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O-Zone: Decent deal

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

We know the justifications for preseason games. Veteran players must knock off the rust. Coaches must evaluate new players in a game environment. Players returning from injuries must test their progress in a game environment. New coordinators installing new schemes must evaluate them in a game environment. Practices, including scrimmages, are usually conducted at three-quarter speed, so there really is not a viable substitute for preseason games. Knowing this, do you think the coaches will be inclined to run practices and scrimmages at full speed with full contact?

I expect most NFL head coaches to try to simulate game conditions as closely as possible sometime during the coming weeks: full-speed running, tackling very close to full contact and scrimmages – or at least scrimmage-like practices – with game rules. But no … I don't expect many – if any – NFL head coaches to hold practices or scrimmages in "live" conditions with full, tackle-to-the-ground contact during 2020 Training Camp. It's not that coaches won't see value in such work. It's just that there's too much emphasis on avoiding injuries for coaches to hold full-contact practices.

Bob from Sumter, SC

Seems like teams are valuing other defensive positions as much or maybe even more than defensive ends these days (Jamal Adams trade and Chris Jones contract). Perhaps another reason why Jadeveon Clowney and Yannick Ngakoue are still unsigned?

Perhaps, but the main issue for Clowney and Ngakoue is that neither player is being perceived as elite by NFL types right now. Clowney never has had a double-digit-sack season in five NFL seasons; Ngakoue has had one such season in four NFL seasons. That doesn't make either a bad player. They're both very good players – and obviously deserve to be paid well. It does perhaps explain why teams aren't paying them what the players are wanting and expecting. Check Los Angeles Chargers pass rusher Joey Bosa's new contract. Elite defensive ends still get paid. Handsomely.

Marty from Jacksonville

John, if coaches have to wear a mask on the sideline, I can imagine them calling in plays that sound like this: "Mmmf mfgah rufugah crbdl mmmm ga." And the quarterback going "WHAT???"

That would be remedied by a coach working from the upstairs booth, but yeah…

Tom from Shanghai, China

Apparently in the annual NFL Top 100 countdown, according to the pros, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is the 90__th__-best player in the league. I can't wait to see where Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II with his superior win percentage, better touchdown-to-interception ratio and better overall quarterback rating finishes up.

I fear you will be disappointed. While Minshew indeed had better statistics and more victories than Murray during their rookie seasons last season, the perception league-wide is that Murray was better last season and that he will continue to be better. I expect the Top 100 rankings will reflect that perception – whether or not that perception matches reality.

Sean from Jacksonville

After reading the story of the defensive tackles? I am begging for Marcell Dareus to come back if he isn't already with another team. Possible? Sure. Probable? I'm thinking No.

I doubt you'll see that.

_Arthur from Drexel Hill _

Is it too late for the NFL to rethink the bubble idea the NBA and NHL are using?

How all sports approach and continue to approach COVID-19 in 2020 is by definition fluid, so it's not technically too late for the NFL to change course, but it's probably impractical. I do anticipate the NFL changing protocols relatively often as we move forward. But I've gotten no sense that many around the NFL believe a "bubble" on the scale of the National Basketball Association or the National Hockey League is feasible. Remember: those leagues are finishing seasons and conducting playoffs over a comparatively short period of time, meaning many teams will be in the bubble for only a few weeks. An NFL bubble over a 16-game season would mean the bubble being in place for 32 teams for more than four months. That's a tough ask, perhaps an impossible one.

Rob from St. Augustine, FL

I'm sure younger players or undrafted guys will be missing out without having preseason games, but at the same time with all the veterans opting out or becoming ill, they may have a unique opportunity to play during the regular season instead. Wouldn't young players benefit from showing what they can do against other starters, rather than against special teams players?


Howard from Homestead, FL

Will the Miami Marlins situation change how the NFL goes about this season?

No single situation in another sport will change the NFL's approach to the 2020 season. But the league absolutely will try to learn from the Marlins' recent COVID-19 outbreak – as it will with pretty much every situation involving professional sports and the virus.

Al from Orange Park, FL

Why does Jaguars defensive tackle Taven Bryan always look so sad?

He has to edit the O-Zone every day. It ain't pretty.

Bill from Folkston, GA

No question, just an observation. I have lost most of my interest in football due to this offseason. I think when it is all said and done, the NFL is going to try and forget this season ever happened. With the virus, the protests, the name changes, I think the NFL has damaged itself a lot worse than what they think. They will have a couple of years before it hits home, though, with them limiting the number of fans that can attend a game. At least they can hide the number of empty seats behind their precautions.

All sports will have to overcome the effects of the virus, and you're right that some fans don't like the protests. Will some fans not come back? It's possible. But the guess here is the NFL will be OK in the long term.

KC from Orlando, FL

KOAF is there a final opt-out day for COVID-concerned players? For teams like the New England Patriots, who have several players opting out, do those teams get extra money freed up for re-signing/free agents? Also, if a player chooses to opt-out, do they have the chance to opt back in during the season? I could see teams getting super-stacked and abusing this posture. Hoping for players, staff, and their families to have a safe season.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association reportedly are working to finalize the wording that will allow "opt outs," after which players will have seven days to make a final decision. That would mean August 5 would be the soonest "final opt-out day." But while teams do clear 2020 cap space based on the salary of the players opting out, players who do opt out will not be able to opt back in. That should prevent teams from gaining any sort of a competitive advantage from players opting out.

David from Chuluota, FL

KOAF - This team lost defensive end Calais Campbell, Dareus and cornerback A.J. Bouye this offseason, and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue doesn't want to play for us. How can you expect more wins from this team when we haven't added much more than a bunch of rookies that get lost trying to find the restroom?

I don't know that I expect many more victories for the Jaguars in 2020 than 2019; they won six games last season, and I have been consistent saying I see the Jaguars as a six-to-eight victory team – at best – this season. But there are a few reasons the Jaguars could improve despite the losses you cite. One is that Dareus' injuries kept him from contributing much last season, and Bouye and Campbell weren't as effective last season as they had been in 2017-2018. While the Jaguars will miss that trio, I don't know that they'll miss them to the degree many observers believe. It also remains to be seen if Ngakoue's unhappiness will be enough that he won't play. But the main reason the Jaguars could improve is that the run defense appears to have a chance to be stronger with a stronger linebacker corps and revamped interior defensive front, and Minshew should be better in Year Two than he was as a rookie. Minshew improving would be the element that trumps all else because a quarterbacking improving improves all around him. Stay tuned.

unhipcat from carlsbad, ca

Oh, hi John, I'm guessing you're getting a lot of questions about "Why didn't Caldwell trade Yannick to Seattle for two firsts, a third and a starter?"

Not many. I'm cautiously optimistic that some people might get it. Cautiously.

Darren from Jacksonville

Have you heard any estimates of what COVID-19 is costing the teams? The added expenses of testing and COVID precautions can't be cheap. Just curious ...

Reports are that the testing will cost each team between $2 and $2.5 million. That's a lot. It's not a lot compared to what teams would lose if there's no season.