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O-Zone: No limits

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bruce from St. Simons Island, GA

O - In this offseason of meals and comma discussions, I also congratulate Fred Taylor on his graduation! Also, I am beginning to think the Jags are currently flying under the radar for the upcoming season. I believe the Jags could (positively) surprise folks this year. Does the senior writer have a similar opinion?

Former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor graduated the University of Florida recently – and while we already have mentioned this in the O-Zone, it's absolutely worth mentioning and congratulating again. Taylor, the No. 9 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 1998 NFL Draft, kept a promise to his late grandmother by graduating. The bond between the two was real and special, and it was cool this past week hearing Taylor had reached that goal. As for the all-important "radar" of public perception and expectation … I'm not all that certain if the Jaguars are over or under it. I do sense many observers – and Jaguars fans – sort of assume the team is on the decline because it lost five of the last six games in the 2023 regular season. Many of these same fans assumed it was on a never-to-end ascent last offseason because it won the last five games of the 2022 regular season. The reality is one season's momentum – while perhaps helpful in some way – guarantees nothing about the following season. I see the Jaguars as a team that has finished the last two seasons 9-8. While they arrived there differently each season, the records indicate a team that has been good enough to be a winning team and not good enough to push deep into the playoffs. I think if the team stays relatively healthy, if the running game is better in must-run situations and if quarterback Trevor Lawrence takes another step, then it can win the AFC South in 2024. I don't know if that would surprise people, but I think it can reach that objective.

Mike from Azores

Hey, John. What am I missing in this story? Gabe Davis is still recovering from an injury suffered when he was still with the Buffalo Bills? When you sign a veteran free agent, isn't it pending passing a physical? Did the Jags not check Gabe out physically? Why not disclose the injury at that time? Or is this a new injury no one wants to take the blame for? I'm confused!

If you're missing anything, perhaps it's perspective. Or publicly available information. Davis, a wide receiver who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March, sustained a knee sprain while playing for the Buffalo Bills in Week 18 last season. He didn't play in the playoffs. This was known by all involved and it was known when he signed with the Jaguars. He's still returning from the injury. It's Phase 2 of the offseason program. Training camp begins in late July. Breathe, Mike … breathe.

Nick from Virginia Beach, VA

My first-time statement, long-time questioner. Your pick for the mustard jersey might be the worst decision ever made in the history of the jags. Even worse than Urban.

This isn't a decision. I just like the color rush gold.

Jason from North Pole, AK

Regarding Kirk Cousins, "I suppose, though he had quarterbacked a lot of competitive playoff teams and that's more difficult than perhaps Twitter analysts and chattering heads realize." I live in Minneapolis now and the Vikings are my second love. Kirk has made the playoffs five times in 12 seasons and won one playoff game. He made it there twice in six seasons as a Minnesota Vikings. I am not sure I'd say that's a lot, particularly considering he has always been one of the highest paid players at his position. It wasn't all his fault, but up until he elevated his play the past two seasons, the criticism was warranted.

It's very difficult to care less about Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins than I do. Although I also care about the Vikings about that much. I recently was asked a question about Cousins. I commented that I thought he received plenty of criticism and that he probably was a better quarterback than many observers say. I wouldn't put him on the Rushmore of anything. It seems from this view you can win with him – and that he's better than a lot of good quarterbacks and not as good as some great ones. He's a good player. And a wealthy one. Good on him.

Sean from Oakleaf, FL

When will be the first opportunity for the Jaguars to practice the new kickoff rule simulating game conditions?

The Jaguars can practice the NFL's new kickoff rules in simulated, non-contact conditions when organized team activities begin May 20. They can practice it in contact conditions in training camp. They can practice it against opponents in preseason games.

Don from Marshall, NC

How do the Jaguars get one yard when they need it?

When it comes to the Jaguars' short-yardage offense, Don – somewhat disturbingly – appears not ro remain "all in." This is understandable considering the offense's performance in this area last season. How do the Jaguars do this? They improve interior run-blocking, which is largely about the addition of center Mitch Morse and re-signing of guard Ezra Cleveland. Stay tuned.

Bob from Bobsville

Confidence is key, particularly in the NFL. Confidence grows through success. But even the most confident player can be shaken by too many failures. If it takes a season to get used to the NFL and meaningfully contribute, why do so many teams put rookies/young players in situations in which they are likely to fail? Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love seems to be a case of how to do it right. He had multiple years to prepare for playing and was very successful his first year. Sitting a few years didn't hurt his development. I would argue it helped him. Why push players before they are ready (especially quarterbacks) when they probably won't perform better than the existing guy, and risk ruining his confidence? I believe this is why so many high-draft quarterbacks fail – their confidence is shaken. Is this a result of changes in how teams can practice, with rookies getting very little game-like experience in practice?

You many good points. There's little question many NFL players – particularly quarterbacks – are pushed into playing before they are ready. There are two schools of thought here. One school is that if a quarterback is "the right guy" with the "right makeup" to be great, he can withstand the adversity that is sure to come from playing immediately. The other school is that a lot of quarterbacks would benefit from being developed at a slower pace. I used to be hardcore in the first school. Now, I believe a little more in the second. I don't know that practice time has as much to do with the issue as maturity and knowledge. Either way, I don't know that we'll see a spike in teams giving young quarterbacks more time to develop. It's a pressurized league, and most people want results now.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Even at rookie minicamp, you still suck.

Oh, come on.

David from Oviedo, FL

Zone – In the past, when fans pushed for more man coverage, your response was to be careful what you ask for. You suggested that zone coverage was better at limiting explosive plays, and in turn, man coverage would make the defense more susceptible to big plays. Also, doesn't man coverage require a more aggressive style, which could lead to a drastic increase in pass interference calls? So, if the defense leans a little more toward man coverage this year, how is this going to look?

Most of my past thoughts expressed here in the O-Zone regarding man-to-man and zone coverage has been in response to fans clamoring for more man-to-man press coverage. This clamoring usually inferred that man-to-man press coverage was the end-all defense that could solve all defensive woes. If one style of defense or offense solved all woes, all teams would run that style of offense. Man-to-man press coverage indeed does leave a defense more susceptible to big plays. That's one reason teams don't run press man every play. There's also the reality that no team runs the same coverage look every play. If they did, offenses would run plays designed to attack that look every play and the defense wouldn't be effective. And while the Jaguars under defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen likely will play more man, they won't play it exclusively. How will it look? I expect defenders will play more aggressively. As such, I expect they will give up some deep passes. That happens and that's OK. The benefits should be fewer short passes allowed, more pass breakups and perhaps more sacks and a more swarming feel to the defense. Will it be better or worse? Stay tuned.

Scott from Aruba

Six pack of beers. How many do you want?

How many are there?