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O-Zone: Gasping in the dust

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bryant from White Plains:
At what year/ level are Welcome-to-the-NFL mistakes not OK? How many seasons do all of our players have before a mistake they make isn't considered a new-player error?
John: I suppose this is in reference to me saying early this week that rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey's "Welcome-to-the-NFL" moments against third-year wide receiver Allen Robinson in practice Saturday were to be expected. Perhaps people interpreted this as me saying, "Mistakes are OK." This is not the case. While mistakes are to be expected, they are not "OK." It's also not "OK" for young players to get beat by older players, though that also is to be expected. No one ever said mistakes and losing are OK, but experienced players are more ready to play consistently at a high level than rookies. This is not breaking news. It's simply the truth that professional athletes in team sports are rarely close to as good as rookies as they will be a few seasons into their careers. As far as how many seasons the Jaguars' young players have before their mistakes aren't new-player errors … I don't know how to answer that. I know this is a young team that probably won't play like a mature team this season. That doesn't mean the Jaguars can't win. What it does mean is they have a chance to be really good in the coming seasons. It also means mistakes will happen this season no matter how many games they win.
Ty from Jack town:
Johnny Bag A Doughnuts, thanks for making slow parts of the day – and life – funny and smart. The last several years as a Jaguars supporter have been tough. I owe a small part of my loyalty to this column, and its comment section.
John: Yet again I ask: what's a "comments section?"
Jakob from Hawthorne, FL:
John, I recently read an article in the Florida Times-Union featuring Kirsten Grohs, the Jags' manager of football administration. What a story and what a NFL rarity. Do you think we will continue to see an increase of women working in NFL front offices in the future?
John: Yes, and a hat tip to Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union for a really good story on Grohs, who – as the story indicates – is a really good person with a bright future in this league.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
You have hinted that Luke Joeckel does not have the meanness and nastiness like, say, a Tony Boselli, had to be a great left tackle. Have you tried to help him out in this area, like say bad things about his mother or steal his mail or take his lunch money?
John: I absolutely have not hinted at anything of the like. I feel safe in saying that, because I'm not a big believer in the "have-to-be-mean-and-scratch-and-bite-to-be-a-great-NFL-lineman" thing. Boselli indeed had a nasty streak, but it was talent and hard work that made him great. I've seen plenty of "nice" players who play without undue nastiness become very good NFL linemen.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
I am glad to see Blake getting more comfortable with the routine quarterback play. The easy throws need to come, well … easily … for him to succeed in the NFL. One thing I would like to see this year from him is developing into a more clutch-like player. It is an important factor to be a long-term successful quarterback. You can get away with not being clutch – Peyton Manning did for most of his career. But more times than not the quarterback needs to be that guy who can put the team on his shoulders and carry them across to a win. That is what Tom Brady has in abundance as hard as it is to say. Quarterbacks need to be like coal: put them under pressure they get harder, tougher and better.
John: I think Blake is plenty clutch, and I actually think to this point in his career he has played pretty well at the end of halves and in pressure situations. I also think that considering Peyton Manning's two Super Bowl titles, four Super Bowl appearances and his NFL-record 45 come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter Bortles and 99.9 of the quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL would love to be so unclutch.
Eduardo from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Assuming Kelvin Beachum wins the left-tackle job as we anticipate, is there a player who you see possibly emerging to compete with Luke Joeckel for the left guard spot? Tyler Shatley perhaps, or maybe Patrick Omameh or Chris Reed? I'm just not confident in Luke being able to handle that position and apparently Mackenzy Bernadeau hasn't shown much.
John: If indeed Joeckel plays left guard, I would project the most likely next option there as Tyler Shatley.
Brandon from Jacksonville:
O-Zone man, what do you think of the AFC south as a whole? Who do you think is the biggest threat to the Jaguars' chances of winning it? Also, over the first couple of training-camp practices which is your favorite new draft pick or free-agent player to watch on the field? And why?
John: I think the AFC South is improving. I also think the Texans and the Colts are more than just the biggest threats to the Jaguars' chances of winning it; they must be considered the favorites. I say that because they have won and competed for the division in recent seasons and the Jaguars have not. Until the Jaguars prove otherwise, they are the hunters not the huntees.
Frankie from London, England:
Reading of Yannick Ngakoue is super-exciting. How much will that improved edge rush affect the inside rush and how will that improve our defense as a whole? Will strong "rookie" seasons for Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. make the transition to the NFL easier for the likes of Myles Jack at linebacker and Jalen Ramsey at cornerback? I guess what I'm asking is how important is it to have a strong edge rush in the grand scheme of things?
John: It sure doesn't hurt.
Brett from Jacksonville:
It seems like there is a lot of talk about kickoff potentially being eliminated due to injury risk, but there isn't any talk of changing punting— which might even be more dangerous (especially for the returner). I would guess it's because changing punting would alter the game dramatically compared to kickoffs, but if safety is truly the reason, I don't understand the difference between the two in terms of risk.
John: Punt returning isn't considered remotely as dangerous as kickoff returning. That's because of the high speeds kickoff returners and kickoff coverage teams reach before impact. It's also because punt returners have the option of a fair catch, but it's mostly because of the high-speed impact. If you've ever been on an NFL field and heard the collisions on a kickoff … they're staggering.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Do other teams have scrimmages against other teams in the preseason? I think it's almost as bad or worse than preseason games in terms of possible injuries.
John: Players can sustain injuries in any situation. These are big, fast, strong men running and competing with other big, strong, fast men – and that means injuries happen. But in theory a scrimmage – or a practice, as will be the case with the Jaguars and Buccaneers later this month – is far less risky than a game. Preseason games feature live hitting and no limitations of the speed and impact with which things are run. In a practice or even a scrimmage, the pace and intensity of play can be controlled and often is much less than a preseason game.
James from Atlantic Beach, FL:
I've pulled a hamstring before. It was difficult for me to "push through it" just doing my regular job. I can't imagine that it would be possible for someone that has to run, stop and sprint for a living to even think about pushing through it.
John: Yeah, that's why teams don't want players to do it.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, I know when you refer to Dante Fowler Jr., Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, etc., as inexperienced, you mean inexperienced in the NFL. But based on your ample experience and sage wisdom, do you find that players who played in, say, the SEC in college have much shorter learning curves than those players from lesser conferences such as the ACC and the Big 10?
John: No, I haven't found that to be the case, though I do believe that players who have played in front of large crowds in college are often more ready during the first half of their rookie seasons.
Jim from Orange Park, FL:
Why do you keep looking younger and Shadrick keeps looking older?
John: That's actually because of television, which causes things to appear different than reality. I actually am an aging, broken leathery man gasping in the dust by the side of the interstate while Shadrick is a hearty swan in the throes of youth.

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