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O-Zone: Building block

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

David from Jax

I haven't read or heard mention about Cooper Hodges in quite some time. Is there anything to report on his status? There is constant conversation regarding our offensive line, but I never hear his name mentioned. Did I miss something?

You've missed nothing. Hodges, a guard from Appalachian State who the Jaguars selected in Round 7 of the 2023 NFL Draft, sustained a patellar injury in 2023 Training Camp. He was placed on the 53-man roster before being placed on injured reserve, a move that gave him a chance to rehabilitate and play as a rookie. But he was later ruled out for the season and therefore did not play a regular season game in 2023. The Jaguars like him very much and see him as a potential long-term starter. But that's projection. It's difficult to pencil him into the starting lineup never having seen him play significant snaps and it's also difficult to discuss him too much. But he'll be a storyline to watch this offseason and training camp – and likely figures into the future of this offensive line.

Tom from Sanford, FL

How long will the new kickoff rule last after the fans start booing before every kickoff?

I've thought about this a bit since the NFL implemented its new kickoff rules late last month, and I think the rules have a chance to be OK. They're designed to encourage kickoff returns while trying to increase player safety. It's not ideal. Ideally, human beings could hurtle themselves at other human beings at high speed like gladiators and never sustain life-altering injuries. Because human beings can't yet do this, the people who run the NFL must balance the appeal of the game's violence with the need for player safety. But short of ideal, I think the new rules might be good.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

Center Luke Fortner, linebacker Chad Muma, tight end Brenton Strange and center Tank Bigsby all seem like future Carolina Panthers. Which one(s) am I wrong about?

Stay tuned, I suppose.

Andrew from 904

With the changes to kickoffs, do you think the skill set for kick returners will change? Previously, speed mattered a lot because they had to outrun most of the kicking team but now it seems like it may be more about identifying the best hole to run through and breaking a tackle/making a defender miss, which seems to be more like a running back's forte.

This is very possible. I expect one way teams also will approach the new kickoff rule is to have kickoff returners who emphasize punt-return skills – i.e., quick acceleration and the ability to make defenders miss. Many third-down-oriented running backs are strong in these areas, too. But your point is correct – that with coverage teams and return teams lining up far closer to one another than they did under old kickoff rules, the contact points will look far more like plays from scrimmage than was previously the case. Running backs may be used here far more.

Nathan from Utah, US

He's Ours! He's Ours! Jaguars defensive captain for the next five years. With a chance to make Jaguars history and perhaps the Ring of Honor? What say you, Zone? I'm ready.

Could outside linebacker Josh Allen be in the Pride of the Jaguars some day? Sure. Without question.

Jon from Jax Beach

If what is being reported is true, seems unlikely Allen will be on the roster past 2025 without a restructure. Am I missing something?

The contract extension Allen signed this past week indeed is structured in such a way that what was reported as a five-year deal easily could be a three-year deal. This is because there is no "dead cap" hit if he is released following the 2026 season. The Jaguars also could get a near $19 million cap savings if he is released following the 2025 season. As we have seen with multiple Jaguars veterans in the last two seasons, restructuring a large contract always is possible – even probable – as a team manages its salary cap. That means a restructure is possible for Allen after the 2025 season. How likely is that? That remains to be seen.

Joel 40000 Martinson from Jacksonville

From observations over years, a question occurred to me. Would it be possible to be TOO successful in the draft? Let's pretend your first five picks all become starters by Year 2, and All-Pro the third and fourth years. Could a team actually be able to afford to re-sign all five to the highest paid at each position?

The team in your scenario probably would not be able to sign all five players. That's more a "good problem to have" than being "too successful" in that particular draft.

Holden from Callahan, FL

How likely would a Trevor Lawrence extension come before the season starts? Also, I'm excited for the draft because we have a plethora of options. If Florida State edge Jared Verse or Georgia tight end Brock Bowers is there at 17, would they consider taking one of them? Thanks for answering my questions.

It's absolutely possible that the Jaguars extend quarterback Trevor Lawrence's contract before the 2024 regular season. Lawrence is entering his fourth NFL season, and recent "franchise" quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills have signed their "second" contracts in the offseason before their fourth seasons. How likely? Let's say "relatively." As for how the Jaguars will use the No. 17 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft … I expect they would strongly consider Bowers and Verse if they were available. I expect them to select cornerback there.

Zach from Jacksonville

Last year for the NFL was the offseason of throwback uniforms. With the popularity of them in the NFL and fans constantly clamoring online for updated throwback uniforms do you think there's any shot it could actually happen this offseason? Thirty years of the Jacksonville Jaguars sounds like the right time to announce it. I know most teams introduce uniforms in April before the draft. The team listened to the fans once when it came to uniforms a few years back and made teal the primary uniform. And after all what is jersey designing for but to get fans to buy some merchandise?

So you're saying there's a chance …

Paul from Washington, D.C.

Since professional football revolves around money, why won't the Jaguars play one game in their classic 1990s uniforms? If even a subset of fans buy the jerseys, that means more revenue — and keeps long-suffering fans happy. Why not make more money?

Paul, meet Zach. Zach, meet Paul.

Bruce from Saint Simons Island, GA

O, It appears that there are several potential impact true No. 1 wide receiver in next week's draft. In today's NFL, it is my opinion that a true No. 1 receiver is of great importance. Any chance that the Jags go with a wide receiver in Round 1 and then trade up to take a good cornerback later in the first round or early in the second round?

There indeed appear to be multiple potential elite receivers available in the 2024 NFL Draft. If the Jaguars selected one at No. 17, it would be correctly applauded – and if the player fulfilled his potential, there would be few regrets. There are a couple of reasons I doubt the Jaguars will go that direction. One is this is a very deep receiver draft and many believe you can get starting-level receivers into the third and fourth round. Another is that the immediate need at cornerback and the long-term need (in 2025) at offensive line appears greater than the need at receiver. Still another is that the Jaguars feel they can be productive with the core group of wide receivers: Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Gabe Davis and tight end Evan Engram. One issue that won't be a factor is the Jaguars' history selecting wide receivers. I get many questions along these lines, with the theme essentially being that the Jaguars never have selected a good wide receiver in Round 1 so they shouldn't waste the selection. This is near the height of silliness won't matter in the least as the Jaguars execute the draft.

Charles from Savannah, GA

RJ Soward (wide receiver), Matt Jones (quarterback drafted as a wide receiver), Justin Blackmon (wide receiver) were all drafted in the first round by the Jaguars. They were all big-time busts. I'm hoping that they can break that record this upcoming draft.

If the Jaguars indeed select a receiver in Round 1 of the '24 draft they indeed want that player to navigate their NFL career in a better way than the aforementioned.

Don from Marshall, NC

Jaguars Head Coach Tom Coughlin Should have built the Jaguars to beat Tennessee Titans. That's the only team the Jaguars lost to in the 1999 season. Go Jaguars!

When it comes to "getting it," Don remains "all in."