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O-Zone: Lucky guy

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Edward from Jacksonville Beach

It's here, Zone. Right? Is it really here?

The NFL season indeed is at hand, and your email's tone is accurate: the idea of this really happening is a bit of a surreal feeling. The nation and world have been gripped in the COVID-19 story for months. Doubt has been expressed constantly about many things, including whether there will be an NFL season. Many continue to doubt. But veterans are scheduled to report Tuesday and the thought here is that will happen. I expect it to be some time – perhaps multiple weeks – before teams are practicing on the field. And there will be no preseason games. The leadup to the regular season therefore will be nothing like the league ever has experienced. But I would at this point be extremely surprised – nay, shocked – if the NFL doesn't begin the regular season in early September. We'll see.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

I have to hand it to the geniuses in marketing up in Washington, DC. The Washington Football Team is so inventive, so creative … it's just a breath of fresh air. They could have gone with a million names: the Washington Lincolns, the Washington Washingtons. There's stuff like Nationals and Senators, they could have chosen any number of animals, things from our history, but nope they went with Football Team. That's groundbreaking stuff.

I sense some sarcasm in your email, Mike – though I could be wrong. The Washington team reportedly has at least one name it prefers and it's attempting to secure all trademark rights. The team will have a name soon enough, but if people want to poke fun at the team for not having a name … sure, have at it. There are worse things.

Sean from Jacksonville

Perhaps we should be the Jacksonville Football Team. Don't tell Jaxson. (What is Washington thinking?)

There's no reason for the Jaguars to do this. (The Washington team has to change from one nickname to another and the people running the organization are waiting to make sure they can use the other one; I don't know that it's much complex or untoward than that).

RG3 from Middle Earth

Would you trade Yannick Ngakoue for Jamal Adams?


Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

Hey, John. I noticed the Indianapolis Colts didn't pick up Malik Hooker's fifth-year option and they drafted a safety. Do you see the Jaguars targeting him in free agency or trading for him?

Hooker has another full season with the Colts before his contract expires, and I don't see the Jaguars trading for any high-profile veterans before or during the 2020 season. As for what next offseason will bring … that's too far in the future, with too much that can happen this season, to accurately predict.

Bill from Jacksonville

John, you might be a little young to remember "North Dallas Forty," but that was definitely ahead of its time.

I'm not too young to remember "North Dallas Forty." It was a great book. It was also a great movie – one of the best football movies ever made.

Rob from St. Augustine, FL

Can you explain the situation with this guy, Martin McCaulay, and how he plays a part in the Washington Football Team's future trademarks? I've heard a little about the issue, but figured you'd be able to explain it better.

I don't cover the Washington Football Team, so I know little about this beyond what I read. McCaulay apparently owns many potential names for the team because he has registered them with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Included among the names he reportedly owns are Washington Redtails, Washington Monuments, Washington Americans, etc. The team presumably must negotiate with McCaulay to use whatever name it wants to use moving forward – assuming the team indeed wants one of the names.

Chris from Outer Space, TX

Hey, bud. So, baseball started recently. I was so happy to see athletes that I care about do the things that they are the best at. They are all compensated very well for their hard work, physical talent and natural ability. Home-run baseballs are prized possessions for many, but there is no one to catch them now. Could you see a program that Major League Baseball or the National Football League adopts so that memorabilia that is gained during the game-day experience raffles off to said players charity of choice? Seems like it would be a way to support your favorite player while you aren't in the stands.

That makes sense with home-run balls, but I'm not sure it works the same for the NFL. Footballs, jerseys and helmets rarely fly into the stands. Game-worn jerseys and other NFL memorabilia are often used for charity. I imagine that will continue, but I doubt it will increase because fans aren't in the stands.

John from Jacksonville

Oh my gosh, Zone: The Jags have signed all their draft picks prior to August. This can't be good can it? The front office always messes up, here we go again! Maybe they all used the same pen and will get infected? Why did they sign out of order to the draft? Zone, I have a bad feeling.

The Jaguars were never not going to sign all their 2020 NFL Draft selections before training camp, but yeah … panic and angst often rule the dead zone. And most other times.

Marlin from Newberry, FL

Hi, Zone. There has been a lot of talk about the offense and defense during this dead period, but what about the special teams? Special teams are a third of the game (well, not really), and while our kicker and punter are solid, our returns were mediocre – at best. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook finished 19thin the NFL in yardage for punt returns and 14th in yards per return (at a paltry 5.7 yards per return). Michael Walker (who I don't remember and had to check to see if he is even still on the roster) finished 16thin the NFL in yardage and had 22.8 yards per return. Do you see those two continuing to return kicks and punts this season? Will those be competitive positions this training camp? If the positions are competitive, who are the competitors?

Punt and kick coverage are as much about blocking as the returner, and I never sensed last season that the Jaguars were good or bad in this area as much as they were just sort of … average. Westbrook's 14th place ranking in the NFL in punt returns isn't great or bad; it's – wait for it … just above average. I expect him to be in the mix to return punts in 2020. I wouldn't expect Walker to be figure prominently this season; the Jaguars selected Chris Claybrooks in Round 7 of the 2020 NFL Draft with the idea he can handle kick returns. Remember, too: Kick returns have become less important since the NFL changed the rules to reduce the number of kickoffs. They still matter, but they have been marginalized to a great degree.

J.Hooks from Dorksville

In NO way am I counting it as a top ten, but I am one out of one million that actually enjoyed "Draft Day" with Kevin Costner. Did you see that one?

I did see it. And I didn't hate it.

John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Regarding testing of players and the whole employer/employee thing, we shouldn't expect the Jaguars to reveal personal healthcare related information to the media. It seems this would violate HIPPA standards. We are accustomed to knowing about player injury during the season, but how is this going to handled?

This, like many NFL-related matters involving COVID-19, remains to be seen. There are without question major privacy concerns with health and COVID-19; NFL players have a right to have such information as private as possible. But there also is a reality that participating in a very public profession – one that by necessity will have to make roster moves and place players on specific COVID-19 lists to execute the season – probably will mean positive results being known.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

If the NBA and Major League Baseball make it in the coming weeks, what does that mean for the NFL?

Every sport that successfully navigates COVID-19 for an extended period bodes well for all other sports – including the NFL. That's because every other sport undoubtedly can learn from successful sports to give itself a better chance of success. Still, football has enough unique challenges – the inability to hold a complete season in a designated bubble as the NBA has been able to do, the physical nature of the game, etc. – that only time will tell if a complete season is realistic. I believe the league's protocols will give it a realistic chance. We'll start finding out in the coming days and weeks.

William from Orange Park, FL

You've been asked this before, but why are you the way you are?

Divine intervention.