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O-Zone: End of an era

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Greg from Section 122, Jacksonville

This is NOT to restart the whole conspiracy theory thread about the NFL, but on the subject of how "great" the corners for the Kansas City Chiefs were Sunday … bull. Refs not calling blatant and obvious pass interference made them seem great. And don't give me the "they are human excuse" or whatever. Even the broadcasters were commenting on how it should have been a flag. Sure, refs don't influence the game. I dream of a day when the officiating is actually consistent, reliable and enforces the same standards/rules on each play, game and TEAM. The inconsistency and situational favoritism based on the WHO is getting tiring. One can dream.

This is a common opinion these days, with many observers and fans seemingly viewing every game through the lens that referees are categorically awful, biased or both. Because these fans seemingly watch every play with this notion, they therefore find evidence to support this view on every play – perhaps ignoring or forgetting that the NFL is a game with 22 big, fast players moving in different directions on every play. This has spawned calls for full-time officials or some dramatic overhaul of how games are officiated. For those who side with this view … I understand. It's vogue these days to criticize all things imperfect. But while you say not to use the "they are human" excuse, the reality is referees and officials are very much human. Just as players and coaches are human. To think there never will be inconsistencies or missed calls is unrealistic. I honestly didn't sense a bias in the Super Bowl Sunday or blatant inconsistency. Many feel differently. Oh well.

Shawn from Moore County, NC

Can you explain what a reserve futures contract is?

The Jaguars on Tuesday announced the signing of 14 players – offensive lineman Chandler Brewer, defensive back Tevaughn Campbell, outside linebacker D.J. Coleman, defensive lineman De'Shaan Dixon, cornerback Erick Hallett II, linebacker Dequan Jackson, defensive back Amani Oruwariye, defensive lineman Esezi Otomewo, defensive back Ayo Oyelola, kicker Riley Patterson, tight end Josh Pederson, offensive lineman Keaton Sutherland, offensive lineman Darryl Williams and wide receiver Seth Williams – to reserve futures contracts. These contracts "reserve" a player to a team for the offseason, giving the team to right to sign the player after that year's training camp. While the players don't count against the team's salary cap during the offseason and are not "officially under contract," they can't sign with another team. Players who finish one season on an NFL roster cannot be signed to futures contracts.

Mike from Azores

Hey, John. With your answer to my signing Walker Little to a long-term deal and trading left tackle Cam Robinson, it sounds like you are being inconsistent in some of your answers! You've said before that teams often pay players with new contracts based on future projections, but you don't want to pay Walker because he hasn't shown to be a starting tackle yet? Did you forget last year's playoff run when he filled in for Cam? Or the first four games of last season when the local team talking experts all agreed he was the best offensive line on the team? Pay him, draft a mid-round swing tackle and trade Cam! It's simple, cost effective and too obvious! Btw, I'm not Walker's agent!

I don't expect the Jaguars will do this this offseason. We'll see.

Chance from Tecumseh

I recently looked at the 2020 NFL Draft. Cornerback C.J. Henderson at No. 9, outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson at No. 20, and wide receiver Laviska Shenault at No. 42. If we drafted the exact same positions, we could have had wide receivers Justin Jefferson/Tee Higgins/CeeDee Lamb, cornerback A.J. Terrell, defensive end A.J. Epenesa, linebacker Josh Uche, etc. Could this be one of the worst drafts in Jaguars history? I just can't imagine how much better the team COULD have been.

It's one of the NFL's great truths that very few drafts can withstand this degree of selection-by-selection scrutiny. The NFL Draft is a projection game, and it's impossible to project perfectly. Still, considering the Jaguars had three of the first 42 selections in 2020, and considering Henderson and Shenault didn't play out their first contracts – and considering Chaisson's limited production … well, yeah.

John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Did the Jaguars have the opportunity to draft Mahomes?

The Jaguars selected running back Leonard Fournette No. 4 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Kansas City Chiefs selected quarterback Patrick Mahomes No. 10 overall in that same draft.

Jarret from Crosby, ND

What is the asterisk next to Freddy T's 4.6 yards per carry being the third highest? Because I looked it up and there are many players with a higher average, albeit with fewer yards.

Former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor's 4.6-yards-per carry is the third-highest among the NFL's Top 20 all-time leading rushers.

Bo from Linwood, NC

Could team leadership come into question regarding the second half of the season? Did we lack veteran presence on offense, defense, and special teams? All phases struggled in the last few weeks. Some more than others. What caused us to be the 7-3 Tennessee Titans of 2022 who suffered the same fate? O, I need answers! I'm struggling to stay afloat….

When you lose five of six games to miss the postseason by one game, everything gets called into question – as it should and as it must. I never got the sense veterans on either side weren't trying to lead during that time, or that they weren't aware of the urgency or importance of the moment late in the season. I will say the Jaguars ideally would have more second-contract "homegrown" players on the roster. A team ideally has several sixth- or seventh-year players who are the best players on the roster and who every other player in the locker room looks to as a model for professionalism, behavior, approach, etc. You want these players to be homegrown because that longevity and affiliation with the organization allows those players to say, "This is how we do things. This is who we are." Teams with a core of such players therefore tend to know their identity. It's really hard to build such a core. It can't be done in one offseason or two. You must have success. You must have some good fortune and you must commit to it. Either way, I didn't sense leadership as an overriding issue late in 2023. Not nearly as much as injuries to quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Christian Kirk – and the inability late in the season to run or stop the run.

Jarret from Crosby, ND

It's sad Jim Brown is no longer with us. He would have been the perfect person to knock on Fred Taylor's door for his eventual enshrinement.

You're right. Brown – considered by many the greatest running back in NFL history – during Taylor's career called Taylor one of the greatest running back backs he had seen. This made sense given Taylor's rare combination of toughness, speed, strength, size and missability. My guess is Brown would have enjoyed informing Taylor he was a Hall of Famer.


Well. Thank Goodness we are all tied for first place again.


Sam from Orlando, FL

You disagree with my Lamar Jackson assessment. Which is fine. I just didn't realize that Trevor had an MVP season himself in 2021 with the only difference seemingly being 500 yards rushing. Not apples to apples obviously, but give me a break.

I think you're saying Lawrence's 12-touchdown-pass, 17-interception rookie season in 2021 was the same as Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson's 24-touchdown-pass, seven-interception 2023 season except for Jackson rushing for more 500 more yards. I don't know that I see it that way.

Josh from Lakewood

Does a return specialist have less merit than a punter? Were it up to you, would you have let Ray Guy into the Hall?

I struggled with this question. My first thought is that punter Ray Guy is unquestionably a Hall of Famer because he was so clearly the best punter of his era. My second thought is my thoughts on that are probably skewed because Guy played in the 1970s and 1980s, which meant I probably remember he and other players of that era a bit too fondly. The same arguments could be made for returner Devin Hester and Guy – that both were perhaps the best ever to play their position. The same arguments could be made against both, too – that as special teams players, their opportunities to impact the game are by definition limited. I suppose if I were being objective I would argue against both players.

Ray from Jacksonville

John: No reason for fans to fret much over the selection of Devin Hester to the Hall of Fame. With the rules changes and some future tweaks, he may be the last return specialist inducted.

Very possibly.