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JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Zach from Jacksonville

The Jaguars' additional 2024 NFC opponent is the Philadelphia Eagles. I haven't liked the way they went about the 17th game since it was started. Rather than having some sort of random 17th opponent, it would have made sense to go through regional rotations. For instance, the second-place AFC South team plays the second-place NFC South teams. It would build up rivalries in the region. Imagine a Jacksonville-Tampa cross rivalry. Jaguars-Eagles is OK next year and will probably be a good game, but it feels like the 17th game wasn't well thought out other than money, money, money.

The 17th regular-season game that the NFL added in 2021, while not a regional matchup, also is not "random." Teams in the "17th game" play the corresponding finishing team in a rotating division from the opposing conference. This is based on the previous season's standings. The Jaguars in 2023 played the San Francisco 49ers because they finished first in the AFC South in 2022 while the 49ers finished first in the NFC West. They will play the Eagles in 2024 because both teams finished second in their respective divisions (AFC South, NFC East). The idea is to be as balanced and fair as possible, though I'm sure most fans will find some way the formula is unfair.

Chris from Tampa, FL

On the subject of defenses playing nickel most of the time, why not by a trendsetter and build a team to run that over? I'm assuming teams are building that way on defense, so it wouldn't likely be a player substitution alone that would stop it. Buck the trend and make teams adjust around you.

The NFL is cyclical If defenses overall build to stop pass-oriented offenses, offenses do often counter that with becoming more run-centric. And vice-versa. But the rules of the game – as well as the college game veering more and more to pass-oriented offense – have made the NFL so pass-centric that there's a limit to how much most teams will veer toward a power offense.

Greg from Section 122, Jacksonville

In response to your many responses about the way of NFL changing for player safety and it not stopping … I disagree based on this: If they keep changing the rules to make the game unwatchable, people won't watch. And yeah … it can happen – even to the mighty NFL. If you take away or remove the very fabric of what makes the product popular, then the product stops being valuable. In this case, I submit the most valuable aspect of the NFL (or at least football as a sport) is the collisions, hits, violence and other barbaric aspects. As to the players suing or whatnot. Give me a break. About as reasonable as the people suing tobacco for smoking after years because you get cancer. Life is choices. You chose to play football, you accept the RISK that you could get hurt. Don't want the risk, don't play.

The NFL has been working to make the game safer for a long time. If you use the implementation of the concussion protocol as the starting point for this "trend," that means the trend began in 2011. I have no sense that the NFL is less popular now than 13 years ago. Maybe you're correct. Maybe not. Either way, I would be stunned if the NFL reverses the trend of trying to make the game safer.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

I think having a healthy Cam Robinson at left tackle to start the 2024 season will be a difference maker for this team. Last year, he was suspended for the first four games, potentially contributing to the two September losses at home versus the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. Had we won just one of those two games the final outcome for the season would have been different?

Well … they would have been in the postseason.

Andy from Alpharetta, GA

I used to feel the same way as other O-Zoners regarding the rule changes that make things "safer." Then I watched a game from the end zone and realized how incredibly fast and huge these humans are. I think you can make rules for the safety of the game and still be a "violent and tough" sport – even if it provides some gray area or annoying calls against your team. Think of the horse collar tackle: I don't feel deprived of action at all. And if they still think the game is "too soft," I would encourage them to volunteer to jump into the air while a safety - any NFL safety - gets a running start and hits them in the rib area. After that, then they can weigh in on if not being able to launch into someone's head is just "for sissies."

The NFL will continue to strive to make the sport safer and fans – and aging sportswriters – will continue to vary in opinions on how the game is changing. So it always has been and so it always shall be.

Brian from Round Rock, TX

Why did we sign Josiah Deguara when we have the great Josh Pederson? This makes no sense.

I sort of laughed at this despite myself.

Larry from Duncan, OK

Great and Powerful O: Joe Gibbs is the only NFL head coach to win three Super Bowl championships with three different quarterbacks. In fact, none of the three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Do you think it would be more prudent for the Jaguars to build their team around a "Fred Taylor" and tough defense? Why not keep the quarterbacks within the rookie salary structure and not overpay for another bust? The Gibbs model seems reasonable - invest in the offensive line and defense plus find a John Riggins! Or Derrick Henry - oops he got away.

The "Gibbs model" is indeed unique. He won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks with Washington – Joe Theismann (1982), Doug Williams (1987) and Mark Rypien (1991) – and none were really all that close to being Pro Football Hall of Fame-level players. He also came within a game of a Super Bowl with Jay Schroeder at quarterback following the 1986 season. But I don't think it's prudent for current teams to try to follow that model. First, that Gibbs is the only head coach to achieve the feat shows the outlier nature of the approach. Also: Gibbs won those three Super Bowls before the salary-cap/free-agency area. Those Washington teams kept much of their core together for long stretches, something that's difficult – if not impossible – to do in this era.

David from Chuluota, FL

Zone - Free agency is a risky business, but one thing that increases the odds for success is when the free agent has played for one of our coaches before. The familiarity gives one the sense that the team knows exactly what the player can do and the player already knows the coach's philosophy, so there's less ramp-up time. With new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, I was expecting a few of his disciples find their way to Jacksonville. I think bringing in some players experienced in Ryan Nielsen's schemes would accelerate the learning curve of our defense. Thoughts?

It's better to have good players who fit a scheme than OK players who are familiar with a coach.

Art from Glassboro, NJ

I think the new kickoff rules will be fun. I understand why they originally changed the rules, but they went too far, I think this will be a great mix. Do you think it will lead to more running backs returning kicks?

Not necessarily, though I do expect the new kickoff rules implemented this past week will cause teams to continue to emphasize – or perhaps re-emphasize – finding game-breaking returners and players who can stop game-breaking returners.

Ronnie from St. Pete, FL

Great O-Man, so we know going into the draft that the Jags still have a lot of work cut out for them if they wan to improve next season and we all know something's got to give in order to not go through another late collapse like this past year. I had this dream the other night that the Jags swung for the fences and traded up to the third pick get a WR1 to replace wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Any chance we see this happening come draft day?

Is there a chance? Sure. There's always a chance. Is it likely? No.

Paul from Columbus, IN

Do you think at this rate the NFL will become flag football? I understand player safety, but they know the risks of playing the sport. It seems like the NFL will be losing fans if this game gets any softer.

I do not think the NFL will become flag football. I do think we will continue to see rules designed to make the game safer. The NFL is by far the most popular sport in the United States, and I've seen nothing to indicate that's changing.