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O-Zone: Almost time

JACKSONVILLE – One. Day. More.

Let’s get to it …

Hulky Baby Yea! from Las Vegas, NV

Ok, it's early. Preseason hasn't even kicked off yet. You're tirelessly answering important Dead Zone questions to kill time as we write these questions to do the same. Fingers hurt, feet hurt, stomach hurts (too many jalapeños in your southwest omelet). But the first four games of the regular season are a tough lineup out of the gate. What is your premature prediction for the Jags after four (what looks to be postseason implications) challenges out the gate? I feel like I'm riding with Malik and saying 4-0. What say you?

With apologies to Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson’s oft-cited 16-0 prediction for the Jaguars’ 2018 season, I can’t get on board with an unbeaten forecast; the NFL is just too balanced to predict such a thing. But I agree with you regarding the first quarter of the Jaguars’ 2018 season. The first four regular-season games rank among the Jaguars’ toughest stretch of the season – a road game at the New York Giants to start, followed by home games against the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots and another home game against a 2017 playoff team (Tennessee) then finally a home game against the New York Jets. There’s not a game in that stretch I would predict the Jaguars to lose – including New England. Still, considering the difficulty of the stretch – and considering the unpredictability of the early part of the NFL season – I predict the Jaguars will finish the first quarter 3-1. If they do, all goals for the regular season will remain well within reach. If they go 4-0, I would consider them favorites for homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. But make no mistake: the first quarter is critical. Considering three of their seven games at TIAA Bank Field come in the first four games, they need to get out of that stretch at least .500. Anything worse, and the pressure will be dialed up. High.

Steve from St. Mary’s, GA

I don't like it.

Who does?

Tyler from Jacksonville

The thing about Duuuuval, O-man, is that it is organic. I am afraid that the team's public embrace of the chant will take away from it much like the first time your mom started a Facebook page – or that time your dad liked the same band as you. In other words, it may lose its cool factor. Maybe this isn't a worry of the team's, but I believe being told when to chant it – or even to chant in unison – takes away. Duuuuval is to be spontaneously yelled by whoever, whenever the spirit hits them. Duuuuval is in all of us and when it chooses to unmask itself is best left up to the fates ...

My mom’s awesome at Facebook and my dad never liked any bands I liked. Duuuval will remain cool because the team can’t tell you to chant it walking the ramp at TIAA Bank Field after a game, or at the BCB tailgate, or when you see someone else with a Jaguars shirt in an airport in some far-flung locale. Duuuval transcends all and it will remain cool. (By the way, I lied. My mom sucks at Facebook. Give her a break. She’s 79.)

Bill from Jacksonville

"Little can be done to change how these people feel – or how they grasp certain happenings." One very simple thing could be done. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan could release a statement through the team stating, “As long as I am the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, this team will always remain in the City of Jacksonville. And I’m never selling the team; instead it will be passed to my son Tony Khan who will maintain the same presence as I have in this great city. Thank you.” That could be done, and I suspect there’s a very obvious reason it hasn’t been. Thanks! Go, Jags!

Your referencing the fact that Khan never has made a declarative statement about not moving the team to London. And it’s true that he hasn’t issued a press release or stood on a podium and made a showy statement to such an effect. Why not? While such a statement might appease a few people for a short time, many people – fans, observers, media – would quickly disregard it and hold the same distrust they currently hold. Khan’s approach on this issue since purchasing the team has been to let actions speak rather than words. He’s smart enough to know words – even bold, team-issued statements – only mean so much, and that actions mean more. Khan’s actions in nearly seven years as owner have strengthened this franchise immeasurably. His commitment to Jacksonville has been remarkable, and he continues to spearhead improvements in and around the stadium that were beyond imagination before he took over. Bottom line: if you’re not inclined to believe Khan when he says actions speak louder than words, you’re probably not inclined to believe a team-issued statement for very long, either.

Strnbiker from Dothan, AL

R.I.P. Dead Zone 2018. Time for the fun to begin?

“fun”

Jami from Wye Mills, MD

John, I’m not sure what’s driving the renewed questions about playing in London. I’m not sure how many people remember the Green Bay Packers used to play two or three home games in Milwaukee annually to boost revenue and fans. They played there for almost 40 years, finally ending that arrangement in 1994. While that venue is much closer than London, the basic tenets are the same. DTWD!

True.

Jim from Middleburg, FL

OK ... I had not been a real Dante Fowler Jr. fan until I finally had a chance to re-watch the AFC title game. During the first half Dante made three big plays in critical situations. Are we sure about letting him go?

No one with the team has indicated that the Jaguars want to let Fowler go – either in the short term or the long term. When the team opted this past May to not pick up his fifth-year option for 2019, the team issued a statement specifically saying the hope was that Fowler would earn a long-term contract with the organization with his play next season. That seemed a reasonable approach. Fowler has made a lot of big-time plays and shown a lot of big-time potential. He hasn’t been consistent enough in two seasons to yet merit a long-term mega-deal, but he certainly has shown enough that the team shouldn’t rule out making such a deal happen.

Stephen from Somewhere

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles played very well at the end of the season last year, especially in the playoffs. I think the only thing he really has not yet done is to lead a fourth-quarter comeback victory. Down by four, with 1:48 left on the clock, he leads the team to a touchdown to win the game.

This remains a knock on Bortles – and it’s a fair knock. NFL games are often decided in the final minutes, and what separates playoff teams from near-miss teams often is the ability for a quarterback to make magic once or twice a season in that situation. Bortles has yet to engineer such a comeback. But here’s something to remember before concluding that he is incapable of doing so. The Jaguars during Bortles’ first three seasons struggled in many areas, and fell short in many areas. Bortles’ career in a very real sense is difficult to judge before last season. And while Bortles didn’t engineer a fourth-quarter comeback last season, he did play well at times in clutch situations – particularly in a second-half drive in a playoff victory over Buffalo and throughout the second half of a playoff victory the following week in Pittsburgh. Those performances don’t erase some late-game flubs by Bortles last season. He threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers and had a fourth-quarter interception in a loss at Arizona. Still, while “Bad Blake” showed up in some late-game situations last season, he played well enough in some critical late-game situations that it’s reasonable to believe there are fourth-quarter comebacks in his future.

Big on Blake from Philly

Not a question more of a story. Yesterday at work, Sir O-ness, I encountered a patron wearing a Jacksonville Jaguars T-shirt. Due to the nature of the environment, it took an incredible amount of will and inner strength not to scream “Duuuuuuuuval” through the halls. Last year, playoff time I was alone in wearing my Allen Hurns jersey when given opportunity to support playoff teams remaining. Now I’m turning corners and meeting fellow fans in the belly of the defending Super Bowl champs stomping grounds. It’s cool. I like it. A LOT. DUUUUUUUVAL

Duval

Original Season Ticket Holder from Right Below Freddie T’s Ring of Honor

The thing that's special about the Duval chant, and I witnessed this firsthand at Patriots Place in January, is that one well timed "Du-val" and the usually massive response immediately drowns out and kills the opposing fans "Let's go whoever"

Duval

John from Jacksonville

Can the Dead Zone be extended for a few weeks? I still have so much to do around the house before I can relax and enjoy football. #LongHotSummer

Nope. One. Day. More. It’s time.

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