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O-Zone: Buckled up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Mike from Atlanta, GA

Did you catch that the first play of the season was a shotgun draw? I liked that. Is that why you say that run defense is the most important thing and if you can't do that nothing else matters … because you saw it play out in person? The Colts had a very good pass rush and one of the most efficient offenses of all time and one of the best quarterbacks to ever play. And the Jaguars just kept running the ball out of shotgun over and over and none of that mattered at all. That has to be one of the wildest things I ever saw in the NFL.

I think maybe you're referencing the Jaguars beating the Colts in the 2020 regular-season opener, or perhaps you're referencing another Jaguars-Colts game from days gone by, or perhaps you're referencing something from your latest fever dream; sometimes, it's hard to know the difference. As for why I say run defense is the most important thing in the NFL … it's not a specific play or game. I say that because it's reality. And because I know that if I'm a head coach I keep running until my opponent stops me because why would I risk interceptions or sacks if I can hand it to a running back and not worry about being stopped? And yes … the Jaguars beating the Colts in Week 1 last year was wild. And I'm sure there were other wild games. Wild stuff, man. Wild.       

Ryan from Otown, Utah

I know it's really hard to predict Game One in a regular-season game. My gut feeling is the Jags will win. What is your gut feeling on this one?

I'm not as confident in a Jaguars victory as I'd like. The presence of veteran Tyrod Taylor at quarterback for the Texans would worry me if I'm the Jaguars, as would the fact that the Texans are a veteran team; I think the Jaguars have a better core moving forward, but I wonder with a rookie quarterback and a young roster if they will be in synch in Week 1. I also worry about Week One Syndrome, which tells me that weird things happen in the regular-season opener because teams do things their opponents haven't been able to scout yet. I do think the Jaguars find a way to win. I don't see it being one-sided at all.

Stevie from in the neighborhood

Let's surprise them, Zone: first play, naked quarterback boot for a 75-yard touchdown.

Go big or go home.

Stevie from in the neighborhood

Ooops, I hope I didn't ruin the surprise?

Damn you.

John from Cape May Court House, NJ

The NFL is clearly committed to the international series in London. But why has their focus been solely there? If the end goal is to have an international team, why wouldn't they put a team in Mexico City or Toronto? Geographically, logistically and not to mention the time-zone align perfectly. Thoughts?

The NFL is interested in London because Europe is a major – and relatively untapped – market. I don't know that the goal is to have an International Team as much as it is to have the right situation internationally.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

What would you say the "leash" looks like for either tackle? If either Cam or Jawaan come out and struggle a lot in the first two or three games in pass pro, any chance they look at the big rookie? I'm hopeful they both look strong out the gate, just wonder barring injury what you think it looks like if they don't.

I would say the "leash" for Taylor and Robinson is relatively short – meaning they have to play well to stay in the starting lineup. If either player struggles mightily, I expect Little to get a chance because he clearly has starting-tackle ability – eventually. I doubt one game struggling would prompt a change. I don't know that two games struggling would prompt a change. But if the struggles were extended or pronounced ….

Bruce from St. Simon's Island, GA

O, Let's get to it!!!


Jim from Jagsonville

The story starts Sunday? What are you talking about, Ozher?! The story has been written, by Khan, Urban, all the fans that bought in and the players that sold out ... Super Bowl or bust! Go Jaguars! Moodachy! DUUUVALL! (Did I use the Oxford comma correctly?)

The Jaguars' 2021 regular season begins Sunday. (You used the Oxford comma correctly because you had a comma between "bought in" and "and the players that sold out;" because the Oxford comma has no place in journalistic-based writing – and because this is my column – I saved the situation and removed the comma. You're welcome).

James from Texas City, TX

Hoy John!!


Austin from Jacksonville

Have you had any meaningful interactions with cornerback Chris Claybrooks? I am very pleased he has made the roster and am actively rooting for him to ball out. I use Chris in Madden in one-on-one press situations, and he has made me quite a bit of cash. If you could pass this on to him, that would be pretty cool. I think he would dig it. (To get specific, I start him at SS every game I play for money. Which is silly, and he is a baller. I want him to know this fan really appreciates him being on the Jags, and he has helped me pay my bills on more than one occasion.) Thanks.

My interactions with Jaguars second-year cornerback Chris Claybrooks have been mostly virtual, and not particularly meaningful. This is not due to disinterest on my part, but rather to the nature of player/media interaction in the COVID-19 era. I certainly look forward to sharing the details of your virtual relationship with him. I don't know that he currently does cartwheels. I only assume he will be willing to learn.

Ol' Andy from Halifax

Are there any other NFL team beat writers that you enjoy reading or admire?

I admire many beat writers, particularly those who have been doing it a long time. It's a relatively thankless job, and typically a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week one. Names such as Ed Bouchette from the Athletic in Pittsburgh (formerly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) and John McClain from the Houston Chronicle come to mind, as well as Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. All three were covering those teams when I started covering the Jaguars for the Florida Times-Union and all are still working the beat. If you have been doing it that long, you have adapted from the days when newspapers were king, and your world was about daily deadlines and morning newspapers to the current Twitter-based, round-the-clock news cycle. The job is different now, and more difficult. Mike Reiss, who now covers the New England Patriots for ESPN, long has worked that beat as well as anyone. There are others, of course, but those are the ones whom I know, or with whom I am familiar or with whom I have worked with closely enough to know the quality of their work.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

If the Jags throw 58 times, do you expect us to win the game this weekend? The Bucs/Cowboys game was a fun game to watch, but the Cowboys threw 58 times. Yea, they kept it close, but can an NFL team win throwing that much per game? Or even remotely close to that many times? And yes, I'm aware they lost. The media hype the next morning makes it definitely seem like the earned the proverbial "moral victory."

You're referencing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys Thursday in the 2021 regular-season opener for both teams – a game in which Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw 58 passes. No, I do not expect the Jaguars to win Sunday if they throw 58 times. That's so far from what the Jaguars want to do that I am sure Head Coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell would tell you they don't expect to win if they throw that many times. One reason is they have a rookie quarterback – but rookie or not, more than 40 passes in a game typically is a formula for losing. Can an NFL team win throwing that many times? Sure, it happens. And Dallas nearly won that way Thursday, losing on a late field goal after Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady led a late drive. But it's hardly an ideal approach – and it's absolutely not the approach the Jaguars want to take Sunday.

Don from Marshall NC

I think a lot of people are underestimating this Jaguars team. There is a good group of star players and they will go far. The world is not ready for this Trevor Lawrence kid. He is going to light it up like Dan Marino did. Let all those negative people hide and watch! Go Jaguars!

You go, girl.