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O-Zone: Joy and rapture

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Ray from Jacksonville

John: Do future contract situations affect upcoming roster decisions or is it more "we'll cross that bridge…" As an example, do the Christian Kirk and Zay Jones numbers for 2024 (and Calvin Ridley if he plays as expected) make it more important to go young (and cheap) with the rest of the receiving corps?

Future contract situations by necessity influence free-agency moves and non-moves, and all such factors matter when managing an NFL team's salary cap over the short- and long-term. And make no mistake: The future contracts of Kirk, Zay Jones – and Ridley – make it important that the Jaguars develop some young wide receivers; it will be difficult over the next few seasons to keep all three veterans on their current deals. That said, I wouldn't expect specific roster decisions at wide receiver in the coming days to be based on trying to "stay cheap" because of those contracts.

Ed from Middleburg, FL

Why did General Manager Trent Baalke sign Nathan Rourke to a three-year contract? I can't wait to read this answer…

The Jaguars signed rookie quarterback Nathan Rourke to a three-year contract this past offseason because he never had been with an NFL team, having spent his first two professional seasons with the Canadian Football League's British Columbia Lions. He therefore was an undrafted free agent. By league rules, all undrafted free agents initially sign three-year contracts when entering the NFL. I hope that answer lived up to your expectations.

Bill from Bostwick

I'm both excited and worried at the same time so many rookies from an exceptionally large draft class were able to make the team. What does the O-Zone think about so many rookies making the team prior to a season that has such promise to advance further in the playoffs than last season?

The number of rookies on the final roster has yet to be determined, but nine or 10 wouldn't be a surprise. And it would be fine. Whether they're contending or not, most teams churn the bottom of the roster each season. It's hardly unusual for teams to have double-digit rookies when keeping a roster/salary cap healthy in this era.

_Lewis from J'ville         _

John, a few years back I was all in on the clown posse movement. Now I think Baalke may be GM of the year. So much talent in the last couple of drafts plus free agency. Count me all in. Go Jags.

One fer Baalke.

David from Ada, OK

I get the hype on Nathan Rourke. He plays pretty good quarterback against other teams' bubble players who likely won't make the team. Not sure that proves he deserves a shot at backup.

One maybe a little but not completely fer Rourke.

Tim from Fort Wayne, IN

This team looks good. I'm looking forward to this season. Three questions... Any chance they only keep three running backs on the 53 with Johnson getting the third spot? Did Tim Jones play himself off the roster Saturday with a dropped pass and a couple of bad blocks? Has Cam Robinson played himself out of the starting spot after having some struggles this preseason?

Three answers … While I could maybe see Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby and D'Ernest Johnson as the three running backs with the team trying to get JaMycal Hasty to the practice squad, my sense is they will keep all four of those players on the active roster. I don't think any one preseason performance typically plays a player on or off the roster and the wide receiver battle is so close that I can't accurately predict who out of Jones, Elijah Cooks, Kevin Austin Jr., Jacob Harris, Jaray Jenkins or Seth Williams will make the roster. Robinson played well Saturday and I expect him to start at left tackle when he returns from his four-game suspension in October.

Paul from Lake City

"Fans clamoring for the third quarterback who looked good against the bottom of the opponents' rosters" should be the center space on every preseason NFL bingo card.

I laughed at this just a bit.

Jerry from Bar Harbor

What do the Jaguars decision-makers see that the rest of us observers don't with regards to the outside pass rush?

The Jaguars believe the combination of outside linebackers Josh Allen, Travon Walker and Yasir Abdullah along with the rest of the front seven can disrupt the passer consistently this season. Many observers don't agree. Stay tuned.

_Rickey from Atlantic Beach, FL  _

O Man, is it true? Are you obligated to answer every dumb question about the third-string quarterback?

No, but I'm obligated to answer every question about those questions. Or something like that.

James from Springfield, VA

Was kicker Brandon McManus directed by the coaching staff on kickoffs to not boot into the end zone so they could get a look at some players on special teams coverage?


Nick from Palm Coast, FL

Why was Walker Little not playing in our last preseason game? Is he also hurt and we were not informed?

Jaguars left tackle Walker Little did not play Saturday because he tweaked his right groin in practice last week. Head Coach Doug Pederson said this after Saturday's game.

Brendan from Yulee, FL

Why are we running a halfback outside toss with Bigsby in the red zone? Seems kind of dumb considering his skillset is between the tackles.

Bigsby has a varied skillset. I doubt seriously his entire NFL career will be spent taking handoffs and running power blasts over center. Teams would probably figure that out in a season or two.

Jim from Middleburg, FL

Hi, John. Even with injuries and suspensions, the offensive line looks good. Fingers crossed and prayers said that this season, like last season, will be healthy.

The Jaguars' offensive line indeed appears as if it could be fine entering the regular season. With the return this week of left guard Ben Bartch from the Physically Unable to Perform list, the starting Week 1 line has a chance to be as follows: Little, Bartch, center Luke Fortner, right guard Brandon Scherff and right tackle Anton Harrison. With the exception of Robinson – who will begin the season under a four-game suspension – at left tackle, that's essentially the starting line. The injuries in recent weeks largely have involved depth, with the atrial fibrillation of Tyler Shatley the most concerning in the short-term. Stay tuned here, but the situation looks OK as Week 1 approaches.

Paul from Saint Johns

Why can't all 53 players on the active roster be active on game day? Why only 46?

The league wants to ensure teams enter games with equal number of healthy players. Having seven players inactive allows teams to deactivate injured players and ensure that – most of the time – each team has 46 able players.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

I can't see you making the final 53 or the practice squad. Because you suck.

I'm the easy cut.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

I noticed that Chaisson didn't play a down for us last night. Is that a sign that he is getting traded or cut? I doubt his spot is secure and that is why he didn't play.

Outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson indeed did not play Saturday in the preseason finale after practicing throughout the week. This often happens when a team would be interested in trading a player before the roster final cutdown date. This scenario makes sense because Chaisson as the No. 20 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft has talent and could draw interest from another team. I don't know that the Jaguars are attempting to trade him, or if they automatically would release him if there is no trade. He is a good special teams player, and the potential salary-cap savings of about $2.4 million if he is released – while significant – isn't astronomical enough to make it an automatic. Stay tuned, but it's something to watch.

Matt from Keystone Heights, FL

I don't envy the coaching staff or the front office this week. This has to be one of the toughest cutdowns this team has seen … maybe ever.

It's up there.

John from Highlands, NC

With cuts coming up, how much do the Jaguars need to change the name of plays, signals, terminologies since players the Jags cut may end up on other teams?

Minimally. Players and coaches change teams constantly in the NFL. Knowing another team's plays matters very little because most teams run variations of essentially the same plays. Knowing another team's terminology means little unless it's the quarterbacks play calls at the line of scrimmage – and teams will vary those from week to week.  

Mike from Azores

Hey John, I just finished watching the Jags 2023 schedule release video again. Since you have finished writing all of your articles this month, can you tell me how the season ends so that I can nap until December also?

I could, but then I wouldn't have the joy of answering your emails for the next four months.