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O-Zone: Loving every minute of it

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Cliff from Jacksonville

What some folks still seem to have trouble comprehending is that the COVID-19 virus doesn't just affect the infected person. If an NFL player suffers a "traumatic brain injury or gruesome orthopedic trauma," he doesn't also run the risk of passing it along to his wife, or his kids, or just some random stranger he may happen to accidentally breathe on. We have a responsibility to others. Why is this so difficult for some to understand or agree with?

A few reasons, probably. One is it's easy for fans not to think of players as real people; rather, they sometimes think of players as figures they see on television – or in video games. Another is that people who believe certain things about COVID-19 – or who haven't personally seen or felt its effects – may not consider its possible effects on people associated with the players. Finally, there are just some people who believe they know what's best for others – and who believe their beliefs are always right. I compare it in a way to the age-old practice of fans and media stating strongly when a player "should retire." People often do this with great players they believe are tarnishing their legacies by playing past their prime. These fans forget that those players have only a certain amount of time to play a game they love – and that once a career is over, the player is done with that game for life. Bottom line: Players must make decisions on playing based on their beliefs and no one else's. That's true of retiring, and it's absolutely true of COVID-19.

Garrett from Edgetown

Zone, I just watched the PFF segment on Minshew. I think you might need to file a lawsuit. I think they plagiarized every article you've ever written about the kid. We all knew you were ahead of the curve, bud.

I typically am well ahead of the curve, and I guess I'll just have to trust you on the content of the PFF segment. No need for a lawsuit, though – because I highly doubt plagiarism was involved. My view on Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew hardly is uncommon, and it's straightforward if you understand quarterbacking. He's a player with a lot of strengths – particularly his gutsiness, clutch play and ability to make plays above the Xs and Os – and he also showed some areas last season on which he must improve. Those areas are about making on-schedule plays, improving in the red zone, improving on third down, etc. Most NFL people like his savvy. Most also believe he must develop, and that latter part is relatively normal for a second-year NFL quarterback.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Zone, ya gotta minute?


Willis from Jacksonville

When coaches break down film, do they have to wait for the ads too, or do the Jags pay for YouTube Premium?

Of course the Jaguars pay for YouTube premium. Scouting is difficult. It's important teams and scouts have access to the best information.

Charles from Riverside

Hello, John. I appreciate the positional analysis you have posted over the course of the Dead Zone. Personally, based on that analysis, looks to me like linebacker may be our best team position, followed by running backs. Not sure if the defensive line is ahead of the offensive line? Maybe you could give us your rankings positionally for the team headed into preseason. Outside of injury considerations, how do you stack 'em up?

I would put defensive end/rush linebacker at the top, so yeah … I also have to put linebacker as a whole in the top two positions. I'll take a stab at the rest: wide receiver, running back, offensive line, quarterback, tight end, cornerback and safety. But the last six are very close; ask me again in a week and the order could be close to reversed. The positions are very similar in the sense that there are a lot of unknowns, but also a lot of potential. If a bunch of those positions play to their potential, the Jaguars could be pretty good. But a lot of those positions are really young, so getting them all playing to their potential will be a major challenge.

Mark from Prescott, AZ

John that was great to hear from lender he's a he's a quiet leader I think

You missed on that pitch. Step out of the box, Slugger. Take a couple of practice swings, then choke up on the bat. Sometimes you just need to make contact.

John from Jacksonville

I continue to think the NFL players' importance is overinflated. They are being treated like fragile flowers by allowing them to opt out. I think the real heroes are those who can't opt out and continue to work through this daily. The list is long and includes the grocery-store workers, gas-station workers, police officers, medics, and on and on. Many of these people work indoors and are often exposed to people within a couple of feet, people sneezing, and people coughing. Who knows who washes their hands and who doesn't when handling money, credit cards, gas pumps, etc.? I continually am critical of the NFL letting the players do pretty much what they want such as kneeling and opting out. Nothing you can say will change this ... even if you are the KOAGF.

I am indeed the King of All Grizzly Funk, but that's not the issue. Heroism and the merits of essential workers aren't, either. I also don't pretend to think I can change your mind, nor do I feel an obligation to try. But the fact nevertheless is this: NFL players, because they are in high demand and because they operate under collectively bargained rules, can kneel before the national anthem and opt out. This won't please everyone, and it will make certain people angry. Those certain people won't believe this is fair. As for the real heroes in this conversation … I suppose heroes are in the eye of the beholder. Plenty of people agree with you that NFL players aren't heroes and that people who perform risky jobs very much are heroes. I'm fine with that, but it won't change that for now at least NFL players because of the circumstances of their profession have some freedoms of choice that not all other professions share. Oh well …

Al from Orange Park, FL

About judging Minshew by how he looks in practice, I don't recall him dazzling in practice last year. I just recall him dazzling in games...

Minshew struggled mightily in training camp last season – and he wasn't all that good during the preseason games, either. He did dazzle in a lot of regular-season games last season. He struggled in a lot of those games, too. If he can dazzle more consistently and struggle a bit less, the Jaguars may have something special.

Dakota from Dupree, SD

"Significantly." That made me laugh.

I'm funny as hell. Ask anyone.

John from Jacksonville

The Jaguars didn't make big changes on the offensive line in the offseason and have taken criticism for it. Could it end up being an advantage this year? I would guess more than a few teams have replaced offensive linemen. They really won't know what they have until the first game.

The Jaguars do believe continuity could help along the offensive line. They also believe another year of experience for second-year right tackle Jawaan Taylor will help a lot. Mostly, the hope is that left tackle Cam Robinson being a year more removed from the torn anterior cruciate ligament that limited him to 14 games in 2019 will help, too. Whatever advantages these moves give the Jaguars probably won't stem from there having been no offseason. The advantage must come from these players making the expected improvement.

Bill from Orange Park, FL

Who's your pick for Most Improved Player on the Jaguars this season?

Let's go with linebacker Myles Jack. He didn't play as poorly last season as many fans believe, but I do think he will be much better this season playing at weak-side linebacker.

Ray from Jacksonville

John: I enjoyed the reference to the 1996 playoff run. Because of the passing game with two great receivers, the team is generally viewed as a finesse team. Bathrobe Means added a toughness that is overlooked. He was an important part of the playoff victories.

Bathrobe Means absolutely was critical to that playoff run – not just because of his toughness, but because of his knack for the big play at the big moment. The Jaguars probably don't even make the playoffs that season without him. Nightshirt McCardell and Pajama Bottoms Smith played a major role, too. And who can forget Boxer Shorts Boselli? For him not to be in the Hall of Fame is an absolute joke.

Jeff from Orange Park, FL

Why do you seem to get off on being snarky?

People love it. Don't kid yourself, Jeff. You do, too.