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O-Zone: Needs improvement

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Braddock from Jacksonville

I just read about how Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams have basically sat all of their starters all preseason. Doesn't seem too smart to me and obviously Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone wants his guys to work. Realistically, there aren't too many spots up for grabs with Jags either, but they are all working. Doesn't that seem like a recipe for a softer team come September?

What you have here is an extreme philosophical difference, but I’m not sure either is “wrong.” One coach (Marrone) is older-school and emphasizes tackling, blocking and being ready for the season, while another is newer-school and emphasizes reducing injury risk (McVay). As for the Rams’ approach: not playing in the preseason won’t make their players soft. Could it effect continuity? Sure, but it’s easy to see why McVay would take what admittedly is a revolutionary chance: The preseason is a hold-your-breath affair for coaches, a time when you must balance having players ready for the regular season with preserving roster health for the regular season. I like the idea of resting starters for the first and fourth preseason games and playing them about a quarter in Week 2 and a half in Week 3. That seems like a good balance. McVay is going all in for preserving health – and I imagine some coaches will follow suit.

Scott from New York City

Aside from quarterback, which position/player going out injured for the year would have the biggest impact on the season? I think it’s running back, offensive line and linebacker in that order.

I would throw tight end in your list. The Jaguars don’t appear to have a replacement for Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ versatility or ability to make plays down the field at the position. I think the Jaguars can withstand an injury or two for the short term at running back/offensive line. Linebacker would be trickier. A lot trickier.

J. Hooks from Fleming Island, FL

Bias exists in every human judgment. With that being said, do you think the stripes will throw more flags at us due to our swagger and persona? Our guys on defense are a close-knit and hungry unit that now has celebrity. Do you think that we will have a target on our backs by the refs just because we're a smash-mouth defense that likes to talk trash and shake hands?

This is a possibility, though I don’t think it would stem from an anti-Jaguars bias. But could this team be perceived as harder-hitting and more aggressive than others? Could it be involved in more situations that could draw flags? Sure, that could happen.

Gregg from Jacksonville

Hey Mr. Zone! How far in advance do the Jags pick the color of their jersey before a home game? Want to pick out my cleanest dirty shirt in that color.

The Jaguars’ uniform combinations will be announced each Wednesday at 4 p.m. this season by Head Equipment Manager Jimmy Luck on Jaguars Happy Hour with J.P. Shadrick and myself.

Big on Blake from Philly

Reading all the good news about the wide receivers, I must admit: when I heard the Jags didn’t re-sign A Rob and chose to keep Marqise Lee instead; I didn’t like it. I felt Allen Robinson had a better ability to play with this team’s offense than Lee. However, I was always high on Dede Westbrook and was willing to give Keelan Cole the benefit of the doubt. When I saw Donte Moncrief signed; I didn’t like it. And then we drafted DJ Chark Jr. in the 2nd round. All of this happened in addition to letting Allen Hurns, my favorite receiver since Keenan McCardell, go. I was among the many that thought the Jags were in trouble. Five months later, and the front office proved itself once again. How has this front office managed to see all the value that other teams seemingly overlook or disregard in the form of talented players that slide in drafts and I drafted players altogether? Whatever the answer, I’m glad the Jags stuck with Caldwell, because he’s doing a great job! Go Jags!

Sometimes experienced football people get football decisions right. Imagine that. And you certainly had an emotional offseason. Glad you made it through.

Rob from Duval

One fer Greene. Jaydon Mickens muffed a crucial punt or two last year and is not a serviceable backup at wide receiver. All our guys can return punts. We need someone to step in at wide receiver. Didn’t we learn that last year when having to start Mickens? Greene is a clear choice in my opinion.

This seems likely to be the Topic of the Week next week as cutdown day approaches – and I think this is going to be a very difficult decision barring injury at the receiver position. Rashad Greene Sr. and Mickens could very well be competing for one roster spot. But I don’t think this is as clear-cut as your question portrays. While Greene is superior to Mickens as a receiver, Mickens last season showed a knack for big punt returns – and the ability to cut upfield quickly that all returners must possess. Greene is a capable punt returner, but he hasn’t been on Mickens’ level as consistently. I still believe it will break down as follows: if Dede Westbrook or Greene is the punt returner, I think Greene makes the roster. If Mickens is the punt returner, I think he makes the roster. Either way, I don’t think there’s a clear choice on this one.

Don from Lake Mary, FL and Section 35 Since Day 2

It’s good to see T.J. Yeldon getting some praise from Coach Malone. I’ve felt for the last couple of years that he got a bum rap – kinda like Poz was always a liability in pass coverage (he wasn’t, but he wasn’t Telvin either). Both fans and local media have had it in their heads that T.J. can’t handle a featured-back workload, that his only value is as a third down back, they should trade him, etc. and that’s BS. His first two years he ran behind a subpar run blocking line and he was nicked up at times. If he stays healthy then he will be a fine backup to Leonard Fournette as a featured back behind this current O-line. Your thoughts?

My thoughts are Yeldon will be a fine backup to Fournette this season – and I’m sure Coach Malone agrees.

Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL

John, I see two potential problems. Without Poz we don't have a thumper at middle linebacker. Myles is athletic and fast, but I have yet to see him meet a runner in the hole. Last year, that led to Poz playing middle on running downs. Second, judging from the preseason we lack good depth at linebacker. If one of the three go down, I didn't see anyone else who was a run stuffer.

It’s true that the Jaguars don’t have an obvious run-stuffing linebacker in the vein of retired middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, but don’t worry about Myles Jack against the run. He can play it well. And it was Jack’s still-growing familiarity with the defense that led the Jaguars to moving Posluszny to the middle on rushing downs last season, not the way Jack met runners in the hole. And you’re right that the Jaguars, at first glance, don’t appear as deep at linebacker as some other positions. You can’t stock your roster with veteran, familiar backups at every position. There are positions where you need your backups to be young, developing players. For the Jaguars, one of those positions this season is linebacker.

Michael from Middleburg, FL

Going back to last year at least ... how many times has Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee dropped a ball and how many times did it stop a drive? I believe he at the least has concentration issues.

OK.                          

Ed from Winston Salem, NC

If the Jets offered Teddy Bridgewater and a third for Jaydon Mickens and Dante Fowler Jr., would you take that trade?

Nah. Fowler has a chance to make a big impact on this defense this season, and he’s a big reason the defensive line is deep. It’s not nearly as deep without him.

John from Jacksonville

September 9 can't come soon enough. That's when all of the offseason noise goes away. No more talk about Jalen Ramsey being late to camp, Blake Bortles throwing an interception in a preseason game, Ramsey/Dante Fowler Jr. getting simply a week suspension, who we didn't trade away or trade for, Gene's famous past, O-Zone earning top dollar to keep us entertained, and the fumble by the NFL on the new format of the website. It all gets forgotten and seems so petty when the real season starts.

Longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. “Gene” Frenette got just three words in your question. I think it’s safe to say he could have gotten – nay, deserves – more. Get better, John.

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