O-Zone: Fun and games

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Steve from Cancun, Mexico

JO - Last season Andrew Norwell was one of the top three most disappointing Jags. I had Leonard Fournette No. 1, the poorly coached BB No. 2, then our huge-dollar free-agent guard. I know you say he was dinged up, but aren't almost all players banged up? I heard if you are in uniform and get in the game, you perform. Can you tell us, whose on- (and off-) field performance you found lacking?

While you’re entitled to your opinion, I’m not sure that opinion is completely fair to Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell – who I indeed said was dinged up last season for a basic reason: that he was dinged up. He dealt with an injury essentially the entire time he played last season from training camp forward, then eventually was placed on season-ending injured reserve. And while it’s wonderful for talking heads in sports media to spout things like “you’re in uniform and get in the game, you perform,” the reality is injuries do impact performance. The bigger truth with this subject is although Norwell indeed dealt with those issues, he still played well during the time he played – so in that respect, I’m not sure where people got the idea he was “disappointing.” (Though I’m sure all his critics watched enough film and knew enough about the plays called to know for sure.) As for whose performance lacked last season, the Jaguars went 5-11 when expectations were far higher. How about everyone?

Mike from Orange Park, FL

That guy was right. You’re a joke.

I think the guy said, “This is a joke,” but whatever.

Mark from Prescott, AZ

So, John, "The reality of organized team activities and minicamps is that practices are non-padded with no contact." So, how does a player end up with a "bruised" knee after one of them???

Even unpadded, non-contact NFL work features 22 large men running around at high speeds. Players run into each other at times. Accidents happen.

Braddock from Jacksonville

Your reply to Mr. NFL is classic. This is not a question but I will tell you my Jags story. My father took me to all the preseason games here that eventually played a part in us getting the Jags. I was a kid then, and also a huge Bills fan. The night before our first ever game against the Panthers at the Hall of Fame Game in Canton in 1995, someone tried to take my life. I have a seven-inch scar across my neck. I was fortunate to survive, however I spent the next day watching that original roster on television and ate boiled peanuts. I love this team. I will always love this team. I think it’s because of resilience and my personal history but either way. Go Jags!

Whoa.

RVJag from North Augusta, SC

Can you enlighten me on what the Jaguars eat while at the stadium? Do they eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there? Can they leave the stadium and get something on their own? Do they have to eat a balanced meal setup by nutritionist? And finally, do you eat with the players and take advantage of a free meal?

Jaguars players typically eat breakfast and lunch at the training table at TIAA Bank Field during the offseason program, training camp and the season. Coaches typically eat breakfast, lunch and dinner during the season because they are there later than the players during that time. Yes, players can leave the stadium and get something on their own because they’re players – not prisoners. And yes, a nutritionist sets up the meals and players are strongly encouraged to follow that plan. As for me eating with the players … no, the company handbook spells out pretty clearly that I am to be kept at a distance from players whenever possible. They’ll occasionally leave me a box in the kitchen, but they rarely tell me where they put it.

Stephen from Jacksonville

Jean is shorter than Brutus, but taller than Imhotep. Imhotep is taller than Jean, but shorter than Lord Scotland. Lord Scotland is twice the height of Jean and Brutus combined, but only one-tenth of the height of Millsy. Millsy is at a constant height of x − y. If Jean stands exactly one nautical mile away from Lord Scotland, how tall is Imhotep?

Newfoundland.

TouchDown from Festivus, MO

Blues or Bruins to win the Stanley cup?

My good friend and Jaguars radio sideline guy Rick Ballou tells me the Boston Bruins should win. He’s a bit biased being a Bruins fans and Bostonian, but I’ll trust Rick.

Rob from Ponte Vedra, FL

Hi Zone. Reading Paul’s reference to Carnell Lake being brought in... are you guys indicating that someone like Eric Berry is too far past his prime to be effective? I get the teasing but if by chance we could afford Berry he would make this team a lot better. We would have probably kept Gip if we had known for sure about Telvin (which is what makes what Telvin is doing so costly) and now that Gip is gone, paying a safety this year ain’t such a bad idea. Berry is not just some guy past his prime; he is a generational talent at the position and the only reason we should not sign him is because we cannot afford him. One would be a complete fool to think he would not be a huuuuge upgrade over Wilson.

Teams can typically “afford” to do what they want with the main ramification being that focusing too much on small issues one offseason can hurt your effort to address small or large issues in future offseasons. Teams at some point must allow drafted, lesser-known players to play alongside their core players and not try to sign every familiar name that’s on the market. The Jaguars clearly don’t believe that signing a well-known safety is worth the cost.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

Various pundits and sports books are predicting the Jaguars win less than eight games. Yes, I know – you don’t control what others write, and you’ve said many of these “experts” don’t know all that much about what’s really going on with a given team. Still, I find it a bit concerning. As Jaguars fans, we’re looking for a playoff run. At this very early point, what weaknesses do you see that may preclude a winning season?

You’re right that pundits’ predictions don’t concern me much. Recall that in 2017 no one was selecting the Jaguars to do much and in 2018 pretty much everyone was projecting big things. I look at the Jaguars’ roster this offseason and see a team that can push for the playoffs – i.e., be in the conversation in December and possibly win nine-to-11 games. That can happen if some things go right. Some of those things involve health, the wide-receiver corps being as good as the front office projects, offensive tackles Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson solidifying their positions, quarterback Nick Foles improving the passing attack and running back Leonard Fournette being the force the Jaguars expected when they selected him No. 4 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. If most of those things happen, the Jaguars can contend. If they don’t, they probably won’t contend. Because none of them yet have happened, it’s easy to see why prognosticators doubt this team during the offseason. There are a lot of unknowns. The Jaguars have to prove them wrong. That’s the task.

Steve from Nashville, TN

Will Leonard Fournette lead the AFC South in rushing attempts and rushing yards in 2019?

I haven’t the foggiest.

Darren from Jacksonville

Why do you think the NFL has overtaken baseball as the national pastime? And what year do you think that officially happened? I work with young people and almost all of them know about the NFL, even if they're not Jags fans, but very few know anything about baseball...

Football has gained steadily in popularity pretty much throughout my lifetime, which unfortunately for me now snaps more than five decades. Baseball’s work stoppage that canceled the World Series in 1994 certainly didn’t help. I know that’s when my personal interest in baseball most waned. I was busy with other things and just never really went back. Why in general has football passed baseball? My theory is that football is compelling because of the violence and more action on every play. The once-a-week nature also helps because it gives every game an importance that is impossible for regular-season games in other sports to match. Gambling and fantasy football certainly have played a part, too. But make no mistake: You’re right that the NFL has become the dominant sport in the United States. That’s not to say it can’t change, but for now nothing else comes close.

Logan from Wichita, KS

Over the last few years it has become popular for players to swap jerseys after games. Do you ever swap ties or jackets with the other team's writers after games?

No, we usually just play slaps.

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