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O-Zone: Breaking the law

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Nicholas from Fort Cavazos, TX

KOAF: Based on your expertise covering the NFL, when do severe injuries occur on kickoffs? Do they mainly occur when the kicking team makes contact with the returner "unblocked" or do the injuries occur when the receiving team makes a "blind side but legal block" on the kicking team who is running downfield? If there is a "high mortar" kickoff and a fair catch is called for, aren't there still violent collisions and blocking since the play isn't dead until the returner catches the ball? I know the NFL most likely won't do this, but how about only allowing a fair catch outside of the end zone only being advanced ten yards and not to exceed the 25-yard line? This would still allow teams who can kick the ball high and deep to be rewarded by pinning the opponent inside the 20 while also allowing the return player an incentive to try and return the ball if he wanted to avoid being pinned as deep.

I haven't seen data specific to your question. And while my perception is that serious kickoff injuries typically occur in the two fashions you mention, I honestly don't know that one situation is statistically more dangerous than the other. I have while covering the NFL witnessed multiple sickening collisions on kickoffs, both regular and onsides, and I have seen multiple players sustain injuries on kickoffs from which they never fully recover – physically or mentally. And yes … there will still be risk of injury under the league's most-recent kickoff rule; it's impossible to legislate all such risk out of what inherently is a violent sport. As for your suggestion, it's not ridiculous to think the league could implement something like this. I expect the kickoff rules to be tweaked and massaged multiple times in the coming years. Reaction from players, fans and coaches in recent weeks suggests those tweaks won't always be welcome, but this is at once a perception issue and a safety issue. The rules-makers aren't going to stop focusing here just because some people don't like the changes.

Nathan from Tustin Community Hospital, CA

Zone, these kickoff rules are so simple: One: If the ball is in bounds, it's live. Two. If the ball goes out of bounds, it's a penalty. Three: If the ball reaches the endzone, it's a touchback. Period. Forward this to the decision makers. You can take the credit.

If those were the only kickoff rules, that indeed would be simple. And in a different era, those could have been the rules. But the NFL isn't trying to make the rules easy with the recently implemented fair-catch rules. The league is trying to make the game safer and therefore ensure its future. The rules-makers believe that giving the receiving team possession at its 25-yard line for any fair catch inside the 25 will serve that purpose because it will reduce returns – and therefore reduce the number of high-speed collisions that occur on the play. I tend to agree, even if it complicates matters and makes the game a bit less exciting.

Don from Marshall, NC

Imagine both field goal kickers were hot dogs. One hot dog has pork chicken and beef in it and some people cannot tell the difference between an all-beef hotdog with mustard on it. Go Jaguars!


Scott from Gilbert, AZ

Zone, your response Friday stated, "One of the rules regarding OTA media access is those who attend can't report specific formations and where players are playing." I'm curious whether that is a Jaguars team rule or league-mandated rule, and whether that rule was in place as the world was coming unhinged when running back Travis Etienne Jr. lined up at receiver in organized team activities while quarterback Trevor was nursing a wrist and avoiding handoffs?

It's a Jaguars rule, though the spirit of it is common around the NFL. Most teams restrict reporting such specifics from open practices when possible, with the exception being training camp practices that are open to the public. Remember: A lot of this sort of information becomes public when coaches or players discuss it. The restrictions are a way of preventing certain specifics from being widely reported. Sometimes, teams can get a little extreme and paranoid about this. But there are also a lot of times it makes sense in a league in which every team is seeking a competitive advantage.

_Lawrence from Blair, NE           _

To the question, "If kicker Brandon McManus is so great, why did they release him?" The answer, as it typically is, is right there when you follow the money. The cut saved the Denver Broncos $3.75 million in salary expenses and $2.5 million against the cap. If he was being asked to reduce his pay, you can't blame him for deciding he'd rather be released and explore his options. It seems pretty clear that is what happened when you look at the Broncos' complete lack of a strategy to replace him it seems.


Jeremy from Jacksonville by way of Miami, FL

Mr. O, there has been a lot of talk about improving the pass rush, and there has been much speculation that at this stage of the offseason and free agency that improvement must come from within the organization. Is it possible, in your opinion, that if the offense continues to improve as we expect it to in Year 2 in Head Coach Doug Pederson's system, that having a lead will force opposing teams into obvious passing situations and some of the talent already on the team will have a chance to shine and "pin their ears back," allowing the team to improve from within, perhaps with a third-tier pass-rushing free agent added this off-season?

This absolutely can be a factor, and I expect the Jaguars' pass rush to be more effective this season – at least in part for this reason. Remember: Not only did the Jaguars lose eight regular-season games, they trailed by double digits in their last four regular-season home victories. Teams trailing that often by nature get few pass rushing opportunities. Still, the Jaguars' pass rush must improve. The most important task for a team's pass rush is to get pocket-altering pressure in key situations. The Jaguars got better here late in the season, but it's still the most pressing concern entering 2023.

Mario from West Kelowna, BC

Zone. Enough with the talk about kickers. The only kicker worth talking about in the O-Zone is Scobee. You know it, he knows it, we all know it!


Doug from Jacksonville, FL

I wonder how many jobs and lost revenue would hit Jacksonville if the Cowford crowd gets their way with stadium funding. How many hotels wouldn't need people, how much less beer they would make and deliver to the stadium, how much less food would be purchased and delivered to the stadium, security guards, maintenance staff, all the things downstream that would affect everyday people, not the Billionaire who would still have a product in a different town. A team is so much more than home Sundays and 53 players.

There is truth here. There is legitimate debate over how much a professional sports team benefits a town financially. You can find arguments on both sides. I don't know how to find a specific answer that satisfies both sides. I do know that I lived in Jacksonville before the Jaguars and after the Jaguars arrived. While my professional involvement clearly makes me biased, even beyond that involvement I prefer the latter.

Reese from Loyal Jaguar fan in VA

I read it every day. So there's that. And. AND! Go Jags!!!!

Good eyes.

CaptBob from Jax

I like accuracy and clarity. The Jags did not initially trade kicker Riley Patterson. They waived him and I think the Detroit Lions were 19thin the waiver line. So they were not guaranteed of getting him. So, before the reported 4 p.m. finalization of his status the Lions opted to make the trade. So, no smart move by the Jags, they just lucked out. My non-published comment also stands. While the new kicker is an upgrade and having our punter kickoff was not fair or sustainable, that money spent could have helped sign an edge veteran free agent.

I don't know if acquiring a seventh-round selection really is causing that much debate, but OK. I guess. Maybe. As far as the money spent to sign McManus, the Jaguars could still sign another veteran free agent. One move does not eliminate the possibility of the other.

Jason from North Pole, AK

I appreciate that you seemingly intentionally follow up a question about being mad we are still talking about a topic in the O-Zone with another question about that said topic. However, I don't know if that falls in line with the rule about "being nice."

I don't follow rules. I just make them. I am the king of all funk.