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O-Zone: Already there

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Rusty from New Iberia, LA

If Brandon McManus is so good, then why was he cut?

McManus, a 10-year veteran kicker, was signed by the Jaguars Thursday after being released last Tuesday by the Denver Broncos. I don't cover the Broncos and therefore don't know that team's reasoning for moves in the way I might the know why the Jaguars make moves. There has been speculation among Denver media that the move was part of an overhaul of the Broncos' special teams by new Head Coach Sean Payton, who mentioned money and "musts" when discussing the move last week. Bottom line: New head coaches and their staffs often go in new directions. This feels like that. And remember: Good players get released often in the NFL, particularly good kickers. Former Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson was available last offseason because he was waived by the Detroit Lions. McManus was available this week because he was released. The Jaguars believe McManus' leg strength and experience makes him an upgrade over Patterson. That's why the move was made.

GPP from Savannah, GA

John, it's amazing how a change in head coaches can in a single season not only improve the team's record but more importantly turn around the players' loyalty and camaraderie to form a competitive culture.

The most important part of an NFL head coach's job is establishing belief and trust with professional football players, a group that sometimes don't give such things easily. Head Coach Doug Pederson is a good football man in many ways. He is very, very good in this area.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

With only three quarterbacks on the roster, and with starter Trevor Lawrence and backup C.J. Beathard probably not needing a whole lot of preseason snaps to knock the rust off, it can't be the Nathan Rourke Show for most of the three preseason games?

Why not? It's the preseason.

DJ from Grass Valley, CA

Wow, O! You are really good at answering stupid questions! As if Detroit wouldn't have taken Walker at No. 2 – AND, as if they wouldn't be happy based on the performance of a first-year player with an enormously high ceiling, developing quite nicely in his first year. Will he be the great rusher Trent thought he could be? Remains to be seen. But I'm pretty sure Hutchinson is about at his ceiling right now, so I'm OK with a slightly lower floor.

There are no stupid questions, only stupid senior writers. You're referencing a recent O-Zone question questioning Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke's drafts – and specifically, his decision to select Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson No. 1 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. My point in my answer likely will remain the truth at least deep into the 2023 season – that anyone claiming to know if the Jaguars were right or wrong is making the proclamation too quickly, and that anyone saying Hutchinson is better is premature in that assessment. Maybe he is. Maybe not. We'll have a better feel in 2023.

Matthew from Townsville, Tropical Australia

Hi, O. Isn't there still a vulnerability at nickel corner? Tre's stats are not reassuring, and a lot of opposing receivers and tight ends got open in that space last year. And what if Tre's injured? Wouldn't it be better if Tre was the backup? Wouldn't it give the pass rush more time if a high-quality nickel was there?

You're not alone in your assessment, and I – like many – figured the Jaguars would address nickel corner somewhere in the first two days of the 2023 NFL Draft. But the Jaguars re-signed veteran Tre Herndon there early in '23 free agency and appear fine with entering the '23 season with Herndon as the "starting nickel." I wouldn't be shocked if the Jaguars sign a veteran there before 2023 Training Camp or before the start of the regular season, but that's not a given. As for getting a "high-quality nickel" there, I don't know if you can find "high quality" there at that point. Whether you can find a legitimate upgrade now is the better question. I suspect the approach may be to sign a veteran pass rusher rather than a nickel. It's easier to help the secondary with pass rush than vice versa.

Conner from Fleming Island

When is training camp open to fans? Last year, they were at the high school. I know the Miller Center is supposed to be opened up and am excited to see it!

Jaguars 2023 Training Camp indeed is expected to be held at Miller Electric Center adjacent to TIAA Bank Field. There are expected to be multiple dates open to the public, something that was not able to happen when camp was held at Episcopal School of Jacksonville in 2022. The '23 training camp schedule and open dates have yet to be released.

Chris from London, UK

Zone. At first glance, I could see why they moved for McManus ahead of Patterson. But having read a bit more into it, while McManus' career stats are good, am I right in saying the last three years have been pretty average? Pretty sure I've heard you say it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.

I wouldn't overemphasize statistics here. I would focus on leg strength, experience and overall trust feel as the reason the Jaguars liked McManus over Patterson.

Andy from St Augustine, FL

Regarding the new kickoff rule and the reaction of some in the NFL (and some of your readers), Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid said, "We'll see how this goes. You don't want to take too many pieces away or you'll be playing flag football." While Detroit Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell said, "I hate that we continue to take away from the game." While I realize everyone thinks they will eventually do away with the kickoff, this new rule doesn't have to change anything. If Reid or ampbell or any other head coach wants to continue to have their players return the kickoff, they can do that. The rule isn't mandating a fair catch, it's just an option for players/teams now. Teams can continue to "not" fair catch the kickoff, and return it if they would like - what's all the hullabaloo?

What the coaches seem to be bemoaning is the idea that the rule will mean fewer kickoff returns. They are also bemoaning the move as part of an overall deemphasizing of the kickoff and kickoff/return as part of the game. Even though the rule doesn't mandate a fair catch, there seems little doubt there will be fewer returns. That will change the game somewhat in terms of overall field position and excitement. How much? We'll see, but Campbell and Reid are right that it will continue to change the feel of the game – at least somewhat.

Daniel from Fort Collins, CO

What's going on with Josh Allen? Should we be worried he isn't at "voluntary" OTAs? Is his absence contract related?

Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen is one of two players not attending voluntary organized team activities. I didn't include the quotation marks, because they're not needed. The offseason program indeed is voluntary. Players are under no obligation to attend and absence does not necessarily indicate dissatisfaction. Allen did not attend OTAs last offseason, preferring to work on his own in Arizona. Allen always has been a model teammate and player, and I never have heard coaches question his preparation or desire. Though he indeed is entering the final season of his 2019 rookie contract, there's nothing to indicate anything "going on here."

Sean from Jacksonville

At least we know any stadium upgrades won't happen for the next two years since the Florida-Georgia game will be played here until at least 2025. Do you see the new stadium start to be built after 2025's season?

That date makes a lot of sense.

Geoffrey H from Virginia Beach (By way of Kuwait)

I don't like the new kickoff rule, but let's see how it actually plays out. If this doesn't have the desired effect, maybe rethink something else. I like the idea of maybe having rules in place to lessen the length of the field the covering team and ballcarrier could travel. Say, only two players allowed behind the receiving team's 20 yard-line, and have all other covering and receiving team players line up around midfield. Kicker will still kick from the current spot, covering team cannot move past their line of scrimmage until the ball travels past them? The only reason I don't like my own idea is that it makes the onside kick irrelevant or even harder to achieve.

I expect the NFL to continue to explore ways to keep kickoffs at least somewhat in the game. As for the onside kick becoming irrelevant or harder to achieve, the NFL modified onside kick rules before the 2021 season so that kicking teams couldn't overload one side of the ball or the other. NFL kicking teams recovered three of 56 onside kick attempts in 2022. It's hard to get more irrelevant.