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O-Zone: Never has she ever

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

JT from Palm Coast, FL

John, I've been hesitant to write because for the first time in a long, long time I am optimistic. For years I've been at best cautiously optimistic or just plain 'ol pessimistic. This team seems stacked from top to bottom. The offense has top five potential. If the second-year defensive players can take a step forward, then this team has AFC Championship/Super Bowl potential. You are there day-to-day and see it from the inside. Do you see the same?

I struggle counseling fans about optimism or pessimism. I see nothing wrong with hope entering any NFL season because what's being a fan without the emotional ups and downs that stem from hope – whether the result is elation or despair? If you're not feeling, you're not living. Think of it: If you knew for sure what was going to happen, the Jaguars' late-season run to the AFC South title last season wouldn't have been fun. If there were ever a season to be optimistic, this is it. The Jaguars were ascending at the end of last season and there's no reason they won't be better this season. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was ascending at the end of last season and there's no reason he won't be better this season. I'll say here what I have said often in recent months: Those things happening last season guarantees nothing this season. That's not how real life happens. But do the Jaguars have AFC Championship potential? Sure, just like four or five other AFC teams. They're not the favorites. But it's possible.

_Rob from Jax   _

Your answer saying "It would then be a 5-2 – or something to that effect" made me somewhat remember hearing about the Chicago Bears' defense playing a formation I'm unfamiliar with. A 4-6 or 6-4? Do you know that scheme? Was it the 1985 Bears? Was that innovative at the time? Just curious in a copycat league why I have never heard much about that defense again if it was the Bears defense that was so good. Thanks O.

You're referencing the 46 defense, which was named for the personnel grouping of four linemen and six players – three linebackers, a safety and two cornerbacks – close to the line of scrimmage with a free safety off the ball. It was successful because coordinator Buddy Ryan believed in all-out aggressiveness and blitzing, and overloading areas of pass protection – and against the run – with numbers and talent. Like most schemes, its success stemmed from execution and talent more than formation and philosophy. It wasn't that no other teams thought of blitzing or playing aggressively before. The Bears were just really good at it, and teams needed time to adapt. It was effective from the mid-to-late 1980s, gradually becoming less so when the Bears aged and when the best teams learned that if you could "max protect" and get the blitz blocked, you could often roll the quarterback to escape pressure and beat what was often man-to-man/press coverage. That was largely how Washington beat the Bears in the 1986 postseason, a season in which the Bears' defense was better statistically than during their 1985 Super Bowl season.

John from Jacksonville

Hi KOAGF - As we approach the 2023 season with a preview against the Dallas Cowboys, the Letter to Jacksonville that Trevor Lawrence wrote on February 8 is a good reminder and motivator to get excited for what's ahead and what's in his head. Go Jags!


Justin from Jax

Zone. Takeaways were a HUGE part of our defense last season. My only concern is how hard it is to be consistent when it comes to turnovers in this league. Do you think the Jags can manage to stay in the top 10 in turnovers again?

Your concern is legitimate. Because there is an element of luck in turnovers, particularly the bouncing balls that often are fumbles, they're sometimes difficult to predict or control. Also: Interceptions often – if not always – depend on quarterbacks making a mistake in execution or judgement, which makes also makes them difficult to predict or control. Good teams and good defenses increase their odds of forcing a lot of turnovers by placing pressure on the opposing team – particularly the opposing quarterback. Turnovers often come from chaos, and pressure on quarterbacks is the best way to create chaos.

Michael from Orange Park, FL

Go Gators.


Sean from Oakleaf, FL

It is always interesting this time of year the number of undrafted free agents that make a 53-man roster around the league. In camp these players must play with a chip and with extreme motivation in order to make a roster. Does this happen because the difference between players selected in the later rounds and players undrafted is just not significant?

Players selected in late rounds play with extreme motivation, too. They're on the cusp of a dream and most players with any self-awareness realize they won't achieve that dream unless they're playing and preparing at their highest level. As for your question … there often is little difference between late-round selections and undrafted free agents. And that's indeed why so many undrafted free agents make 53-man rosters.

Steve from Nashville, TN

Thank you for your detailed explanation of the practice-squad rules (maybe someday a more respectful name for these 512 young men can be invented). I assume all 32 teams have a low-level staffer whose job it is to scour the four protected players on every team each week to see if a team made a typo or hoped a good player previously protected but left available would not be noticed?

I don't know that "practice" indicates a lack of respect. Players make at least $216,000 if they are on a practice squad for an entire season. If I'm a young man in my twenties chasing an NFL dream, you can call me pretty much whatever you want for that salary. And teams absolutely review practice squad transactions. It's not necessarily a job for low-level staffers. The bottom of the roster is taken very seriously in most organizations.

Richard from St Augustine, FL

In reference to your not winning lottery, say it ain't so! The Ozone is not a labour of love in your profession of choice covering NFL football? C'mon, man! Maybe Gary is onto something!! LOL You go, girl. Keep on keeping on with your dedicated self! Seriously, even though you get paid and have to put up with rat dog and big Bo, your work is priceless. Worth more than a billion! Go Jags Moodachay soon!

What's a "labor of love?"

Greghs27 from Greenfield, IN

Hi, John. I am a transplant from Mobile, Alabama, to the Indianapolis area. It may be a bit early to ask a question like this, but could we be looking at the possibility of a Bird/Magic type rivalry between Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence/Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow? The similarities are there with them meeting one another in a college national championship and given both of their ages.

This could happen, though to do so they would have to dominate a 10-year era and redefine the game – and move the NFL into a new era of popularity. That's what made the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rivalry so unique, not to mention the cultural differences and rekindling of an already-legendary rivalry between two franchises. I'd say it's more likely that Lawrence and Burrow – along with Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs – become part of a unique dynamic of four generational quarterbacks defining a conference. To be fair, we've got some going to do before this happens. Mahomes currently is the only member of that group to win a Super Bowl and he has won two. The others must achieve that level of success to make it a foursome. It's currently Mahomes and everyone else.

Bria from Section 113

John, I get that Saturday is just another work trip for you, but for some of us it's the most important sporting event over the past six months. What are your predictions after the first couple series? I see our second and third teams having an advantage on the O-line and run game, but don't think that will be enough to stop the Cowboys air attack against our reserve secondary. I see Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush going 11 of 13 for 150 yards against Jaguars backup quarterback C.J. Beathat's four of eight for 60, with Jaguars third-team quarterback Nathan Rourke-led bottom of the roster ultimately providing greater depth than Dallas in the fourth. Casa de Zone lawn care duties shouldn't be an issue for you in a few short months, but am wondering if Mrs. Funk makes any curb-appeal concessions on road game weeks during the summer?

I considered for a moment trying to analyze how the Jaguars' second and third matches up with the Dallas Cowboys' second and third unit. I laid down a moment and the inclination went away. Near as I can tell, Mrs. O-Zone takes a similar approach when considering assuming lawn-care duties.