O-Zone: Don't mess around

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

JT from Fort Worth, TX

John, excuse my ignorance on this topic, but is it of any concern that a bunch of our potential starters aren't participating in these OTAs? I don't personally think it's a big deal, but this year feels like a make-or-break year with this team.

Pretty much every season is make-or-break for any NFL team; situations such as the Jaguars had earlier this decade where there was a feeling of building for the future are comparatively rare. And there’s little question this team has a win-now feel this offseason. But astute O-Zone readers – and he knows who he is – know my thoughts on the question of whether most starters missing organized team activities is a concern. (Hint: It’s not). If new starting quarterback Nick Foles was absent from OTAs, I would consider it a concern. If we had seen a bunch of receivers completely skipping OTAs I might be concerned because this is a relatively new offense and quarterbacks/receivers must be in sync. But just about everyone on the Jaguars except linebacker Telvin Smith, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has been here for the vast majority of the offseason. The offensive skill players have had more than enough time together in the offense this offseason to be ready for training camp. So, no … nothing has happened yet this offseason that makes me concerned about the Jaguars being ready come the start of the 2019 regular season.

Esko from Finland

Is your appetite for Sbarro's pizzas the reason why you will never achieve the greatness of long time Florida Times-Union sports columnist, Northeast Florida cultural icon, and internationally acclaimed polymath Eugene Patroclus “Gene” Frenette?

No, that’s not the reason.

Andy from Fernandina Beach, FL

Tony Brackens, the all-time sack leader for the Jaguars, only had seven sacks his first and second seasons and didn’t eclipse the double-digit mark until Year 4. Maybe some people need curb their expectations of Josh Allen just a bit.

This references a recent O-Zone question about edge defender Josh Allen possibly being a double-digit-sack player as a rookie. It’s more of a passing league now than in Brackens’ 1996 rookie season, and those increased opportunities should give Allen more of a chance at double-digit sacks than Brackens had that season … but yes, 10 sacks in a season is hard for a rookie no matter the era.

Andy from St. Augustine, FL

I for one have never been accused of "being better than that" ... especially when I'm talking to (listening) to my wife. Just saying.

I believe you.

Keith from Jacksonville and Section 436

I must respectfully disagree with your take yesterday responding to my esteemed fellow east upper deck fan Chris from my neighboring section. While it’s true the OPPONENTS are set by a strict formula based on order of finish and division, the SCHEDULE is very subjective in the sense that the NFL works closely with the networks to ensure as many cool matchups as possible in front of the most possible viewers occur. If it were truly objective, each of the 32 teams would get a fixed amount of 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and prime-time matchups. But as all Jag fans know, that doesn't happen. As a great man once said, it’s professional football, it’s about the money.

While there is merit to what you are saying, you aren’t disagreeing with my point. That’s because my point had nothing to do with time and date of games or putting games on prime-time or national television. I made the point that the league might be reluctant to manually pick opponents for the two extra games should the league go to 18 games because of the perception that the schedule-makers were favoring certain teams over other by matching them against perceived weaker opponents. That’s something the league currently avoids because opponents ae chosen by formula. But yes … the league does put high-profile teams and matchups on in more high-profile time slots. That’s not strange. It would be strange if that didn’t happen.

Paul from Jacksonville

I love when people use extreme examples like Tom Brady to prove a point. Jalen may very well be the best corner in the league, but he's not a first-ballot Hall of Famer (yet), multiple time Super Bowl champion and NFL Most Valuable Player. Brady has earned the benefit of the doubt about whether or not he needs to attend OTAs. One team won the Super Bowl, the other has never played in one.

Ramsey and every other NFL player earned the benefit of the doubt on whether they need to attend OTAs when the NFL Players Association and NFL owners agreed that they are voluntary. The practices therefore are by definition “extra” work – and it might be easier if more people thought of them this way. Just because some fans and media believe they are critical to preparation doesn’t make that the case. If players choose to do them because they believe they need them to prepare for the season, then they should do them. If they choose not to do them because they don’t believe they need them to prepare for an NFL season, they shouldn’t do them. Ramsey in three seasons has played at a high enough level that a strong case can be made that he’s preparing just fine.

Nick from Palatka, FL

Z: Jalen Ramsey may not be here but he's here ... OHHHH is he HERE!

I never know what’s going on.

Michael from Tucker

I guess I should give my two cents about Jalen as well. What I take from his absence is last year, we had two undrafted rookies that took advantage of his absence and essentially made the team due to the extra looks in practice. We have a few more rookies this year that have received longer looks as well. So his absence is a benefit to those who can capitalize off the opportunities. That said, have any of the young corners look good in his stead?

Quenton Meeks and Tre Herndon certainly got extra looks last offseason when both Ramsey and A.J. Bouye missed significant time during OTAs. They made the team as undrafted rookies, and were two of the more pleasant surprises of training camp and the regular season. They have both looked good this offseason – as expected – and I’d be surprised if both don’t make the team.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

Am I the only one around here that thinks Jalen Ramsey's performance is just fine and doesn't need underwear practice in May and June? Honestly, I couldn't care less what he does as long as he shows up in shape in training camp.

You’re not the only one who believes this. It’s just those who think like you do tend to be quieter this time of year than some people.

Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC

Yes, Jalen is an otherworldly talent we may never see again. And yes, he has a tremendous competitive drive and work ethic, but do you know who would be here for voluntary OTA’s? .... Johnathan Cyprien

You’re damned right he would have.

Raymond from Orange Park, FL

John: I don't recall this much hand-wringing about Fred Taylor training in Miami and skipping OTAs. He turned out pretty good. When I go to the games, I enjoy watching Ramsey for a series or two. He is fun to watch. He is good. He is very good. I don't need for him to be a "leader" by giving Ray Lewis-type pep talks. Everyone should leave the guy alone. And, hey, if he can help his dad attract more clients by training up there, good for him.

I don’t recall this much hand-wringing when Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t show up for the voluntary portion of the offseason, either – though maybe I just have a bad memory. Look, there always will be fans who complain about players not showing up for OTAs because there always will be fans who think attendance is necessary for players to be at their optimum level during the regular season. I’ve just never seen evidence that this is true for elite players. I covered the Indianapolis Colts for years when neither running back Edgerrin James nor wide receiver Marvin Harrison – and multiple other really good players – rarely if ever participated in OTAs. It never hurt them or the Colts – and Taylor or Jones-Drew missing never seemed to hurt them much. That won’t stop people from disliking it, but that’s OK. Not everyone has to like everything. It’s actually more fun when they don’t.

Luis from Coamo

Gene Frenette vs. Greg Jones. Who wins?

We unfortunately will never know the answer. As was the case with “Jim” from the Jim Croce classic, “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim,” you don’t tug on Superman’s cape … you don’t spit into the wind … you don’t pull the mask off the ol’ Lone Ranger and you darned sure don’t mess around with longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. “Gene” Frenette. Even Jones knows this.

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