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O-Zone: No joke

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

It's game week, Zone. Finally. Can you remember a more important, more exciting Week 1?

It is indeed Game Week – finally – and all that that implies. And there's no question that this 2021 regular-season opener carries import and intrigue for the Jaguars. The first regular-season game for Head Coach Urban Meyer, a new staff and a new regime. The first regular-season game for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The first regular-season Jaguars game for a slew of rookies and recent additions. All is new and hopes are high. I can't with good conscience say it's more important than previous Week 1 games. That would do a disservice to past regimes, who put every bit the effort and preparation into those Week 1s and seasons as those involved have put into this season. But is this a key moment for the organization? Without question. The organization and fan base has waited a long time for success. There's definitely a feeling that with this quarterback – and with this regime – this beginning has a real chance for that long-awaited success. The wait is nearly over. The time for talk is nearly over. It's indeed game week. Let's see what happens next.

Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL

Fans went from "Why did we draft Etienne?!? We have James Robinson!!" to "What are we doing?!? We only have James Robinson!"

Fans fan. It's what they do. But yes … there was a feeling among some Jaguars fans when the team selected Travis Etienne Jr. that he was unnecessary depth at an already strong position. That wasn't how the team saw it, because Etienne was added to provide explosiveness in a hybrid role – not necessarily to be a traditional, between-the-tackles "every-down" back in the mold of James Robinson. As for getting fans seeing things through a calmer lens … well, good luck.

Ben from Jacksonville Beach, FL

Duke Johnson … now, that's what I'm talking about, right?

The Jaguars indeed signed running back Duke Johnson to their practice squad Monday night, a move that makes sense considering they are currently carrying just three running backs – Robinson, Carlos Hyde and Dare Ogunbowale – on the active roster. Johnson is an experienced, capable veteran of six NFL seasons – and is versatile enough to have 1,931 career rushing yards and 2,829 receiving yards. He also has 20 career touchdowns. I don't know that this is an "impact signing" as much as a pragmatic one, but he is the sort of player you want on a practice squad and as depth because he can be a third-down back and play multiple roles if needed. So, if that's what you want … that's what he is.

Johnny from Jacksonville

Z-One, Do you know what the Jags' game-week schedule will look like? Will they still have Tuesdays off? Will we hear from UM & TL on Wednesdays?

The current plan is for the Jaguars to have Tuesdays off, which is generally the regular-season off day for players around the NFL. They will then practice Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence scheduled to speak to the media Wednesdays.

David from Jacksonville

When do you see the NFL expanding beyond the current 32 teams and which cities do you see as front runners for an expansion team?

The NFL really currently isn't discussing expansion much publicly, and I would think we're quite a ways off from that. Talk in league circles focuses more on possibly expanding the regular season to 18 games – which would increase revenue through television contracts, and the league's focus always is on increasing revenue. When and if the league does expand, the intriguing storyline will be whether it will happen within the United States or internationally. I'm not one who believes permanent expansion internationally will happen soon. The logistics of travel will make it extraordinarily difficult for teams located in the United States to play regular-season road games overseas regularly – and even more extraordinarily difficult for teams located overseas to regularly play road games in the United States. There are more obstacles in this issue, but they start there. I would guess cities such as San Diego, St. Louis, San Antonio and Oklahoma City would be possibilities. But we'll see. I just sense it's a long way off.

Steve from Yulee, FL

Almighty O, please enlighten me: I was wondering how much cap space will the Jags have next year and if this year's leftover carries into next year?

The Jaguars currently have about $31.6 million in salary-cap space – and yes, that will carry over to the 2022 season if it is unused in 2021. Current estimates are that they will enter the 2022 League Year with about $60.8 million in cap space. Give or take.

Steve from Nashville, TN

Since James Robinson went undrafted, can his contract be renegotiated during Year 2, or does he have to wait the three years like drafted players?

Robinson because he signed as a collegiate free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft rather than being drafted will be eligible to renegotiate his contract after his second season – which means during the 2022 offseason. Players selected in that draft will be eligible to renegotiate following the 2022 season.

Robert from Fernandina Bch, FL

If I recall correctly, didn't the Patriots get some pretty decent value from a sixth-round pick a couple of decades and several Super Bowl victories ago?

This references the Jaguars recently trading multiple players – quarterback Gardner Minshew II, linebacker Joe Schobert and cornerback Sidney Jones IV – for sixth-round selections. And yes … the New England Patriots did parlay a sixth-round selection in the 2000 NFL Draft for quarterback Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Brady's always a go-to argument for those who diminish the value of late-round selection. The fact remains he's an outlier – and the reality is that most selections after Round 4 have an element of a crapshoot. That doesn't diminish the value of the Jaguars' late-round selections, though. They have acquired significant late-round equity in the 2022 NFL Draft. That could help them move around in the late rounds or add players in what is expected to be a deep draft. Those are valuable assets to have come Draft Weekend.

Unhipcat from Carlsbad, CA

Hi, John. I read James Robinson changed his No. 25, so I did a little research. Robinson rushed for 1,040 yards his rookie season. The NFL is 101-years old this year – and in that time, only 27 players rushed for more yards as a rookie. (Coincidentally, a former Jaguars running back who was a first-round pick at No. 4 overall a few years ago also rushed for 1,040 his rookie season, on 28 more carries.) Point is, throwing "undrafted" in there appears to diminish his achievement as if "he did well for a guy who wasn't supposed to be any good." Robinson did very well for an NFL rookie running back, regardless of draft position.

Your question states that only 27 rookies in NFL history have rushed for more than 1,040 yards. While that's incorrect, your point – that Robinson is simply very good and not "very good for an undrafted rookie" – is well taken.

Jerry from Greensboro, NC

You keep saying the Jaguars' defense has a chance to be good. I don't see it.

I don't know that the Jaguars' defense will be "Top 10 good," but I've come to believe though the course of the preseason that they will be better defensively. Why? A few reasons. One is that the defensive front looks stouter than before. Another is that the secondary looks improved. Maybe the biggest is it looks like each level of the defense has a chance to have at least one "special" player – Josh Allen at defensive end/linebacker, Myles Jack at linebacker and cornerback CJ Henderson at corner. That's a lot of potential at each level. The trio must play to its potential, but it showed signs during the preseason of doing so. If that happens …

Bill from Ponte Vedra, FL

I was at the Cleveland game and remember wishing the Jags had a third-string quarterback as good as Kyle Lauletta (19 of 27, two touchdown). So, now they do. Good signing.


Medrano from Menifee, CA

Hey, O-Man. I heard a few times that slot receivers are better to be quick than fast and outside receivers fast than quick. Obviously, it would be nice to be both but what are your thoughts on this sentiment?

That's pretty accurate. You want slot receivers to have the quickness to get open in the middle of the field and to maneuver around safeties and nickel corners; at the same time, those guys better be tough because they're going to take some hits. And yes … you want speed on the outside because those players need to be able to get behind cornerbacks and stretch the field.

James from Orange Park, FL

You make me sick. No joke.

I get it.