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O-Zone: Class act

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

It may be a bit early for this question, as training camp hasn't started; we don't know what the final roster will look like; and coaches tend to stick to vanilla schemes in the preseason. With those caveats, what do you think we'll learn about the revamped Jaguars on August 4 at the Hall of Fame Game?

The Jaguars play the Las Vegas Raiders in the Hall of Fame Game August 4 in Canton, Ohio, their first appearance in that game since their inaugural 1995 season. How much will fans learn about the Jaguars in that game? A little, I suppose – though realistically not much. This is true for a couple of reasons. One is your third caveat – that NFL head coaches prefer to reveal very little during preseason games. But perhaps the biggest reason is front-line players likely will play sparingly in the game – and it's possible some won't play at all. Despite the game's national profile, it's still the preseason opener. I expect Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson will play most starters for a series or two in the game, but I would be surprised if they played more than that. We'll get an early idea in that game about who coaches like in some starting positions, I suppose, and we'll get a basic look at schemes and formations. But anything detailed? Or anything exotic? No, not in the Hall of Fame game.

Nick from Palm Coast, FL

Where do you see Chad Muma fitting in on this defense?

Muma, a linebacker from Wyoming, was the No. 70 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Jaguars. He was a surprise selection because the Jaguars had signed inside linebacker Foye Oluokun as an unrestricted free agent and selected Devin Lloyd from Utah No. 27 overall in the draft – and that makes your question about where he will fit a legitimate one. With Oulokun and Lloyd likely starting in base packages, I expect Muma will begin this season in a reserve role in the Jaguars' base defense with a huge role on special teams. I also expect him to have a role in some defensive sub-packages – with specifics on these roles to be determined. The biggest benefit for the Jaguars from drafting Muma could come in future seasons. If he's not contributing in a big way defensively as a rookie, I expect he will start relatively soon and be very good for a long time. You don't always draft for immediate "need." Sometimes the best selections are about players too good to pass up at the spot. Muma feels like the latter.

Not Gary from Not St. Augustine, FL

I want to play footsies with you, too. I hate you, too. Please validate me. Which way did he go, George?

I'm a little nervous right now.

Dan from Munich, Germany

Hi, Zone. I recently watched the movie "Concussion" with the guy who likes to slap people on stage (Will Smith). There was some footage in the movie from some viscous hits. I realize how dangerous football was in the past, but I really miss those times. Still remember the punisher in the middle of the Jags defense at that time, Donovin Darius.

There's little question that many NFL fans feel as you do. Part of me does, too. Football is a different game these days without as many punishing hits, many of which have been legislated out of the game in recent seasons. That has been part of the league's continued trend to becoming offense-centric – that without such violence on defense, receivers are far freer to roam the middle of the field. And defenders indeed are discouraged from intimidating receivers anywhere on the field. Does it hurt the game's entertainment value? Yeah, probably. But player safety is paramount – and for the long-term survivability of the game, making it safer was critical.

Mike from Starke, FL

Regarding the Bruce Springsteen discussion. I've typically been a hit-and-miss fan of his music. That said, "The Seeger Sessions" tour was as much a spiritual experience as it was a concert. Pick up the DVD if possible. Well worth it in my view.

I listened to "Seeger Sessions" after reading this email. I hadn't listened before. Thanks.

Don from Marshall, NC

I say Doug Pederson has never had a quarterback with the skillset of Trevor Lawrence. Who knows what happens statistically, but you judge by the wins. Fireworks? I am sure there will be plenty of that. That's what both of them do; they like lots of touchdowns. If they have a good defense, they will win cause points will not be a problem. Go Jaguars!

You're right. Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has the potential to be the best quarterback Head Coach Doug Pederson has coached. He has worked with Alex Smith (Kansas City, 2013-2015), Carson Wentz (Philadelphia, 2016-2020) and Nick Foles (Philadelphia, 2016-2018) among others as an NFL quarterbacks coach, coordinator and head coach – but none had Lawrence's skillset. I, too, expect Lawrence and the Jaguars' offense to improve this season. I don't know that that improvement will yet mean that points will not be a problem. It can take some time to develop to that point. But what you want this season is improvement and feeling by season's end that Lawrence will be elite – and that the Jaguars' offense is moving in the right direction. Those are attainable objectives.

Taylor from Columbia, MD

Hi, John. Would you be able to compare/contrast the traits and abilities of Josh Allen and Travon Walker? Size, speed, etc?


Pedal Bin (Professional Reckoner) from Farnborough, Hampshire, UK

Oh Mighty 'O'/King of all Funk, any truth in the rumor that longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette was going to have a street named after him until it was realized that no one crosses longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette?

You don't tug on Superman's Cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger. And you don't cross Gene.

Sam from Orlando, FL

Legend has it when they were pointing nukes at the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we just pointed Eugene "Thunderbolt" Frenette right back at them and they folded like a cheap Colts rug.

This, to my knowledge, remains classified.

Tucker from Gallatin

Hey, John. Do you see the Jags using Travon Walker on a lot of stunts during pass-rushing situations? Until he develops a great pass rushing move. He just needs one to go with that speed and power. Former Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is the best example of having one great move where he would hop to the side and chop/rip the offensive tackle's arm and then bend around the corner.

Yes. I could absolutely see that. It's a little unfair to assume Walker – the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft – won't have any moves to rush the passer. But it is fair to assume he will need to develop those as a rookie. Stunts and games are a good way for a coordinator to try to get Walker pass-rushing opportunities where it's not just him trying to beat experienced offensive lineman one-on-one to the quarterback.

George from Blue Ridge, GA

John, Have many of the retired Jaguar players make Jacksonville their home? This is a dead-zone type question!!!

Yes. Many players from the 1990s and 2000s make Jacksonville their homes. And why not? Great weather. Great town. No state taxes. People who live here get it. And a lot of players who play here catch on quickly.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, it's unfortunate when draft selections do not live up to expectations, and I've never understood why anyone would celebrate being right about it. Given how many players are drafted yearly, would it be safe to say that most of them do not live up to everyone's expectations?

The NFL Draft is a projection, percentage game. Always has been and always will be. And all general managers – even the best ones – have hits and misses First-round selections from every draft fail to have extended, Pro Bowl careers. I don't know if that means most don't live up to expectations, but it's damned sure part of the process and it's damned sure not rare.

Eddie from Sec 104

A few years ago my daughter bought me Pro Bowl tickets down in Orlando. We were down there dressed in all our Jags gear. A random guy saw us walking around before the game and came up and introduced himself. It was Aaron Beasley. I felt bad not recognizing him. As you said, he was 100 percent a class act. He talked to us for 10 or 15 minutes telling some old stories from his career. He took a few pictures with my daughter. It was the highlight of our Pro Bowl experience.

Great story. Really great.