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O-Zone: It will be awesome

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Nick from Palatka, FL

Mr. Zone: Does Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin's salary count against the cap? Does General Manager Dave Caldwell's salary count against the cap? Does Head Coach Doug Marrone's salary count against the cap? If the answers are No, No and No, then tell me why there's so much concern about the salary cap. Thank you.

The answers indeed are no, no and no; only players’ salaries count toward the NFL’s salary cap. And your point is valid – that Coughlin, Caldwell and Marrone have done a good enough job building this team and structuring contracts that it’s reasonable to believe they can navigate the inevitable comings and goings that happen in the modern NFL. So, why be concerned about the cap? The first answer: worrying is what fans do. The second: the cap appears likely to force some important decisions on an important group of players including end Calais Campbell, tackles Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson, etc., following this season. The thought of losing even one of those players is worrisome. So, while it’s fair to believe the Jaguars’ decision-makers can navigate the immediate future, it’s also fair to be concerned about just how they will do it.

Tom from Shanghai, China

In my mind, a first-ballot Hall of Fame player has to be either an era-defining quarterback – or one of the greatest of all time and an era-defining player if they played a different position. Terrell Owens was great, but is he one of the greatest all time? Not quite.

I agree in theory that “first-ballot” players should occupy rarified air, but the mechanics of voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame make the dynamic tricky. Because there typically is a backlog of worthy candidates, the maximum number of five modern-era candidates pretty much gets in every year. That means that – unlike baseball – you’re never going to get one- or two-person Hall of Fame classes in professional football. That in theory minimizes the chances of voters purposely keeping a player off a ballot to ensure some sort of first-ballot sanctity. But the main dynamic that has changed about the Hall in recent seasons is the idea that every candidate worthy of the Hall must a be a first-ballot enshrinee – and that if he’s not, he has somehow been defamed or insulted. Defensive end Jason Taylor and linebacker Brian Urlacher, for example, have been first-ballot inductees in recent seasons. Hall of Famers? Yes. But was their candidacy so beyond doubt that there had to be a rush to get them in immediately? Would their legacies have been tainted had they been inducted in the second or third season? The thought here is the answers to those questions are “no” and “no.” Is Owens’ Hall of Fame status truly less because he was inducted in 2018 rather than 2016? I suppose some may say yes, but that’s a relatively new phenomenon.

Sid from Sidsonville

All the interviews I see from members of this team appear that this is a tight group. How tight is this team? It is all just soundbites for the media?

This version of the Jaguars is one of the tightest teams I have covered. While tightness obviously is difficult enough to quantify that there’s no way to prove the 2017-2018 Jaguars are tighter than, say, the 1999 team, it inarguably is a very close group. This became noticeable early last season and I don’t think there’s any question it contributed to the Jaguars being able to get through some inconsistencies early in the season to develop into a hot team in the second half of the season. Head Coach Doug Marrone last season talked multiple times about the uniqueness of the group, and how it had a confident air about itself that at times was hard to explain. It seemed to me that element stemmed from the closeness of the group. Whatever it is, there’s little question this group believes in each other and the degree to which that’s true does make this team notable.

Brian from Nocatee

I miss Poz.

Yeah. The Jaguars will, too.

Don from Lake Mary, FL and Section 35

Thank you for addressing the recent ridiculous story regarding Marqise Lee and complacency. When I heard Marrone answer the question, it seemed clear he chose to respond with a general comment about the wide-receiver group that will have strong competition for playing time. Why do some media search for something negative to point out what doesn’t exist? Those guys juxtaposed their theory about Lee with the effusive praise Marrone gave when asked about Yannick Ngakoue. Since he hasn’t praised Calais Campbell in the same manner, does that mean Campbell’s dogging it this year? This story was a waste of time and we’re not even in the dead zone yet.

Media types aren’t perfect. Sometimes they misinterpret things, or overblow things. Or just, plain miss. I missed on occasion when I worked in newspapers, and I’m sure I miss on some things in my current position. To think that Lee is or was complacent this offseason was a miss. It happens.

Mike from Madison, FL

I'm so excited for our offense this year. So much talent across the board. I think they're going to surprise people like the defense did last year. What do you think??

It’s hard to say the Jaguars’ offense will be statistically better than last season. Remember, this is a unit that ranked fifth in the NFL in points and sixth in total yards. That gets overlooked more than perhaps should be the case. What the Jaguars need offensively moving forward is more consistency and reliability. The offense needs to be able to run when it needs to run more consistently because this team wants to be able to run when leading and control the clock. The moves made in the offseason were made in part to do that and in part to create a more balanced, speedy group of skill players around quarterback Blake Bortles. But yes, I think the Jaguars’ offense will be better in those areas this season – and I think that will surprise some people.

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Since you are answering random questions (tennis??) who do you think is going to win the U.S. Open? (Golf). Hope you are having a nice summer.

Monday’s tennis O-Zone question wasn’t actually that random. I follow tennis more closely than I follow pretty much any sport outside the NFL. Occasionally – and to the chagrin and annoyance of many readers – I will get a question(s) from other O-Zone readers with a similar interest. During slower times of the year such as this, I will occasionally indulge the tennis-interest reader – and myself – by answering a few such questions. As for who is going to win golf’s U.S. Open this weekend, I haven’t the foggiest idea. Tiger? Phil? Jordan Spieth? Dustin Johnson? Someone else? I’ll probably watch a few holes, but I have so little insight into the sport that I doubt I’ll bother answering questions on the topic.

Ralph from Duval

Zone, did you know if you use the app and hit return

What, Ralph? Ralph?!!! RALPH!!!!!!!!????

Ralph from Duval

… it sends …

Ralph?

Ralph from Duval

… before you want it to?

Oh.

Ryan from Dallas, TX

All this talk about Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. What are your thoughts on Serena, and where does she stack amongst the top players?

Serena Williams is clearly one of the two or three best women ever to play the sport – and perhaps the greatest of all time. She ranks with Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova in my mind as the women who have defined the sport during my lifetime.

Cliff from Jags4lifedotcom

Would you pay a King's ransom if I held the O-Zone hostage?

Sometimes, a thing has great value and someone lacks the ability to pay. Other times, there exists the unfortunate and sad combination of a lack of value AND an inherent unwillingness to pay. Consider your scenario one of the latter.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

I did it, John. I married my amazing girlfriend from Costa Rica. I believe I have upgraded my team dramatically. I'm not saying she is the Reggie White or Deion Sanders of free-agent acquisitions, but maybe in the Keenan McCardell range. Her cooking abilities are on an All-Pro level. She is a pro at writing computer code and teaches me a lot, elevating the team. I have learned to speak a second language. We can add running marathons to her vast array of abilities. Her ability to throw objects is surprisingly good. Her accuracy is Brady-esque thus elevating my dodge ability. I know most married people tell me not to do it, but I think they're all wrong. As a veteran, what advice do you offer for the rest of us noobs?

Just wait.

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