JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Earl from Middleburg, FL
O, when you say a certain player or squad by coaches' definition has the ability to play better, what it really sounds like is said player or squad just went through the motions to pick up a paycheck with least amount of enthusiasm required. It's real; we both know that (unnamed star was an example). I've worked for bosses I despised, but continually produced as a testament to my value and pride receiving my overtime paycheck. Where does the coach fit in these dynamics?
I don't know that every player or team that has the ability to play better necessarily was previously "going through the motions to pick up a paycheck." To imply that the only reason players don't play well is lack of effort or caring is too simplistic. I wonder, too, if it's possible that you might have had a rough day or rough stretch during the time when you were continually producing and working with pride. Either way, when it comes to getting the most out of a player's ability … a coach absolutely fits into this dynamic. I often say in this forum that fans put too much emphasis on coaching in the NFL. What I mean by this is fans too often blame what happens in a specific game – or a specific series or play – on coaches' play-calling or decision-making on game days. Coaching does matter in the NFL – and coaching matters on any level of football. The way it perhaps matters most is in daily focus, motivation, etc. – i.e., keeping all players moving in the same direction and working with focus toward the same goal. Head coaches "steering the ship," if you will. What, exactly, that means is a bit hard to define sometimes. But it's the responsibility of the head coach. And that's absolutely where coaching comes into play when it comes to getting better performance from players in general.
Gary from St. Augustine, FL
You mentioned that Myles Jack, the offensive line and James Robinson are good – and that we're waiting to see on everyone else. Really? That's not … good.
You're referencing an O-Zone answer Monday in which I wrote that we know a few things about the Jaguars – and that much about the 2021 team is unknown. The point of this answer was not that there aren't a lot of good things about the Jaguars. Rather, it was to make the point that a lot of potential strengths – quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line, etc. – still must show that they can produce and play at a winning level in the NFL. Jack and Robinson have done this. So have a lot of other players on the Jaguars – including wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., the interior of the offensive line and pass-rusher Josh Allen. But for the most part, the Jaguars are depending on a lot of players with potential who must fulfill that potential. The guess here is a lot of those players will do that and that this team will show this season it's moving in the right direction. We'll see.
Scott from Longwood, FL
In all the years you've been answering questions in the Ozone, what's the one question you wish that someone has asked you?
Where was Corndog Billingsby born?
Dave from Jacksonville
Where do you see camp battles on defense? To me, it looks very strong on one side Roy Robertson-Harris/Malcom Brown on the defensive line, Allen/Jack at linebacker, Shaquill Griffin/Rayshawn Jenkins at cornerback/safety. The other side looks open at defensive end/cornerback/safety. It looks like healthy competition for those starting spots for sure. At linebacker, Damien Wilson and Joe Schobert sound good. The Jags could be much stronger than expected, on paper, right now. What does your crystal ball reveal? Is it too early for such thoughts? Any chance a rookie wins a starting role on defense?
It's not too early at all to wonder how the Jaguars' defense will look in 2021. I could see Davon Hamilton, Malcom Brown and Roy Robertson-Harris starting on the line with K'Lavon Chaisson/Allen at outside linebacker and Jack and either Joe Schobert/Damien Wilson at inside linebacker. I expect Griffin/CJ Henderson/Jenkins/Andre Cisco to eventually be the starting secondary, but yes … there is a chance for competition in the secondary. And at inside linebacker. And pretty much everywhere. Training camp will be intriguing on that front, maybe as intriguing as any Jaguars Training Camp in a while.
Scott from Longwood, FL
Or was that the question?
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ
O-man, do you think that the NCAA allowing players to profit from their name and image will impact the NFL? I can see a future now where companies will "bet" on players by going big on contracts that extend beyond college.
I'm still getting my head around what this will mean and admit I don't have a great feel for the long-term effects of this on players, the college game and the NFL. My first thought is I like the idea of players being able to profit from name and likeness far more than I like the idea of players being paid by institutions to play. Not that players won't eventually be paid; I'm just not a fan of the idea. But at this early glance, I don't know that the likeness/name rule it will have much of a direct effect on the NFL. It might change the dynamics of endorsements at the NFL level more than it directly changes anything about the relationships between players and teams.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL
Hey John, with Walker Little and his knee injury, isn't the best thing that could happen for his health and long-term performance (if not financially) sitting out the 2020 season? I know we see athletes bounce back sometimes in less than a year from anterior cruciate ligaments these days and performing at a pre-injury level, but 300-pound linemen – I would think – are a different story. It's one thing to run routes as a wide receiver or find holes as a running back, but trying to move other 260-pound linemen play after play has got to be a different level or pressure on a repaired knee. I know for financial reasons for both player and owner taking two seasons off from an ACL won't happen – and I get it I would be the same way – but could this be a blessing in disguise for Little? And a dead zone question where does my favorite movie of all time, "The Shawshank Redemption" rate on your list?
There's a lot of merit to what you say. Little, selected by the Jaguars from Stanford in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, indeed sat out the 2020 season because of COVID-19 – doing so one year after sustaining a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2019 season. Little reportedly would have been ready to play by the start of the 2020 regular season had the Pac-12 season started on time. Instead, it started in November – by which time Little had begun preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft. He therefore opted to not play in 2020. And yes … in terms of his recovery from the ACL surgery, the extra time couldn't have hurt. As far as my favorite movies of all-time … sure, "The Shawshank Redemption" is up there. Right along with the Justine Bateman/Liam Neeson 1988 vehicle, "Satisfaction." Remember: "To get it, you've got to go for it." No doubt.
Dave from Jacksonville
Wizard, I, too think Jacksonville is getting ready for a run. As for Tampa's current sports boom, the only one I can think of is the Pittsburgh run in the 70s. Steelers, Pirates, Penguins and the movie about the basketball team, "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh."
Bullet, Bullet, Bullet …
Bill from Ponte Vedra, FL
OK, you weren't defending Cole Beasley, just saying what everyone already knows – that he has a right not to be vaccinated and brag about it in social media. How about your opinion on whether he is being disloyal to his team by failing to take a simple action to avoid missing practices and games??
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has raised the ire of many fans by opting to not receive the COVID-19 vaccination – and by opting to be outspoken about the decision on social media. This discussion is an emotional one for many, and perhaps it's emotional for Bill from Ponte Vedra. But I have received more than enough emails on this issue in the last year to know that while receiving the vaccine may be a simple action to some, it's not a simple decision for many people. As far as whether players who opt not to receive it are disloyal … this is the NFL. These are professional athletes. I guess loyalty applies and maybe it's a fair topic in this discussion, but to think that all NFL players are putting it first …
Scott from Longwood, FL