty sure staff already knows what product they have since they do only one thing. I tried out for field-goal kicker back in high school. Although I made three out of five kicks, I was scrapped in a millisecond. Coach said I had inconsistent form. I sucked and he knew it. The longer they wait to make a decision doesn't the pool of good available kickers dries up and prices start rising?

"I sucked and he knew it" made me laugh, but your question assumes that neither Jaguars kicker is good. I don't get the sense Pederson agrees.