O-Zone: Beacon in the night

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Zach from Orange Park, FL

Gardner Minshew II was the best rookie quarterback in the NFL last season (statistically speaking) and he went 6-6 as a starter. The offense will return everyone with the addition of more playmakers. The only real change will be with the offensive coordinator (Jay Gruden), which many pundits expect will help Minshew develop. I know there has been turnover on the defensive roster, but I'm failing to understand the idea that the Jags will have six wins this season at best. What am I missing?

Most NFL analysts – like most fans – base predictions on the previous season's records and offseason gains/losses. They also base them largely on common perception, meaning if a bunch of analysts start predicting a team will fare a certain way a bunch more analysts are sure to mimic that stance. What analysts typically fail to take into account is potential improvement from players on the roster. This is often where true improvement happens. The Jaguars went 6-10 last season, and they lost high-profile names such as defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and quarterback Nick Foles in the offseason. It doesn't matter that this group – outside of perhaps Campbell – contributed comparatively little to the Jaguars last season. The perception is that they were major losses. There's also a perception nationally that Minshew was a nice story but not as good as some other young quarterbacks. None of that perception is reality, and the Minshew stuff isn't fair to him. Whatever. None of it matters. What matters is how it plays out on the field. The Jaguars believe they're better than last season, and there's little reason in reality to think that's not true. That doesn't mean they're a playoff team, but neither does it remotely mean they're destined to be the NFL's worst team in 2020.

Robert from Fernandina Beach, FL

I know fans are going to fan regarding the news that Will Richardson Jr. will now be the starting left tackle and rookie Ben Bartch will start at right guard, but what I thought about the whole thing was, "Cool, we just upgraded two positions on the O-line with one fourth-round round pick."

I don't know what fans will do in this case, but let's clear this up. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone on a video conference Friday said Richardson will move to left tackle full time and he said rookie Bartch will start out with the Jaguars at right guard. This caused some confusion, with many observers believing Marrone meant Richardson will start at left tackle and that Bartch will start at right guard. That's not the case. Marrone certainly will say there will be competition at both spots, but the expectation remains that Cam Robinson will start at left tackle next season with A.J. Cann starting at right guard.

unhipcat from carslbad, ca

Hi, John. Re the upcoming season: winning is best, yes. But exciting, entertaining games are an enjoyable second. Jags may not win the Super Bowl this year. Heck, they may not even go deep into the playoffs, but I believe the product on the field will provide a fun season. I think both offense and defense will be better, with offense having the potential to be quick-strike and exciting. So, yes, the Jags may not have a winning record, but I think they'll be fun to watch. And that's why I watch.

OK.

Mike from Navarre, OH

Hey O, there's really no buzz about the Jaguars "winning the offseason" this year. Now I know you put a ton of stock in these kinds of things, so do you think this is a good sign? Is it a sign we are taking a new approach?

It's a sign that the Jaguars didn't sign many high-profile unrestricted free agents. It's not a sign of much else.

Josh from Pensacola, FL

I have a really good feeling heading into this season. The O-line and dissension within the team are my only concerns. I just want to see a group of guys playing hard for each other and no drama on or off the field. There is enough talent on this roster to seriously compete. Attitude will be the factor and I feel like this team will have the attitude necessary for success. I'm always positive heading into the season but I really feel like this season is going to exceed expectations by a mile. Go Jags!

There's no reason to believe there will be dissension. The two players who seem to concern fans most on this front are defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and running back Leonard Fournette. Ngakoue's issue isn't with teammates; it's with the front office over his contract. The team reportedly just before the 2020 NFL Draft explored the idea of trading Fournette, but – as is the case with Ngakoue – Fournette never has had a problem with teammates. Here's the reality of locker-room "dissension" and "attitude:" most teams begin seasons enthusiastic and all in. Coaches tend to "lose locker rooms" when teams began losing and players realize they're out of contention. I expect the attitude to be positive around the Jaguars this season if things go well and not as positive if things go awry. As for the offensive line … many fans share your concern. The Jaguars believe it's better than observers believe. It's an area where the team must be right.

James from Upper Marlboro, MD

John, I have been a fan of the Jaguars since we were awarded the team. I moved to Duval County in 1993 and was excited to see big things happening when I moved to Jacksonville. I joined the military and the Jaguars went on an unforgettable run from 1996-1999. We got spoiled because of this. Since then, 2005, 2007 and 2017 are the only times we tasted the postseason. I understand regime changes and all of that, what I don't understand is why does it seem like every regime doesn't take drafting a quarterback as serious as say the Packers, Chiefs, Cardinals, Dolphins and even the Browns?

The Jaguars have selected three quarterbacks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft in the last 17 years—Byron Leftwich in 2003, Blaine Gabbert in 2010 and Blake Bortles in 2014. That's a large number by any measure. They also during that span made Nick Foles a highly-paid free agent, and re-signed David Garrard and Blake Bortles to second contracts. The Jaguars take acquiring a quarterback seriously. They just haven't been successful at acquiring a good one.

Bran from Jacksonville

I was a bit surprised by the recent Coaches Corner piece. Ron Middleton is it? How does the position coach for Jaguars tight end survive for eight years? Results have been abysmal. What does Middleton bring to the table? Just bad luck? Sorta perplexing?

A position coach can make players better. Making miracles is a different matter. You coach what you got.

Garrett from Edgewater, FL

As a career cook at this point in my life, I feel that I have to agree with the guy yesterday. Sbarro is trash fast food pizza.

Blasphemy.

J. Hooks from Fleming Island, FL

Yo! I love that we have all the home games here at the Bank, BUT we've never really established ourselves as a good "home" team since I can remember. I'm not spouting negative, but can we really look at home games as an advantage anymore?

The Jaguars haven't been good at home in most recent seasons because they haven't been good anywhere in most recent seasons. Good teams tend to be better at home. Bad teams? It doesn't matter all that much where they play.

Rob from Jacksonville

You still don't understand how an NFL team would tank for the No. 1 pick? Zone, it's easy, try to follow along ... first you ask Fournette to purposely play poorly in a contract year so a team he will no longer be with next year can ...wait.

Fair.

Gary from Centerville, OH

Do I need to pay shipping for that trophy? Asking for a friend.

Yes, but you won't need to pay for the trophy itself. It's part of the sign-up fee. #Everybodywins. #Neverkeepscore

John from Jacksonville

Hello KOAGF - I generally think of you as bright. but even the brightest light bulbs flicker when there is a power surge. With regards to your interpretation of Jim's question ... yes ... you were dim. That's OK. Most of us understood the point he was making was not about contracts.

Nah. I wasn't dim. Jim compared Minshew's stretches of ineffectiveness as a rookie last season to the Jaguars signing Bortles to an extension following similar stretches of ineffectiveness. His point that the Jaguars shouldn't have signed Bortles to the extension has merit. No one disagrees with that. It just doesn't have anything to do with Minshew. Also, remember: My lights never flicker. I am a beacon of wisdom and coolness, forever burning bright on the darkest of nights.

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