O-Zone: Life is just a fantasy

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

David from Oviedo, FL

Do you think the way the Jags play on Sunday will affect the training camp regimen next year? If the starters stink it up, could that equate to “a fail experiment” and more playing time in preseason for the starters next year?

Teams tend to not make decisions based quite so much on the short term as that, and I don’t expect the Jaguars to entirely base next year’s preseason and training camp on Sunday’s regular-season opener. What happens Sunday certainly will be considered by many teams when determining a preseason/training camp strategy moving forward. But the main reason teams – Jaguars included – are playing starters less during the preseason is to prevent season-ending injuries and to maintain players’ bodies throughout a long season. I expect those factors will play into future decisions more than Week 1 results.

Johnny from Jacksonville

Should we be (really, really) concerned about the O line? Our starter is out, and the other four starters aren't, you know, All-Pros.

The Jaguars indeed seem likely to be without left tackle Cam Robinson Sunday. He is listed as doubtful with a knee injury, and doubtful in official NFL injury language may as well be out. Yes, this is a concern. Not only is Robinson out, but his backup – Cedric Ogbuehi – is, too. That means second-year veteran Will Richardson will play his first NFL snaps while starting at left tackle Sunday. The Jaguars like Richardson and believe he has a bright future. He is a capable player. But the lack of experience absolutely has to be a concern. A major concern.

Tom from Charleston, SC

Looks like Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell needs to find a starting-caliber left tackle that isn't so injury prone.

OK.

Rob from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

John, doesn’t it make sense – even last minute – to bring back Josh Wells at left tackle than play Will Richardson, who’s never taken an NFL snap, let alone played on the left side? Thanks.

I thought it would make sense to bring back Wells, too – even though the team released the fifth-year veteran last Saturday. I know the Jaguars like Wells and I know it was a difficult decision to release him. He has experience and has performed capably for this franchise. One reason not to bring back Wells is as a vested veteran, his salary would be guaranteed for the full season if they brought him back for the opener. But the bigger reason is they like Richardson and have confidence in his ability to get them through a short-term absence of Robinson and Cedric Ogbuehi.

Sean from Jacksonville

Waiting for some people to blame the front office for drafting Cam Robinson. Correlation does not imply causation.

You’re trying too hard.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, I know it's asking a lot, but what does our D have to do this year to outdo the legendary best of all-time Bears D?

It’s going to be difficult for any defense in this era to match the 1985 Chicago Bears’ defense because it will be difficult to strangle the pass to the extent that that Bears team did. The rules have changed enough to favor offenses – particularly pass-oriented offenses – that much. But to be considered in the conversation, a team will have to lead the league in total defense, win a Super Bowl, turn in multiple shutouts, finish high in sacks and also score a lot of touchdowns defensively. It’s the limiting overall points part that will be difficult considering how much the league has skewed toward offense.

Steve from Nashville, TN

What kind of on field temps have you dialed up at 1:05 pm Sunday for our guests?

Upwards of 100 degrees – the sort that makes a real difference.

Steve from Nashville, TN

Nice to see former Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis still catching passes in the league.

True that.

Marcus from Jacksonville

Can you explain the decision behind cutting Matt Overton in favor of Matt Ozrech? Was Overton injured? Did he make some glaring mistakes in the preseason that I missed? Seems odd to me to cut a guy with experience who was also making less than $1 million per year in favor of a guy who has not played an NFL game. Did they really make that decision just to save $500,000, less than one percent of their total salaries? Or, are long snappers that interchangeable that it doesn’t make a difference for holder and kicker, therefore it’s worth it to save a little cash?

The Jaguars liked Ozrech better and he indeed was cheaper than Overton. Teams often look for younger snappers to save a bit of salary cap space, but in this case it was about Ozrech being a little better in coverage and an overall upgrade.

Mark from Jacksonville

How should Kansas City approach attacking the Jags’ two perceived strengths in Nick Foles and a big defense?

There likely won’t be much mystery here. The Chiefs will focus on stopping the run early to stop running back Leonard Fournette; this was a weak area for Kansas City last season and the running game is supposed to be a Jaguars strength. If the Chiefs can stop that, they likely will be able to rush the passer and pressure Foles; this was a strong area for the Chiefs last season. I expect the Chiefs offensively to attack the middle of the field with tight end Travis Kelce and complement that with a short passing game that in effect is a replacement at times for the running game. If that’s effective, they should be able to try an occasional big play to wide receiver Tyreek Hill. This is no mystery for the Chiefs. It’s what they do. They’re an elite offensive team, and elite offensive teams tend to worry more about doing what they do well than about what the opponent might try defensively.

Dave from Chuluota, KS

O-Zone: I’m not sure if it’s common knowledge that before the 2017 NFL Draft, Patrick Mahomes traveled to Jacksonville for a pre-draft visit. Do you know if there was any serious consideration to take him with their No. 4 pick or if we were all in on Leonard Fournette?

The Jaguars were pretty much all in. The idea at the time was to build a strong running game to complement what the team believed would be a strong defense. The approach has been criticized because of what Mahomes has become. It was criticized slightly less in 2017 when the Jaguars used it effectively to win the AFC South and advance to the AFC Championship Game.

Chris from Space City, TX

Well, A-Rob looked like a legit receiver set for a great year! But will do us no good because Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin decided to pay a washed-up guard, Andrew Norwell, instead of a play-making receiver. What was grumpy grandpa thinking?

Norwell is entering his sixth NFL season, so I don’t know if “washed-up” is accurate. What were they thinking in the 2014 offseason, when then-Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson was coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament? Here’s a synopsis: that Robinson wanted too much guaranteed money, and that he likely would spend much of that season getting back up to speed after ACL surgery. And that the addition of Norwell would strengthen the offensive line. But yes … if the Jaguars had an offseason transaction to do over from recent seasons, losing Robinson would be one they might like to have back. We’ll see this season how much his loss hurts the receiving corps. If the current group is productive, that absence will loom less large.

Mark from Prescott, AZ

I disagree, John. I think Fournette has a better game than Mahomes.

OK.

Robert from Middleburg, FL

Do you believe that Thursday night proves that the starters need to play in the preseason? That game was sloppy and I’m afraid that we have that to look forward to this Sunday.

You’re referencing the Green Bay Packers’ 10-3 regular-season-opening victory over the Chicago Bears Thursday – and yes, it was a sloppy enough game that it was a difficult watch. But one game doth not a leaguewide trend make. Week 1 always is one of the weirder weeks of the regular season. Let’s see what the weekend brings before we reach conclusions.

Shane from Washington, DC

Ninety-eight degrees on Sunday. That has to be worth a touchdown for the home team.

Very possibly.

Ben from Cuba, MO

Do you think the NFL should intervene and punish A.B. For threatening his GM with physical violence?

No, the NFL is already involved enough in a judge-and-jury role for off-field issues – too much for my taste. The Raiders know what happened in this case. It’s an internal issue. If they want to punish Antonio Brown, they will. If they don’t, it’s no one else’s concern.

Willis from Jacksonville

Are fantasy football people nerds?

Not exclusively.

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