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O-Zone: Ghosted

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Chris from Fleming Island

O-man, I'm confused and that's confusing me, because it's confusing. The Jaguars are playing a "first-place schedule" by virtue of winning the AFC South. But their schedule is rated as the 27thmost difficult. Those two things seem contradictory. I guess it comes from playing the weak AFC South and the weak NFC South.

This topic indeed can cause confusion, which can in fact be confusing. But you don't really seem all that confused. When ranking NFL schedule difficulty, most people use overall opponent winning percentages from the previous season. This rarely accurately reflects true difficulty, because it's based on the previous season – but there's probably really no better way to rank such things. In this case, the Jaguars and other AFC South teams indeed would have statistically "easy" schedules for the reason cite: The many sub-.500 records from 2022 of teams in the AFC and NFC South.

Ken from Rabun Gap, GA

Hey, Zone. You recently mentioned the wide receivers you expected to make the final roster. No mention of Kendric Pryor that we poached off the Bengals practice squad last year. Any thoughts about him? Is he participating in town in the offseason voluntary program? Odds of making the team, practice squad? Thanks, take the answer off the air.

Pryor, who spent the 2022 season on the Jaguars' active roster after signing off the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad, is participating in the offseason program. I didn't mention him in a recent O-Zone answer because the question really didn't ask about Pryor. I would expect the Jaguars' top receivers next season to be Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Zay Jones – and I expect veteran Jamal Agnew to be in the mix, particularly in a "weapon" role to utilize his speed and playmaking. I also expect rookie Parker Washington to quickly be in the top five receivers. It's less certain after that, with Kevin Austin Jr. and Tim Jones very much possibilities. Austin spent last season on the practice squad and Jones was active in 17 games. Pryor was on the roster all season and inactive for all 17 games, but he very much should be in that mix with Austin and Jones for the sixth and seven positions – either on the active roster or long-term options on the practice squad.

Bill from Jacksonville, FL

Beginning in 2024, any NBA player that's invited to their combine must work out for teams (unless they receive a medical exemption), or they're ineligible to be drafted. The NBA is fed up - and so are fans - with agents trying to steer players away from teams by refusing to work out. What do you think of this rule? Do you foresee the NFL ever implementing a rule like this?

I confess to not following the NBA closely enough to know the extent of this issue. I don't sense that the NFL has enough of a problem in this area to necessitate a similar rule.

JP from St. Augustine, FL

Can you tell me with a straight face we won't be playing at least four games in London in five years?

Of course.

Westside Mike from Bold New City

I for one, do not like many of the modern stadiums of the NFL, way too corporate and swarmy. I don't know why Jacksonville couldn't become the Fenway or Wrigley Field of Football. The unique market that celebrates an historic stadium and shuns corporate greed. If it's about local revenue, start charging more for the tickets, that's what the Red Sox and Cubs do without apology.

I love TIAA Bank Field. I have spent a good deal of my professional like working there daily. I'm hard-pressed to say it has quite the charm of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. The reality is TIAA Bank Field needs a makeover and a major upgrade. That's the reality of this market in this league and this time. I do think Jacksonville and this market can become charming in the small-market mode of, say, Green Bay. But if they're to do that, it will be with an updated stadium and a reimagined downtown area around it.

David from Ada, OK

Can we talk about the Roar tryouts? Any chance they can compete with the Culligan girl?

I have no idea what you're talking about.

Deane from Daytona Beach, FL

Yo, O-Zone! Some of the sayings go, "Offense wins games, defense wins championships and special teams decides games or is a momentum changer." So, with the addition of this large group of incoming rookie class there was a common theme that I saw. That most of the fourth round on were great special teams players. With that stated, will this incoming rookie class improve our special teams play?

The Jaguars' special teams weren't bad last season, ranking 11th in longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin's annual overall special teams rankings. There's little question that many of the Jaguars' Day 3 2023 NFL Draft selections likely will have special teams roles if they make the roster. What immediate impact this has remains to be seen.

Fred from Naples, FL

So now Jim Irsay, who loves being in the news, says that John Elway is in his Top 5 players of all time and doesn't include Peyton Manning? Statistically, Peyton is equal or better than Elway in every imaginable category. One more reason to be grateful for an owner like Shad!

I never claimed to be able to understand or speak for Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay. But while it's newsworthy that Irsay ranked longtime Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway over Manning – who played for Irsay's Colts – that's not an absurd opinion. I would have both players in a small group of the best to ever have played the position along with Tom Brady, Joe Montana, John Unitas and Dan Marino. That would probably be my list. While people love rankings, trying to rate one over another out of that list becomes opinion and individual taste rather than unassailable fact.

Greg from Section 122, Jacksonville, FL

The main justification of this whole stadium debate keeps coming back to "generate competitive revenue" in comparison to other teams. That makes no sense, you are comparing apples to lemons, John, basically what you are saying is we have to generate revenue to compete with Dallas, LA, Chicago, etc. Not all the teams are in huge markets nor do they have the ability to create that revenue based on common sense factors. So what is the obsession of keeping up with the Joneses (pun fully intended) if there is no way you will EVER actually keep up?

I'm not comparing anything to anything. I am saying NFL teams must be able to generate local revenue on at least some scale relative to the rest of the league. The Jaguars because of market size likely will never be at the top of the NFL in terms of revenue. But you also can't be in the NFL and consistently be in a different stratosphere than the middle of the pack. It's not sustainable.

Roger from Houston, TX

I've always been told that, when game-planning against a top quarterback, defensive coordinators usually try to take away the strength of the quarterback's game, forcing him to rely on skills at which he is less adept. With a full season's (and two playoff games') worth of video on Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, what aspect of his game do you think defensive coordinators will focus on to try and limit his effectiveness? What was the most successful part of his game last year?

This remains to be seen a bit. That's because Lawrence really began developing in a big way in the last 10 or so games of last season. If coordinators are game-planning solely off those games, my guess is they would try to blitz Lawrence and make him uncomfortable. This would leave defenses exposed to Lawrence's ability to run, but coordinators probably would accept that risk if it means being able to force Lawrence into some mistakes with pressure. Here's the thing, though: Lawrence is still developing rapidly. I expect you will see coordinators try various ways to slow him and confuse him in the coming season or so. If Lawrence is as good as I believe he will be, you will see him adapt quickly to what defenses are trying and turn his perceived weaknesses into strengths.

Mike from Cartersville (AKA Trevortown), GA

It's hilarious that there's people that think sports are scripted and also think that Ghost Hunters is real and not scripted. The writers' strike shouldn't affect production of things like Ghost Hunters because it's real, right? If production of your favorite reality TV show was impacted by the writers' strike, it was storyboarded. Maybe the writers of sports aren't unionized?

I would say it's hilarious that there's a show called Ghost Hunters, but that would classify as "not being nice" to people who like Ghost Hunters. And we know the importance of being nice.