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O-Zone: Family first

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Rich from Dacula

I'm not being as positive about the Jaguars’ 2018 record that you have posted. First, the record last year was based on playing a last-place record. Second, this year we are playing more winning teams and we are not flying under the radar. Third, two new pieces to the defense are still questionable that they can play to their predecessors’ level. Fourth, our running game is based on Leonard Fournette staying healthy; that didn't happen in college or last year. Fifth, our division, if healthy, will be very much improved, especially Houston. To sum up my concerns, health is the key to every club and we were real lucky last year. Our division will be a dogfight and I think 10 wins could win the division, but those other teams our playing easier schedules and can emerge. Are you still standing on your prediction of more than 10 wins?

Wow, Rich… ye of little faith – practically no faith, in fact. What I wrote recently was that I thought the Jaguars would win somewhere 10-to-12 games in 2018 – and I don’t see that as an outlandish projection. This is a good team that’s perhaps not so fragile as to break under the strains you have noted. First, while the Jaguars were healthy on defense last season they weren’t particularly healthy on offense – and in fact, they dealt with multiple-game injuries at most every offensive position but quarterback. Second, the team overall should be better in its second season under Head Coach Doug Marrone with many young players having another season and offseason to develop. Third, the offense should be more consistent with quarterback Blake Bortles in his second season in coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s offense. Fourth, the whole “last-place” schedule phenomenon is among the NFL’s more overrated factors; the difference in a first- and last-place schedule is two games. Also, it’s impossible to know the difficulty of a schedule until a few weeks into the season; there are too many moving parts and it’s impossible to know how most teams will fare until a season begins. Remember, too: this team not only beat Buffalo and Pittsburgh in the playoffs and Pittsburgh in the regular season, it won several games against teams (Seattle, Baltimore and the Los Angeles Chargers) that might have been in the postseason had the outcome of their loss to the Jaguars been different; it’s not as if the Jaguars beat no good teams last season. So, yes: I believe the Jaguars will win at least 10 games in 2018. It’s not going to be easy, but they’re a good team and a good team is supposed to find a way to get into the postseason even if it’s not easy.

Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL

The dead zone is here. Only crickets I hear. No pigskins being tossed. No players being bossed. Quiet as a church mouse. There is no one in the house. Except the ads you know. The true reader’s foe. The new site is rough. Submitting questions is tough. Only O Funk work. But he’s a

… #*$(! jerk.

Dave from Grafton, VA and Section 115

Thank goodness you quoted the lyrics to "Score Tonight" instead of "Let's Do It For Our Country" or "Charades"...

Why can’t she see what I am … is a costumed fool trapped in a tragic game?

Josh from Pensacola, FL

Every year there is a rookie – whether it be undrafted free agent or later-round pick – who surprises. I consider linebacker Telvin Smith to be one of these. Wide receiver Keelan Cole. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Etc. Who do you think it will be from this year’s class?

My first thought is that if I told you this year’s surprise player it wouldn’t be a … you know … surprise. Also remember: Ngakoue was selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft – and while he correctly believed he should have been taken earlier, Round 3 actually isn’t that late. Still, while I hate to ruin the surprise, keep an eye on rookie linebacker Leon Jacobs. The Jaguars selected him from Wisconsin in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and they like what they saw from him during non-padded organized team activities and minicamp. If what they saw translates to padded work, he could be a factor at the strong-side linebacker position.

Cliff from Callahan, FL

Really? Grease 2? Are we really that deep into The Dead Zone already?

Did you have a question?

Brian from Palatka, FL

What’s your over-under for sacks for Yannick Ngakoue this season? Calais Campbell thinks he’s the next great pass rusher. I say 20.

I say you’re very optimistic – and while optimism is not a bad thing, 20 sacks isn’t a realistic prediction for even the greatest pass rushers. A season in which a player averages a sack a game is phenomenal and unexpected, with the primary reason being the same reason that it’s so difficult to judge defensive players based on statistics – that statistics are often well beyond their control. A team that trails a lot, for example, or one that plays in one-score games will have fewer opportunities for sacks, turnovers and interceptions. That may not always be in control of the defense. Former Indianapolis Colts pass rusher Dwight Freeney once told me he believed one of his best seasons came in a season in which he had comparatively few sacks because his percentage of plays pressuring the quarterback was high. Ngakoue’s history and work ethic suggests that he will get pressure on a high percentage of plays, and the thought here is he will be a double-digit sacks guy more often than not. That’s what you’re looking for from a pass rusher as much as sacks.

Chris from Section 437

Not that the first was very good, but Speed 2 was absolutely awful.

Was it?

Steve from Julington Creek

Hey John, we always used to hear all the hit players we missed that were drafted just after our so-so picks. Who was drafted prior to our hits like Jalen Ramsey and are they performing?

The Jaguars have hit on enough players in recent seasons that I’m not going to list every good Jaguars draftee with the players taken before him. It’s an unwieldly task – and more off-putting to me, it’s difficult and time-consuming. I’m also not big on the whole game of, “Who should a team have selected instead of this player or that player?” It doesn’t really solve anything, and you almost always can find a player some team should have taken instead of the one they chose. As for the 2017 NFL Draft in which the Jaguars selected Ramsey, it’s a rare one in the sense that it’s pretty much all home runs and no misses near the top. The top five in order: quarterback Jared Goff (Rams), quarterback Carson Wentz (Eagles), defensive end Joey Bosa (Chargers), running back Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys) and Ramsey. I’m not sure any of the teams regret their selections. That’s about as rare as it gets in the draft.

Nicholas from Fort Hood, TX

Mr. KOAF: Can you please entertain us peasant folks on all the cool and awesome things that happened to you on Father’s Day? I assume it starts with a nice breakfast from Mrs. Zone, followed by a phone call from your son, and then the lavishing of gifts upon you as WGD (world’s greatest dad), followed by your dog giving you tons of kisses and playing fetch. I assume then that you were allowed to go fish or do whatever then KOAF wanted to do. How correct am I in this assessment?

It was indeed a great day. Mrs. Zone and son surprised Dad with a heartfelt note that set the perfect tone for a memorable day (Headed to the outlet mall! Feed the animals! Back whenever!). I also was touched that my son thought to leave half of his breakfast bar on the counter (love that kid!) next to the half bottle of warm water Mrs. Zone left me (she’s a keeper!). My heart warmed further when I thought of their shopping-fueled euphoria (family first!), and the image of their giddy smiles brought me unbridled joy that was only heightened with the good, confirming feeling of getting the yard mowed “just right” (job well done!) and in plenty of time to prepare dinner (Whew! That was close!). The dog greeted them happily and eagerly upon their return from the pool (is him a good boy!?? Him is!!) – and through content tans, both lovingly feigned interest as I noted that the yard looked better with the hedges trimmed and the trees cut back the way she liked (they appreciate me!). As if I needed more to know how they feel about me, the day ended with the perfect gift (Home Depot Gift Card …. Yessss!!!) So yeah, Nicholas … it’s good to be the KOAF. Very good indeed.

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