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O-Zone: A long distance

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Pat from Duval

In the past week, several Jaguars players have been described as fun. Is their ability to "play" the game an advantage or disadvantage? Regarding Gardner Minshew II, guys like Brett Favre, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning all knew how to lighten up a little.

A quarterback is by definition a leader, and the best quarterbacks certainly know how to "lighten up a little" just as they know they must lead by example with a tireless work ethic and set the tone in pretty much every way for a team. Having been around Manning for a decade in Indianapolis, I would tell you his work ethic and constant focus had more influence on the Colts' success during that time than his levity. But yes … he also knew when to have fun. My impression is that Minshew also prioritizes this properly. While his public persona is defined by the fun-loving "'Stache" aspect of his personality, he by all reports is tireless and dedicated "behind closed doors" enough that those around him daily don't think of the "'Stache" as much as they do the diligent quarterback.

Tom from Charlottesville, VA

One-on-one pass rushing drills? Is Oklahoma coming back?

Goodness gracious, no. Thankfully. The one-on-one pass-rushing drills to which you refer feature defensive linemen and pass rushers going one on one with offensive linemen in a controlled drill that emphasizes pass-rushing and pass-blocking techniques in a way that translates to games. The so-called "Oklahoma" is a drill in which players line up three feet from one another and run at each other, with the drill essentially ending when one of the players is on the ground. It's a violent drill, some would argue unnecessarily so. The NFL banned the drill in May 2019 because of injury and safety concerns.

Crash from Section 134

O Man! When will we see your NFL rankings? I look to you Obi Wan when making my U Pick 'Ems in our Mailman League.

My NFL rankings – and we all know how important they are – will begin running the week before the first regular-season games.

B.B. from Memphis, TN

Zone, what have you seen from rookie cornerback Chris Claybrooks at practice? Has his speed been noticeable? Might we see the Corey Grant fake punts again? I used to enjoy those.

Claybrooks – a seventh-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft – has been impressive in practice during 2020 Training Camp; he was particularly good Saturday, breaking up two passes. It's difficult to gauge from practice how effective Claybrooks' speed will be on special teams in the regular season because teams don't really go live returning punts and kickoffs during practice. But yes … his speed is noticeable.

Bradley from Zephyr Cove, NV

I thought Ohio State defensive end Chase Young (Washington) and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (Denver) were the only "can't-miss" players in the 2020 NFL Draft. I was disappointed when the Jags passed on Jeudy. It appears the Jags' draft team was smarter than me because they were able to nab perhaps the best cornerback in the draft and this monster wide receiver, Laviska Shenault Jr. Why did this kid last till the second round?


Adrian from El Paso, TX

I've been reading recently how Minshew and the offense is coming together and even shining. While that's great to hear, I can't help but think maybe that spells bad news for our defense if they're getting "dominated" during red-zone drills. I guess what I'm trying to find out is should we be worried about our young defense getting beat a lot or excited about our improving offense? Has it been pretty balanced since practices started going seven on seven and live padded work?

This is the annual training camp quandary for every NFL team, and it's often an unanswerable question. If the offense has a good day of practice, does that mean it was a bad day for the offense or a good day for the defense? My sense right now is that the Jaguars' offense is ahead of the defense in a lot of areas, which isn't surprising considering the youth in the secondary and turnover on the defensive line. There also have been drills when the defense did a nice job stopping running back Leonard Fournette, and other sessions in which defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen and other pass rushers appeared to get pressure on quarterbacks that might have ended drives. It's also important to remember that those observing practice don't always know exactly what coaches are trying to get out of specific drills. But overall, the thought here is the good things you are hearing about the offense – particularly DJ Chark and the receiving corps – are true positives that should translate to the regular season. The group looks legitimately good.

Don from Marshall, NC

Minshew has played at a high level every place he has been. I think he is going to light it up. People are going to shocked at how good he will be. At the end of the season we will see what all those people who thought the Jaguars were the worst team in the league.

May the force be with you.

Steve from Jacksonville

I want to believe in the view that the offensive line is better this year. When you have so many defensive lineman leave, retire, out due to virus and you grab folks off the street, how can you determine the quality? If we had a great defensive line and the offensive line started to hold its own instead of getting pushed all over, then I would understand the improved theory. Isn't it just a hope Head Coach Doug Marrone has and not a fact yet?

Marrone would be the first to tell you nothing matters on this front until the games count. He's fond of saying "It's a performance-based business," and he uses that phrase often when assessing players and positions outside the regular season. Still, Marrone knows football and he particularly knows offensive line play – and he tends not to offer offseason praise if he doesn't truly believe it's merited. Based on how Marrone is talking about the offensive line during camp, he truly believes it's better than last season. Still, you're right that it's currently competing against a defensive-line group with major questions. Skepticism among observers regarding the offensive line in that sense is certainly merited.

Hoobastank from Agoura Hills

I miss O-Zone Late Night :(

I appreciate the sentiment, but nothing really has changed about O-Zone Late Night. The feature runs during the regular season, when I post an O-Zone Late Night on Sunday evenings following afternoon games. I anticipate doing this this season when circumstances permit.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

So, is wide receiver Chris Conley locked in to be the starter opposite DJ Chark Jr on opening day? Can Shenault learn the system and develop his route running quickly enough to start this season, or would they be content to play him situationally and in three receiver sets all year?

I would not say Conley is locked in to be the starter opposite Chark in Week 1 and I would not say Shenault will play situationally all season.

Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC

At this point, what's your best guess as to how the defensive line rotation looks to start the season? Who starts at what positions, and how does that change for obvious passing situations?

Best guess: Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue (when/if he reports) at end, with Taven Bryan and Abry Jones at tackle. I would anticipate Allen, Ngakoue, Bryan and rookie K'Lavon Chaisson being on the field in pass-rushing situations together – though Chaisson, Ngakoue and Allen might not be "down" on the line in those situations.

Doug from Jacksonville

I have told the wife and kids due to league restrictions on attendance this year I have to go to the games alone. Can you ask someone at the networks to not show the fans in the stands this year to ensure I get my eight Sundays, please? I know you got pull.

Well-played. Done.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey John, how are the linebackers doing so far? Is Schobert doing fine and how about Myles Jack? Seems we have to worry more about the defense than the offense this year. Any insights from training camp?

Both middle linebacker Joe Schobert and weak-side linebacker Myles Jack are doing as "fine" as possible in camp, meaning both players appear to be well in command of the defense and playing fast. That's about what you can gauge from linebackers in non-contact situations. Jack had a particularly good practice Saturday, perhaps a sign that he is as comfortable as the team anticipated in the move this season to weak-side linebacker from the middle.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, what kind of second-year jump would you expect Allen to make compared to his rookie year given what you've seen of him?