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O-Zone: Chill, bro

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Josh from Atlanta, GA

WHEN the season happens – not if – this offense will surprise everyone outside of JAX. It will go unnoticed because all the talking heads will keep quiet – because they refuse to be proven wrong. None of that matters. Show improvement in the key areas we have gone over ad nauseum and this fan base will be as energized as I can remember. It was energetic in 2018, but there was always the looming shadow of former quarterback Blake Bortles giving the game away.

If the Jaguars' offense surprises everyone outside of Jacksonville, it won't go unnoticed. And the national media will talk about it. They won't talk about it enough to satisfy many Jaguars fans; few fan bases are satisfied on this front, because few fan bases believe their team gets the "love" or the "respect" from the national media it deserves. National media, by the way, is perfectly willing to talk about Jacksonville; the Jaguars received a lot of attention during their 2017 AFC South Championship season – and plenty more during their run the AFC Championship Game following that season. National media will talk about teams that win. The Jaguars have been disrespected by national media in recent seasons because they typically have done little to earn respect. But you're right in this sense: improvement will energize the fan base and improvement could mean a lot more victories than many observers/fans are expecting. If that happens, who really cares what the national media says or does? What will it matter?

Mark from Prescott, GA

Hi, John. I know it's extremely early and there are no pads on, but what are your first impressions of rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. and rookie defensive end/linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson? I'm hoping they will both be instrumental and improving the offense and defense, respectively – especially with … well, you know ... the unknown ending story of the unknowing story of that other defensive end?

As your email indicates, impressions of any players have been minimal thus far in Jaguars 2020 Training Camp because the practices thus far have been non-padded with no contact. They also have featured no seven-on-seven or team drills, with no one-on-one pass rush or receiving drills. Impressions will began being formed more fully next week when pads go on. Chaisson has been working on the side because of a minor hamstring issue – though he does look physically impressive from a distance. Shenault looks as advertised. He's physically impressive. That's true of both players and expectations are high for both. We'll see what happens when they put on pads.

Richard from Starke, FL

If Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue shows up on the eve of the season, and doesn't play in a game or two waiting his COVID-19 clearance to enter the facility, does he get paid for those missed games?


CJ from Jacksonville

Let's say the Jags kind of fall apart and end up with the first pick in the draft. But Gardner's individual performance is really impressive. Do you think even if Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager Dave Caldwell are possibly gone that that first pick would be used on a stud player at a different position?

If quarterback Gardner Minshew II is really impressive this season the Jaguars won't have the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Bob from Sumter, SC

Signing Tim Jernigan. I can see the plan to tank for Trevor Lawrence unfolding more clearly now. Shrewd. Very shrewd.

First, the Jaguars aren't tanking – but you know that already, and I imagine other readers of this forum also know this. But yes … the Jaguars reportedly are close to signing defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. They need defensive tackles. They're down in numbers. It's an intriguing signing because Jernigan is 27. He played just three games in 2018 after offseason back surgery and played just nine games last season. Where is Jernigan's health now? It appears he's going to get a chance to show the answer.

Adam from Wescosville, PA

Thank you, sir … may I have another?

No. Wait … yes.

Kelly from Cocoa Beach, FL

I'm an 11-time World Champion of Surfing and multiple winner of the Pipeline Masters contest. I know everyone that surfs Pipeline. Gene Frenette is a kook. He could barely surf the sandbar at Ehukai Beach.

Say what you want about me, Kelly. We can work through that. But you absolutely will not sully the name of longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette. Not here. Not on my watch.

Bruce from Surftown

Um, Kelly from Cocoa must be having acid flashbacks. To quote myself from last year: "Kelly must be Kookoo. I have already testified to having seen Mean Gene cut a 360 backspin while hanging 20 off a hurricane wave last fall." And I won't even comment on certain comments commenting on everyone's comments on Gene being unfunny or unentertaining. Anything Gene does or is reputed to have done is de facto funny, entertaining and worth every line in this inspiring forum. Surf on O!

What's a "comment?"

Derek from Daytona Beach, FL

Zone, How many more years (decades) do you think you'll have to kiss Frenette's butt until he may consider deeming you "adequate" as a mid-level reporter/senior writer? Or is the mere potential for such an accolade worth a lifetime of dedication, understanding that level of accomplishment may never be realized?

Three more. No, four.

Bruce from Owensboro, KY

Hey 'Zone! I really hope that Minshew can be the man this year. Even if the Jags go 8-8 if the losses don't fall on the shoulders of the quarterback then I think things will have a positive feel. This fan base desperately needs something to believe in. How critical is the success of Minshew to keep the fans interested in this team? We have been losers for way too long.

The success of Minshew is absolutely critical to keeping fans interested, because the Jaguars need Minshew to be successful to win. Fans stay interested in a winning team.

Shawn from the Mean Streets of Arlington

Would you agree that we all need some football?

You have no idea.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey John, from my point of view, this season will be more about staying healthy than talent. The team with the most discipline in this pandemic will have a chance at the Super Bowl. So maybe the playoff chances are higher for the Jags.

This is true to a point, but I still expect talent – particularly quarterbacking talent – to shape the season. I anticipate most COVID-19 absences to be a week or two rather than long-term, and I'm assuming (perhaps naively) that it will be rare for COVID-19 to sideline entire position groups or offensive/defensive units for long stretches. I assume this because of the intense measures and protocols the NFL has in place. As for the Jaguars' playoff chances, the thought here is they depend largely upon Minshew developing as the team and fan base hopes – and the development of young core players such as wide receiver DJ Chark, edge rusher Josh Allen and offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor. If those things happen and the offensive line develops as hoped … then yeah, I think this team can be better than many people expect. That's the case whatever happens with COVID-19.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, can you provide more specifics on how a quarterback with a "cannon" arm compares to Minshew II? Does this mean the ball arrives a half-second faster down the field meaning it's a strength-related talent or is there more to it than that?

Arm strength can be a subtle thing, but it's an important thing. Yes, it's often about the ball arriving a half-second later or sooner. But when you're throwing into secondaries with world-class athletes, that half-second can be the difference between a 20-yard completion on the deep out and that same pass being intercepted and returned for a touchdown. It can be the difference between completing a pass over the middle and the pass being deflected. It also can be the difference between not being able to call certain plays and not being confident in the ability to make certain throws in certain situations. It's not so much strength, usually, as a God-given gift – though players certainly can and have improved their arm strength.

Jeremy from Jacksonville

KOAGF: My brother wrote in to this column recently and his question wasn't answered the next day. It's been several days now and he keeps looking for his question. I tried to think to myself "What would the KOAGF say to him?" So I told him he should give up all hope and grab a slice of Sbarro pizza from the food court in the Avenues Mall and ponder about ways to improve his question writing skills. Sound about right to you?

What would I say to him? I would say, "Relax, bub. Not every question gets answered every day."