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O-Zone: Lofty standards

JACKSONVILLE – A word before we begin …

Each offseason readers ask about the Dead Zone. The questions begin early in the offseason, often misidentifying the period as beginning in May or June – and sometimes even in April.

In truth, the Dead Zone doesn't begin until July.

History says it really, really hits Fourth of July weekend, when a perfect storm of holiday weekend and relatively little Jaguars news prompts O-Zone discussion of song lyrics, #Moodachay, #Shadricksightings and other obscure topics far more than football.

This entertains some, because there are those who are easily entertained. It angers others, because there are those who are easily angered. So, if you are prone to anger when reading about Molly Hatchet or The Smiths or some obscure subject … well, be advised …

Fourth of July weekend is upon us. Training camp is 26 days away.

Let's get to it … Adam from Saint Johns, FL:
Most people say that you can tell how well a team is coached by the way it tackles. Here we are again in Jacksonville saying it's talent. When does it become coaching and no longer talent?
John: Alan, I don't actually know that a team's tackling is quite the end-all gauge of coaching quality as your question's tone indicates – and I certainly never have sensed a consensus among football observers to that effect. As for your question, I assume you're referring to an Ozone question this week when my answer said something to the effect of better players likely improving the Jaguars' tackling. "It appears the Jaguars have better players this year," I wrote. "That should help." I thought the answer was relatively self-evident as better players indeed should improve the tackling. Does coaching come into play in tackling in the NFL? Sure, on some level. But this is professional football. Coaching matters, but players must make plays.
Robert from Jacksonville:
I realize we are in the Dead Zone, and there may not be so much for an NFL writer like you to do, but be careful, John, because as we both know, the devil will find work for idle hands to do.
John: This is true, Robert, but really … what difference would it make?
Esko from Finland:
Talking about Molly Hatchet, which are your favorite songs from the Danny Joe Brown era?
John: I can't in good consciousness call myself a true diehard Molly Hatchet fan, but I was in middle school and high school in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the band was at its peak of popularity – and if you had a passing interest in music and were growing up in Jacksonville at the time, you heard a lot of Molly Hatchet. I also grew up in Arlington, where you occasionally would hear rumors that band members' parents still lived on this street or that street. I honestly wasn't "cool" enough to like Molly Hatchet when they first came out. I do recall winning their debut album in a radio station call-in contest, and because I was far more into the Beatles at the time, I seem to recall selling the album to Emmy Cerveny – who was in my seventh-grade home-room class and was of course infinitely cooler than myself – for three dollars. I later got close enough to being almost somewhere in the vicinity of some version of cool to buy the debut album, then I bought Flirtin' with Disaster because who didn't? I may actually have stayed true enough to buy Beatin' the Odds and this was probably right around the time .38 Special autographed my copy of Wild-Eyed Southern Boys during a signing at the Record Bar at Regency. As for Molly Hatchet favorites … Flirtin' with Disaster and Gator Country, of course, though I suppose I'll always be sort of partial to the beginning of Bounty Hunter. He-e-e-e-e-e-e-ll, yeah.
Captain Teal Beard the Pirate:
If ye don't mind my commandeerin', I'll kindly be takin' o'er the start of announcin' this here column just fer terday. And whar be that wily sea fox, goes by the name of Sexton? Stole a chest of silver doubloons from me mateys a fortnight ago, he did. He'll walk the plank if I e'er get me hook on 'em. Well what are we waitin' fer? Batten down the hatches and hoist the main sail. Let's shove off and get to it! Argh!
John: OK.
Swaggy D from Sweden:
Hey O! Following the Euros in soccer at all? The success of Iceland and Wales just shows once again that building a team that plays together often beats having a couple of superstars that can't let go of their ego.
John: I follow soccer just enough to know that I know little about which I speak, though admittedly there are those who believe that's true of my football knowledge, too. But yeah … the Iceland and Wales stories are cool. I like them. Coastal Carolina was cool in college baseball and Leicester City was cool in the Premier League. This indeed is the year of the upset.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
Here's the thing about Brandon Allen: If he shows real potential to be a backup or, dare I say, starting quarterback in this league and is anywhere near good enough to be on the 53-man roster, he will be. We should hope he makes the roster.
John: Yes.
Vince from Farmington, NM:
All knowing O, does a player's guarantee and bonus money get "earned" in the home team state or do they get split throughout the season? States that have low or no state income tax could make a significant difference to a player's net income!
John: NFL players indeed earn salaries large enough that state income tax can make a huge difference to their actual income. I don't pretend to know the down-and-dirty details of every tax code for every state for every NFL player – and this does get fairly tricky to explain. Generally speaking, players pay state taxes for signing bonuses based on the rules of the state where the team is based, so a player playing in Florida – where there is no state tax – benefits there. But players pay state taxes on their base salaries based on where the game is played, so even players playing on a Florida team pay state taxes on one-sixteenth of their salary when playing a game in state-tax-heavy California.
WB from Jacksonville:
You guys are talking about T. J. Yeldon, Chris Ivory, Denard Robinson and even the kid from Auburn, but absolutely NOTHING on Jonas Gray. Jonas Gray is a quality running back. Why is there not even a discussion on him?
John: I think Jonas Gray has a very real chance to be the Jaguars' third running back, and I think he probably will be that player. I don't think he has much of a chance to be one of the top two running backs, so in that sense there's not a whole lot of mystery around Gray. That's probably why there's not much discussion.
Neal from New Jersey:
Hey John, in your opinion which of our 2015 acquisitions preformed the best last year? Thanks.
John: The Jaguars; 2015 free-agent and rookie acquisitions individually didn't have the headline impact many expected. This largely was because many – such as strong-side defensive end Jared Odrick and right tackle Jermey Parnell – didn't play statistically-oriented, headline-type positions. Tight end Julius Thomas had a stretch in the second half where he made an impact, but he overall never quite got in synch with quarterback Blake Bortles – mostly, I believe, because of a preseason injury. The class overall had the desired effect of raising the team's talent level, and I'd be surprised if the aforementioned trio doesn't have a strong season this season. To answer your question – which performed best? – let's go with Parnell. He didn't grade out great according to some of the websites that evaluate such things, but he solidified the right side of the line and played better most of the season than the grades suggested.
Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL:
John, I've always been a "the-running-game-sets-up-the passing-game" kind of guy, but with the rules favoring the passing game, which is it now? Run to pass or pass to run or both?
John: It's a little of both, though certainly far more teams pass to set up the run than used to be the case. It used to be common for teams to need to run for more than 100 yards in a game to feel as if they were "established" offensively. Now, more and more teams are content with rushing for between 80 and 100 or so yards if they have been effective throwing. It's now more important in many cases for teams to establish the "threat" of the run than to actually be able to run.
David from Duval:
O-Man, I have to say this is the best dead zone I've experienced in a long time. Insightful, funny and a little twisted. Keep up the good work.
John: David, I have to say you've done a great job setting a low bar. Keep up the good work.

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