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O-Zone: Go big

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jay from So-Cal

I like how the Jaguars have addressed the offensive line and defensive back positions from the re-signings, free-agent acquisitions and also the draft. What does the almighty O-Zone think in terms of where the team stands now on both sides of the ball? Would you like to have a rock-'em-sock-'em defense like the mid-to-late 2010s Jags more or an explosive offense the likes of the current Kansas City Chiefs or Baltimore Ravens?

I think the current Jaguars are better than they were at the end of last season provided they remain healthy, and I think that's particularly true on the offensive and defensive lines. I expect the additions of defensive lineman Arik Armstead and center Mitch Morse to help not only their own positions but their linemates, too. I think the ideal situation in today's NFL is to have a high-powered, reliable offense with a defense that makes key stops at key times.

Nicholas from Fort Cavazos, Texas

KOAF: I am still behind on O-Zones (currently at April 6, 2024). In regards to onside kicks, what is to stop a team from declaring an onside kick and then doing a "normal kickoff?" Would this have more benefit than the new kickoff rules of players being lined up downfield and unable to move prior to the kick? Just trying to find wrinkle in the new rules.

The NFL implemented multiple new kickoff rules this offseason, with a change in the onside kick rule among them. Teams now must "declare" an onside kick to the officials and can only do so in the fourth quarter, therefore eliminating the "surprise" onside kick. The current onside kick rules still will apply, meaning the chances of success are very low. What would prevent a team from declaring an onside kick and kicking off normally? The fact that an onside kick traveling beyond the "setup zone" untouched results in a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, with the receiving team receiving possession at the opponent's 20-yard-line.

Keith from Saint Augustine, FL

John, have you consulted with an employment attorney yet? You're billed as a Senior Writer, but I'm pretty sure one's employer is not permitted to make reference to one's age when assigning corporate titles. Sincerely concerned Senior Analyst.

Good eye.

Deane from Daytona Beach, FL

Yo, O-Zone! With Morse as our center, could Luke Fortner not only be our backup center but be a backup guard for Brandon Scherff? He played right guard in college. Just thinking of how to have a solid backup in case of injury to the interior and not have to have so many offensive linemen on the roster. What says you, O-Zone???

The Jaguars routinely under offensive line coach Phil Rauscher work offensive linemen at various positions. This sometimes means tackles such as Walker Little playing some guard. This sometimes means guards such as Ezra Cleveland playing some tackle. This sometimes means guards such as Tyler Shatley playing both center and guard. Two issues around Fortner have been bulk and strength, and those could be bigger issues at guard than center. But I expect the Jaguars will at least look for Fortner to get repetitions to be a backup guard if needed.

Brad from The Avenues

Hey, John. I read where they're going to let players wear the Guardian caps during the regular season. I had recently thought to myself, what if they were to cover them with a thin pliable outer shell? That way they could style them the same way that teams do now. Sure, the expanded, shall we say, bulbus look is going to seem pretty goofy at first (kind of brings up images of The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones), but I would imagine that some folks felt the same way when the first hard shell helmets replaced the old leather caps of yore. They got over it then. We can do it now.

The NFL in April indeed announced that beginning next season it will allow players to use Guardian Caps, which are essentially padded wraps that attach to helmets and are designed to reduce concussions. The caps have been used during NFL training camps by multiple positions in 2022 and 2023 with NFL executive Jeff Miller earlier this year saying they had been found to reduce concussions by 50 percent. When asked about this earlier this offseason, I said I expected the league was perhaps multiple years from allowing their use in games. It speaks to the league's concern over the concussion issue that they are allowing them so quickly. What you have to wonder is how many players will choose to wear the caps. My guess is skill players will be slow to do so while linemen might be far quicker. Remember, too: Multiple helmets are being provided to players that reportedly offer similar/more concussion protection from the Guardian Caps. Considering those other options have protection on the inside rather than outside, my guess is most players will lean toward other options. This is a time of enormous fluidity in this area. It will remain a story to watch.

Bob from Sumter, SC

Jags have a challenging stretch of games to start the season. The Houston Texans' last eight games are the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins plus three division games with two on the road. It's tough all over.

NFL schedules are hard. It's professional football. Good teams make hard schedules look manageable. Bad teams make hard schedules look disastrously hard.

Zach from Jacksonville

We are in the dog days of summer so I thought I might ask you a question of no consequence for fun. Do you think professional football has a better chance to establish itself in Europe, Australia, or Japan? I mean what exactly is the point of the international games if not to spur interest and build a global fandom across the pond? I don't think the NFL would ever have a team on another continent, but like basketball and baseball I think they want to become worldwide sports but where that will take off first, I do not know.

My guess is it would adapt better in Europe, perhaps because the league has focused more there than in the other two areas in its International Series. Perhaps the biggest issue here is simply proximity. NFL East Coast teams can fly to London in comparatively similar time to flying to say, Seattle. Flying to Japan and Australia is muuuuch longer and therefore it's trickier to grow the game there.

Dinkus from Weeki Wachee

Try Prune Juice.

I have. There was a time it was part of my daily routine. It was glorious at times. It was miserable at others. Sometimes it was gloriously miserable.

Neil from Gilbert, AZ

The 2009-2012 helmets were teal. It was a really dark teal that looked black until sunlight reflected off of it; then you could see the "teal dot." IMO those were the coolest helmets the team ever had.

Fair. I guess if you have to work that hard to see something's teal then it's kind of black.

Marcus from Jacksonville

Zone, hate to break it to you but the Jags did in fact wear teal helmets from '09-'12 and wore the gold/black helmets from '13-'17. I understand you were in horse town for some of the middle part of the franchise's history, but that's not a great excuse to be wrong.

Who the hell said I need an excuse to be wrong?

P-Funk from Murray Hill

With so many games against last season's playoff squads, I'm thinking a successful Jaguars team would have a huge impact on shaping the playoffs this year. Those tough stretches of ours would shape a lot of perception of our team and others as well. Not that it really matters. Here's to some W's with huge ripple effects.

The Jaguars have been a good, competitive team in recent seasons – as their AFC South championship in 2022 and runner-up finish in 2023 would attest. They play 10 games in 2024 against teams that had winning records in 2023. When good, competitive teams play other good, competitive teams those games shape the season and decide who plays in the postseason. The Jaguars weren't in this position often for a long time but they have been here the past two seasons. This is competing. This is being good.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAGF - I see the Jags and Chiefs in the AFC Championship game with the Jags spoiling the Chiefs three-peat and all anti-Chiefs fans becoming Jags fans (at least for a day). By the way, I won't care what uniforms the Jags will be wearing.

You go, girl.