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O-Zone: In plain sight

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Billy Joe from Jacksonville Beach, FL

I hear and read much that the Jaguars don't possess a receiver that can stretch the defense. What, typically, is the minimum 40-yard dash time to be considered a "field stretcher?" Also, how does the speed of Agnew and Zay Jones compare to the speed of D.J. Chark?

Determining a specific 40-yard dash time that enables a receiver to stretch a defense is between tricky and impossible. That's because it's not just speed that enables a receiver to do this; you also must be able to run routes and catch well enough to be a viable threat. I've seen receivers in the 4.4s who could stretch a defense and I've seen receivers in the 4.3s who defenses didn't respect enough to be a major factor. For example: Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, a former first-round selection who spent some time with the Jaguars last season, had big-time speed but didn't really stretch defenses. And current Jaguars wide receiver Jamal Agnew certainly has elite speed but was perhaps not quite polished enough as a receiver last season to make defenses respect him consistently all over the field. Agnew seems a touch faster than former Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark, whereas Zay Jones and Chark feel similar in terms of speed. That's just my take; others could see them differently. I saw Jones get deep a few times in 2022 Organized Team Activities. Enough to make defenses respect him and therefore "stretch" defenses? Yes, he appeared fast enough this spring to do that.

Don from Marshall, NC

All rookies are going to make their share of mistakes. Travon Walker is not going to be immune from mistakes. He is a rookie but if you're playing against him, you better know what he is doing. You take a hit from him and it is going to bruise. I would bet on that! Go Jaguars!

This is a good take on Jaguars rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Walker indeed will make rookie mistakes in 2022. He must become accustomed to change in size, speed, violence and strength of NFL players compared to college players – as any player must do. He also must improve his pass-rush techniques and fundamentals in that area – as most pass rushers must do. But his size, strength and physicality should make him effective until he is elite. And yeah … it stands to reason offenses will need to account for him on some level very quickly.

Michael from Indianapolis, IN

Hey O. The discussion about former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell. Where would the Jaguars have been as a normal second-year year team without Brunell? Certainly not in the AFC Championship game. He is definitely a top 5 in my book.


Ben from Cuba, MO (currently sitting in the Smoky Mountains)

I've studied the 4-3 base defense for so long as it has been the Jaguars' base until very recently that I know very little about the expectations, responsibilities and substitutions required from three-four to nickel, dime, quarter, etc., defenses. So my question(s) is how often during a typical game will Walker and Josh Allen drop into coverage? Which linebackers sub out (positionally) for the nickel package? How does the D-Line rotate out during obvious passing situations? I understand the D-Line in base form is used to stuff the run and gobble up blockers to allow the linebackers to run free, but what about passing situations? I'm admittedly ignorant of the mechanics of the 3-4 base and the sub-packages that go along with it, so please take this wherever you see fit.

I expect Allen and Walker to drop some in coverage, though not nearly as much as they will rush the passer. I expect inside linebacker Foye Oluokun to sub out in nickel packages and I expect inside linebacker Devin Lloyd to play in most of those situations. Jaguars coaches aren't sharing all details of this yet and we had just three open OTA practices this spring. We should learn a lot more in Jaguars 2022 Training Camp. That begins July 24.

Scot from Aruba

Can we get an update on JR?

I'll assume you mean Jaguars running back James Robinson, and I'll also assume you're vacationing in Aruba – and without access to phone or laptop – because Robinson was a topic of discussion in the O-Zone midway through last week. That's when he discussed his return from an Achilles injury, as did Head Coach Doug Pederson. Bottom line: Pederson and Robinson both expect Robinson to return sometime during training camp. I've heard nothing to indicate those expectations aren't realistic. As for when he will be at full strength … I have no idea because Achilles injuries are tricky for a running back.

John from Boynton Beach, FL

Using the full power of hindsight, how soon into last year did you realize that Urban might have been a miss? What was it?

This kind of realization usually doesn't stem from one thing. It's more of a feel thing that grows. I initially upon Urban Meyer's hiring as Jaguars head coach had the same worry most did about the lack of NFL head-coaching experience being a real issue. That concern grew steadily to the point that it was obvious by late in the season it wouldn't work. I don't know exactly when the scale tipped. It just became overwhelmingly obvious as time went on – particularly after the bye – that it wasn't going to tip back the other way.

Rob from Ventura

Former Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is my all-time favorite player, but let's not give him too much credit for the knee-down play when he could have scored. Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio gave him a direct order before the play telling him to go down on the one instead of scoring. It was selfless and cool, but he was following a direct order and didn't just think of it on his own mid-play. The legend grows, I guess as it should. I got him to sign a trashy looking sleeveless jags T in the airport once cuz I had no jersey. Still have it and will keep it forever. He was super nice. One fer MJD. Even though that play wasn't his idea…


Doug from Jacksonville Beach

John, this is a follow-up to Chris from Stuart who questioned a defensive back intercepting a ball instead of knocking it down. Great point. I've seen balls tipped up on Hail Marys by a defensive back and caught by the receiver when clearly the ball could have been knocked down. I believe that most, if not all, defensive backs have incentives in their contracts for interceptions. Their contracts should be changed so that they get the same incentive if they clearly knock down a ball, instead of intercepting it, when the situation calls for that. Also, I have to believe that you were wrong when you said that "and every coaching instruction he ever has received" is to catch the ball. There is no way that NFL coaches don't teach defensive backs to just knock the ball down in certain situations. NFL coaches are way too smart to miss that.

You make a good point with incentives. Those defensive backs that do have them in their contract absolutely should receive credit if they intentionally give one an interception for the sake of the team. As far as my comment that every coaching instruction a defensive back ever received is to catch the ball … my point was they are trained from Day 1 as a defensive back to intercept and create the turnover. And opportunities for interceptions are rare in the NFL. Yes, coaches tell them to knock the ball down in Hail Mary situations. But when that ball is in the air, and that rare opportunity is really there … well, it's just hard sometimes not to take advantage of that opportunity.

Chris from Mandarin

I appreciate your self-defecating (not a typo) humor, but if Episcopal Johnny could see you now, I would hope he's proud. You are a better writer than Gene Frenette after all. Dude still can't even surf.

Episcopal Johnny would be glad this Johnny covers the Jaguars. He also would be amazed that the Jaguars exist, because that was a distant dream – pretty much unimaginable – in the Episcopal Johnny days. But Episcopal Johnny wouldn't dare compare himself to longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette. And if you think Gene can't surf, you're sadly – and dramatically – mistaken.

Sam from Orlando, FL

Is it true Eugene "Smashing time" Frenette has challenged Middleburg Mike to a match at Wrestlemania next year? We all remember when Eugene "Yancy" Frenette retired Ric Flair, the Undertaker and body slammed Andre the Giant.

I can't speak for Michael from Middleburg, but you challenge Gene to feats of physicality at your own peril.

Michael from Middleburg, FL

If the overrated (due to bull-crap stories made up about him) wants to find me, I'm not hiding.

Stay gold, Pony Boy.