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O-Zone: Closer and closer

Posted Jul 22, 2013

JACKSONVILLE – We’re just about there.

It’s hard to identify a specific day to mark the end of the Dead Zone. It is, after all, at its heart an unofficial designation, given to the time of the NFL calendar year in which there is little football going on, but in which there is still a lot of interest.

Lacking a specific, official ending date . . . well, today is as good a day as any.

Jaguars training camp isn’t beginning today. There is, in fact, no on-field work until Friday, but rookies report to EverBank Monday morning, and quarterbacks do, too, so dead?

No, things are no longer dead around EverBank Field.

That should mark a change in the O-Zone, too. More football. And maybe even a bit less Moodachay.

Training camp is four days away. Football is here. Here we go. #Moodachay.

Let’s get to it . . .

Nick from Jacksonville:
Last offseason, there was a lot of talk about how it was going to take time to learn the new offense, especially with all the moving parts. Do you expect it to be as hard to learn in the beginning as it was last year? Also, how do you expect that to affect the quarterback battle and rookies like Robinson and Sanders?
John: I don’t believe this offense will be as difficult for the players to learn as last season’s offense, which in retrospect appeared to have been a bit too difficult considering a lot of factors – the experience of the starting quarterback chief among them. The absence of Maurice Jones-Drew much of the season also didn’t help last season, but mostly players will tell you it just never came together. But you asked about this season, and the answer is players don’t think it will be as difficult. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch wants to be up-tempo and wants quarterbacks making decisions at the line of scrimmage, but all indications are he’s building the offense to the players’ strengths. That should help both quarterbacks and Robinson and Sanders play well. We shall see.
Steve from Denver, CO:
O - John L. rode on Paul M.'s back just like Red Auerbach rode Bill Russell’s. Didn't George Harrison sell more albums (remember them?) and CDs apart from the Beatles than Lennon?
John: For your sake, I’m glad you didn’t go on any longer. You were just embarrassing yourself.
Wayne from Atlanta, GA:
The one good thing about this moodachay thing is it really speeds up my reading of your column. I just skip any question/answer that even has the word in it and voila...finished in half the time. I for one hope that word disappears forever when we have real football stuff to talk about.
John: What’s really awesome is now people can skip this question, too.
Tom from Beaufort, SC:
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in an ESPN article that he expects a team in LA in the near future. I thought it was amazing that the Jaguars were not mentioned once in the article.
John: I didn’t see the article, but it’s not surprising. People seem to have accepted that the Jaguars and Los Angeles isn’t something likely to happen. Unfortunately, a lot of that acceptance seems to be because national media types have become convinced the Jaguars are moving to London. Ah well, London or L.A., you can’t control perception, and the national media probably will continue to link the Jaguars to a move for quite some time. A lot of that is because the national media isn’t listening or paying close attention to Shad Khan, but as I’ve said often, the perception of this story isn’t what’s important. What’s important is reality, and the reality is that Khan’s actions speak louder than the words of observers.
RG from Orange Park, FL:
Hey O-Man! Thanks for the dead-zone entertainment. Can't wait for a ticket package to appear for my family's next trip to London that includes a ticket to Wembley to watch our Jags along with one to Craven Cottage to see Fulham FC in the same trip. Sign me up! Then, gotta make time to see the sights and be sure to show the kids Big Ben, Parliament...Big Ben, Parliament...
John: Word.
Jordan from Lincoln, NE:
"Wow dad, we must have jumped that rail by like 50 yards." "Nothing to be proud of Russ . . . 50 yards."
John: I’m so hungry, I could eat a sandwich from a gas station . . .
Wayne from Evansville, IN:
What’s the most-pressing story you’ll be watching early in training camp?
John: Early in training camp – before the pads go on – I’ll want to see what the Jaguars are doing with the wide receiver position. With Justin Blackmon returning from offseason groin surgery, there will be plenty of time to work in repetitions for Mohamad Massaquoi, Ace Sanders, Mike Brown, etc., and see what the best rotation will be early in the season when Blackmon is serving his four-game suspension. Once the pads go on next week, it’s going to be intriguing to watch the interior of each line. Offensive guard Will Rackley, offensive guard Uche Nwaneri, guard/center Mike Brewster, defensive tackle Kyle Love, defensive tackle Roy Miller. There are a ton of storylines on the interior of each line, and a lot of those are going to play out in the next few weeks.
Ray from Jacksonville:
So, is there a writer for an English equivalent of the New York Post tweeting that Fulham Football Club is a lock to move to Jacksonville and be the first Premier League team to have its home stadium on foreign soil?
John: Maybe, but the Dead Zone is coming to an end, and maybe the concern with who is tweeting what about London should be, too. For now, at least.
Phillip from Tampa, FL:
Training camp opens Friday. Where do you think the Jaguars will be most improved next season?
John: People raise their eyebrows when I suggest this, but there’s a real chance the team could be significantly improved offensively this season—and that’s not just offseason speculation. That’s particularly true once Blackmon returns from his four-game suspension. Luke Joeckel should make the offensive line better – not only by solidifying the right tackle position, but also by making Nwaneri and Marcedes Lewis better around him. Lewis is a particularly intriguing story, because he looked as enthusiastic and optimistic in the offseason than he has since 2010, when he made his only Pro Bowl. Whoever starts at quarterback should be better with more time, and Cecil Shorts III looks like the best wide receiver the team has had in nearly a decade. If Maurice Jones-Drew is healthy, suddenly there are pieces in place in a lot of areas – pieces with a chance to be productive. This is not to say the team is going to rival the ’99 Rams – or even the ’99 Jaguars – but it has a real chance to get well out of that No. 32 range offensively it has been stuck in for two seasons.
Kamal from San Francisco, CA:
I know you were a huge Redskins fan in the 80s, so what's the deal with a kicker winning the MVP in 1982??
John: Mark Mosley winning the NFL Most Valuable Player award in 1982 indeed is one of those happenings that when you look back on it might seem bizarre. It likely wouldn’t happen again, but the circumstances lined up correctly that season. Mosley that season set an NFL record for consecutive field goals at a time when field goals still weren’t as automatic as they are today. He also beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a game early in the season with an overtime field goal, in addition to beating the New York Giants in a late-season nationally televised game – this time with a field goal in difficult conditions late in regulation. The regular season was shortened to nine games that season because of the strike, so there really weren’t a lot of dominant individual performances. Late in the season, the Redskins surprisingly had the best record in the NFL and Mosley was a huge reason why. As odd as it sounds, when Mosley was awarded it didn’t seem as ridiculous as it might now. John Riggins went on to be the Super Bowl MVP that season, and his postseason effort is rightly remembered as the keystone for that team, but entering the playoffs, Mosley was a huge reason they had home-field advantage.
Dude from Jacksonville:
How much do you think Khan's mustache would fetch on eBay?
John: Lots.
Anonymous from Jacksonville:
To Moodachay, or not to moodachay: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of unreasonable fans, Or to take arms against a sea of haters.
John: I can’t even spell nobel. #Moodachay.
Christo from Atlantic Beach and Section 8:
I've been trying for months to email you a question - but can't seem to find your email address so I can do just that. Can you help? I'd really like to send you a question.
John: Four days until training camp.

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