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O-Zone: Good questions

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bill from Southbridge

I like our new rookie wideout's attitude. I think he is going to be great. Just something about him. What say you, O? Does he make an impact as a rookie?

I definitely believe Jaguars rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. will be a very good NFL player – and there's no physical reason that wouldn't be the case. He has all the physical attributes necessary, and he appears early in 2020 Training Camp to be able to create separation from NFL cornerbacks. The main concern for Shenault could be staying healthy, something that was a concern in his last two seasons at the University of Colorado. As for how Shenault will fare this season, loyal O-Zone readers – and Red knows who he is – know I am always skeptical about rookies making a true impact. That's particularly true of rookie wide receivers; acclimating to the NFL is historically difficult at the position. Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., remember, was ineffective as a rookie in 2018 and made the Pro Bowl in his second season. But Shenault does have something that makes you think he can contribute early. His physicality will help him there. I don't expect him to be nearly as good this season as he will be in 2021, but I do think he can make an impact. Another note here: When I asked Jaguars veteran wide receiver Chris Conley Sunday about Shenault and fellow rookie receiver Collin Johnson transitioning to the NFL in a season without an offseason program, Conley said he liked how the two rookies were practicing. He said they were playing fast, and Conley certainly didn't seem to believe either rookie was overwhelmed. That's a good sign. Stay tuned.

Sean from Tampa, FL

I hope nothing but the best for Rodney Gunter, who is having to step away from the game. It's always hard when it's done not on your terms. This will be an interesting season.

The news Sunday evening that Jaguars defensive tackle Rodney Gunter was forced to step away from football because of a heart condition indeed was brutal. Few NFL players truly leave the game on their own terms, but to have to do so because of a medical condition you knew nothing about until recently? The personal shock and tumult must be staggering.

Marc from Oceanway

I think you may have jinxed us by mentioning that it can always get worse. How many questions have you gotten about former Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus since Rodney Gunter made his announcement? I do wish him the best.

I didn't jinx the Jaguars by recently saying things can always get worse. You don't jinx things by stating your life's mantra. I indeed have received more than a few emails in recent days asking about the Jaguars re-signing Dareus, though. I expect to receive more. I do not expect the signing to happen.

Pat from Duval

I would give up on Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and sign free-agent defensive end/linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, I think he has the size and versatility to occupy the role former Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell did rotating between end and tackle.


Darrel from Fernandina Beach, FL

Curious if you think Jags will bring Damon Harrison for a look see. Best days in rear view, role player?

Harrison, a defensive tackle who played for Detroit the last two seasons, will be entering his ninth season this season. That probably means the best days are in the rear view. I expect the Jaguars to explore and all options in the coming days. I wouldn't rule much out on this front.

Julio from Southern California

I saw a report that Gronk is struggling with the Florida weather. How long did it take you to get used to the humidity?

This was never an issue for me. I was born with a rare physical condition that made me think of myself as devilishly handsome and that also made me immune to heat. Wait … that's wrong. I'm not immune to heat.

Mike from Bill Murray Hill

Josh Oliver with a broken foot … things just got worse … as foretold by the great and powerful "O."

Jaguars second-year tight end Josh Oliver indeed will undergo surgery for a broken bone in his foot Tuesday. But don't credit me for knowing things could get worse. Of course they can.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

For the first day of padded work, Doug looked a bit down. Probably overthinking it, but with the injuries and opt-outs, I am down too. Josh Oliver really stings. Hoping we don't have another albino tiger. On the opposite side of things, I am UP about quarterback Gardner Minshew and the receiving corps. It looks like we all have been hoping for and a lot to be excited about. Pads, pads, pads!!

Of course Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone looked down Monday. He was talking publicly the day after learning one his players was having to step away from the game for health reasons. This is not a situation Marrone takes lightly. It also was a player at a position group that has been decimated by injury. He darned sure doesn't take that lightly. Marrone certainly will smile again – and perhaps the source of that pending giddiness indeed will be Minshew and the receivers. But until then, it's OK for a coach to be a little down on a morning such as Monday.

KC from Orlando, FL

KOAF is time now to hit the panic button for this year with regards to our run defense potential? I imagine the Jags will be actively shopping as their defensive acquisitions are having to step away from football for health concerns. I wish them good health and a safe rest of 2020.

I never tell fans when to panic. My experience is they are more-than capable of reaching that state without my guidance. But there is a chance we haven't reached dire circumstances when it comes to the run defense. The Jaguars signed free-agent defensive Timmy Jernigan Monday and they selected DaVon Hamilton in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. If Jernigan plays to his second-round potential and Hamilton is more ready than many rookies … well, couple those players with defensive tackles Taven Bryan and Abry Jones, and maybe this group can get it done. You have to hope the Jaguars sustain no more losses there, though. Maybe the position can withstand what already has hit. But there's a limit.

Patti from Jacksonville

Do the players miss playing the preseason games?

This depends on the player. A player fighting for a roster spot absolutely misses preseason games; their absence limits the player's chances of making the team. This rings particularly true for young players, and I expect more first- and second-year veterans – players with previous game tape for teams to observe – to make rosters over undrafted rookies for this reason. I think veteran players will miss preseason games substantially less, but some veterans may pine a bit for preseason games. One reason is that they may find themselves somewhat anxious as the regular season approaches, having previously been used to getting a preseason game or two to reacclimate to football before the games count. I also think many veteran players may find they prefer a few plays in a preseason game – with an accompanying day off the day before and the day after – preferable to three consecutive days of practice. This may fall into the category of "Be Careful What You Wish For."

Rob from Orange Park, FL

Ngakoue may well be a proud man, but ... turning down a long-term deal for many, many millions followed by potentially giving up many millions more for this year seems to me to be one of the worst sequence of financial decisions imaginable for an NFL player. Careers are short and can always be cut shorter (see Gunter). On top of that, he is likely doing at least some damage to his perceived value by other teams (he may get proud with them too!) I just don't see him sitting out this year. Right??

One wouldn't think, would one?

Steve from Nashville, TN

It appears there is not a lot to gain for coaches watching non-padded practices except for judging the player's grasp of the playbook?

I wouldn't say there's not much to gain for coaches from non-padded practices. It's important that they know about a player's ability to grasp the playbook and take what's said in meetings then translate it to the field. But for the most part, you're right: non-padded practice is mostly for players to practice. They're practicing the plays, working their way toward football shape, grasping the offense and defense. Yes, they're professionals, but repetitions are still needed before games are played. That's particularly true in a training camp that follows an offseason program with no on-field work.

Shawn from the Mean Streets of Arlington

What's a "comment section?" And where's J.P. Shadrick been?

I have no idea. I have no idea.