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O-Zone: Easy mistake

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Steve from Duval

OK, O … your thoughts on Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 that will read: "Use of the Helmet. It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.”

My thoughts on this rule are what they have been since the NFL approved it in March – that while it’s great to be able to read the rule, and while it’s even great to be able to talk and pre-stress over it, we must wait to see how officials implement it to see its true impact. If every incidence of a player lowering his head and contacting an opponent is called to the exact letter, it will change the game dramatically – and it probably will feel absurd. If it is called as it is intended – to eliminate the obvious high-risk, lower-the-head, dangerous hit – then it could be a positive. Either way, how it is called will be a major early-season storyline. Stay tuned.

Mark from Prescott, AZ

You are crazy, John. That's cool. I like it.

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Russell from Jacksonville 

John, what do you think about playing Dante Fowler Jr. at strong-side linebacker? He played there in college and is a freak athlete running a 4.6 40. This puts our best defense on the field all at the same time.

This isn’t going to happen. It wasn’t going to happen when people started asking about this in January, and it’s not going to happen now. The Jaguars want Fowler at defensive end and have no plans to put him at strong-side linebacker – even in base situations. One reason is that it’s tricky learning multiple positions in the NFL. Another reason is the Jaguars rotate their defensive line and no defensive linemen play all plays because they want players as fresh as possible. To put Fowler at strong-side linebacker on early downs and defensive end on passing downs would have him playing the vast majority of plays. That’s a big ask for a defensive lineman.

Rob from Somewhere in New England

No question. Just wanted to say thanks. Yet another military move for my family and I – and this one has been a doozy. Living like nomads for two months and dragging my family across the country. Your column at least gave me a small semblance of routine and normalcy. The situation reminds me of the immortal Socrates who once famously quipped, “I drank WHAT???”

Smallsemblence

Al from Orange Park, FL

When Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell drafted Blake Bortles in 2014, he made a statement something to the effect that Blake was the best quarterback available in that year’s draft or the next. Some fans were appalled he didn't wait for Jameis Winston the next year. How's that choice looking now??

You’re right that some fans were upset the Jaguars didn’t “wait” to take Winston or Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft. Those people conveniently forgot that there was no guarantee the Jaguars would be in a position to take either player – and as it turned out, they were not in a position to take either player. The reality is the Jaguars targeted their quarterback and they took him – which is what you sometimes must do when trying to get a franchise quarterback. As for whether the Jaguars would be better off with Winston than Bortles, I would say Caldwell’s decision looks better on that front now than it did this time a year ago. As for whether Bortles indeed was the best quarterback available in either 2014 or 2015 … well, I would say Caldwell’s decision doesn’t look all that bad on that front right now, either.

David from Chuloata

You're not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you, King O' Funk?

Why would I be? Heck, why would I want to be?

Patrick from Victoria, Canada

Dear O-Zone: The Jaguars’ defense had many turnovers last season, many of which they turned into great gains or touchdowns. I’m wondering if the defense ever works on blocking to help maximize the turnovers?

Most defenses work on blocking at times – and the Jaguars are no exception. But it’s not a very high priority, primarily because turnovers usually happen in chaotic, hard-to-predict circumstances. The best coaching there is pretty much, “If we get an interception or turnover, find someone to block … and if you have the ball, get near the sidelines because there are usually fewer people over there.”

Kevin from Daytona Beach, FL

When think about this season, I get most excited about the offensive line (that’s how I roll). How good can they be?

The Jaguars’ offensive line has potential to be very good this season – and most importantly, it appears to have the potential to better dictate games than it did much of last season. While a line that helps its offense lead the league in rushing while allowing a franchise-record low sack total as the Jaguars’ line did last season clearly is a good group, the Jaguars too often last season couldn’t run when they needed to run. And Bortles’ mobility prevented a lot of sacks. The Jaguars clearly believed the area needed to improve – enough that they opted to sign All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell as an unrestricted free agent from the Carolina Panthers. The hope is that Norwell’s presence moves the line closer to a dominant offensive line that can control games and perhaps be the strength of a contending team moving forward. That’s the Jaguars’ vision for this season and the immediate future. Stay tuned.

Timothy from Savannah, GA

Who’s the most underrated player on the offense? Defense?

I always have a tough time with players being “overrated” or “underrated,” because so many people view players different ways. But generally speaking it seems that observers overlook wide receiver Keelan Cole – or at least they overlook that his team-high 748 yards and 17.8-yards-per-reception average came during a rookie season in which he was transitioning from Division II Kentucky Wesleyan. Defense is tougher on this topic because fewer people overlook the Jaguars’ defense. Still, there seemed to be a perception among some that free safety Tashaun Gipson didn’t have a great year last season. That doesn’t fit with the perception of Jaguars coaches, who see Gipson as a key player in the secondary who played at a Pro Bowl level last season.

Steve from Nashville, TN

Specifically what value will the O-Zone bring to fans and readers between now and the start of camp?

When you say “value …” I’m not following.

Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Who is running the NFL’s websites? Hogan’s Goat? Do you think serious injuries could be prevented by making the players wear bigger pads? It is like they wear no pads at all now. I know it makes the game faster and more athletic but at what cost if any? Go Jaguars!

I googled this. Hogan’s goat is not running the NFL’s websites. I don’t believe bigger pads would solve many issues because many NFL major injuries are tendon/ligament injuries or concussions. Those areas aren’t as easily protected by padding. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV, but I can throw out little theories like that and see if people buy it.

Joe and Mick from London, UK

Every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world …

… and ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, I'm not sure what is most impressive: your continued writing streak or my (and others?) continual reading streak? You are getting paid, though surely not enough, and we are not. In any case, let's keep streaking!

Mine is more impressive – much more, in fact. I have no facts to support this. Call it a gut feeling.

Bruce from Mummycurse, Egypt

OFunkster: you have run afoul of the curse of the mummies - Ezra and Menky. Prepare for future incursions into the DELAY Zone. I would call Frenette now for a possible woodwind canticle to calm the Ancient Spirits.

This isn’t a horrible idea. Among longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. “Gene” Frenette’s many talents indeed is an oft-overlooked proficiency in the clarinet. Gene’s talent in this area is of great fascination to Frenette devotees – a.k.a., “Little Genies” – on the message boards on the Frenette-centric website: soggyhood.com. Because Gene these days limits public clarinet appearances to “pop-ins” at hole-in-the-wall jazz clubs near the team hotel on the eves of Jaguars road games, few can truly attest to his talent. In place of facts, of course, rumors grow – as does Gene’s legend. One message-board thread even insisted it was Gene on clarinet on the often-forgotten Van Halen classic Big Bad Bill (is Sweet William Now). It was actually Eddie and Alex Van Halen’s father, Jan Van Halen, on Big Bad Bill. Fret not, Little Genies: This is an easy mistake, but it wasn’t Gene. He was on vocals.

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