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View from the O-Zone: Three thoughts …


JACKSONVILLE – Sometimes, you have more than one thought.

Sometimes, you have three thoughts. When you have three thoughts, you write all three thoughts in a piece called "three thoughts …"

Here are three thoughts on the Jaguars (1-0) as they prepare to play host to the Tennessee Titans (0-1) in the 2017 regular-season home opener at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.:

*One thought: This is the biggest game at the 'Bank in a long time.This is a "duh" thought, because it's an obvious thought. But it being obvious doesn't make it less notable. There were many big games at EverBank Field from 1995-1999, and many more from 2000-2010. Since then? Not so much. There was a regular-season-opening victory over Tennessee in 2011. And a Week 2 victory over Miami in 2015. The 51-16 victory over the Colts in 2015? Christmas Eve over the Titans last December? All were memorable on some level, but the Jaguars were under .500 for all of those games except – obviously – the '11 opener against the Titans. There were times during the aforementioned games the 'Bank rocked. There were times there was energy. There were times it was fun. But for the most part, there was precious little buzz, and tempered expectations. But after the 29-7 victory over the Houston Texans in Week 1, the Jaguars will be over .500 at the 'Bank for the first time in way too long – since December 2010, to be exact. Is a Week 2 NFL game technically "big?" Maybe not, but this one will feel big and Sunday at the 'Bank most definitely will have a buzzworthy feel.

*On second thought: Allen Robinson's loss might be absorbable.This would have seemed crazy this time last season – and calling his loss "absorbable" in no way implies the Jaguars won't miss their best wide receiver. They will. But here's the difference: the Jaguars' offense last season was very much dependent on Robinson, who sustained a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament on the first series last Sunday. The offense last season needed him and quarterback Blake Bortles to connect on 50/50 balls as they had done in '15 – and when that didn't happen, the offense stagnated accordingly. The offense this season isn't built around 50/50 balls or anything about the passing game. As this team showed Sunday in Houston, it's going to be about running to get a lead, the defending that lead with an aggressive, attacking defense. Robinson was the Jaguars' best receiver in preseason and I believe he would have been the best receiver through the regular season. The team will miss him in the red-zone and on third-and-manageables. My guess is his absence costs the Jaguars a game or two. But the Jaguars' approach this season makes his absence far more manageable than it would have been this time last September.

*The much-anticipated third thought:Calais Campbell may be one of the rarest things in the NFL – a truly franchise-altering unrestricted free agent. NFL teams delve deep into unrestricted free agency at their own peril. The conventional wisdom in NFL circles is it's typically a way to overpay aging players who are available more because their old teams didn't want them than anything else. That conventional wisdom is usually right, because teams rarely let true building-block, tone-setting players go until they're past their primes. This is what makes Campbell so unusual. To hear teammates tell it, he's a rare player with the ability to lead immediately upon entering an unfamiliar locker room – and Campbell clearly became a leader this past offseason immediately upon arriving as an unrestricted free agent from Arizona. That was the Jaguars' hope when they signed him, of course. But the last 25 years of NFL free agency is littered with would-be-free-agent-leaders who fail to produce – and when players don't produce, leadership falls flat. Campbell did anything but fall flat in Week 1. He set a franchise-record with a career-high four sacks and added five quarterback hurries. It was a perfect scenario for the Jaguars' coaching staff: the guy they want younger players to model themselves after in terms of work ethic and approach off the field excelled on it. You get the idea Campbell's influence in the locker room will only grow from here; he will be a very hard presence for young players to ignore. And you get the idea he has a very real chance not only to be one of the best free-agent signings in franchise history, but a player who could be key to a long-awaited ascension from double-digit losing seasons. That's a big-time rarity, and a potential big-time home run of a free-agent signing.

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