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O-Zone: Old glory

JACKSONVILLE – Let's go to it …

Ralph from Columbus, OH former JAX

Interesting that the Baltimore Ravens are trying running back J.K. Dobbins at receiver for reps. Didn't take long for people to copy Meyer, considering during the first week of rookie minicamp everyone was outraged.

You're referencing Jaguars 2021 rookie minicamp, when national observers indeed mocked and criticized Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer for working rookie running back Travis Etienne Jr. at wide receiver. The criticism was ridiculous at the time, in part because quarterback Trevor Lawrence's left shoulder labrum prevented him from even handing the ball off to any running backs that weekend – which essentially meant Etienne couldn't work at running back during those practices. But yes … other coaches have worked running backs at receiver throughout the 2021 offseason. Are they copying Meyer? Perhaps. Perhaps not. More likely they're simply acknowledging that running backs can be weapons when split wide in today's NFL. But there absolutely doesn't seem to be quite as much criticism levied toward other coaches for working backs at receiver as was levied toward Meyer. Go figure.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey John, I know this question comes up every year but why does it take so long for the Jaguars to sign Trevor? Is there really so much to negotiate? I thought these rookie contracts are clearly defined? I guess there will be no issues, but I am just curious on this.

Lawrence was selected No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft about six weeks ago. I guess that could be interpreted as a "long" time, though it's not nearly so long as the days before the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement when negotiations with first-round selections routinely extended deep into training camp and sometimes beyond. Rookie contracts these days are far more routine – to the point that the best way to describe them is that "they'll get done when they get done." When they take a few weeks or even a couple of months, it's because there are comparatively minor details to work out such as workout bonuses or timing of payments – and because there really isn't much urgency to do it more quickly. Sometimes an explanation for a "delay" is as simple as the team was working out the details of a couple other draft selections' contracts, or because the players' representation was working on another player's contract details for a day or two. Remember: there is no crisis or even concern in this area until training camp. Lawrence is participating in the Jaguars' offseason program and nothing is different because he remains unsigned. If he hasn't signed when camp begins, then it's a "thing." If he has signed before training camp, it's a "nothing."

_Mike from Saint Augustine, FL  _

Hey, man.


Josh from Atlanta, GA

Who is the most critical player for success on the defensive side of the ball in 2021?

The thought here is it's nose tackle Malcom Brown. Improving against the run is the most critical objective for this defense because if the team doesn't improve there, it won't be in enough pass-rush situations for the pass rush or the secondary to matter. Brown's presence on the interior of the defense needs to give the team the stoutness and athleticism it has lacked since Marcell Dareus was playing the position at a high level in 2017 and 2018. It's critical.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, could Jaguars Owner Shad Khan show up to a closed practice in a giant custom helicopter carrying wild Jaguar followed by a marching band parachuting from the sky playing that song from "Chariots of Fire" while the team looked on? Being a billionaire must be cool.

Yes. And yes.

Emile from Tallahassee, FL

Hi, Zone. I notice you referenced defensive end/outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson as a player who really needs to improve. That's fair, and true. Still, I thought I noticed him starting to take some significant steps towards the latter half of last season that while he may not have shown up on the stat sheet, he may have started to affect opposing quarterback. Would you say you share something like this assessment or was I looking too hard for ANY reason for optimism last year?

Chaisson absolutely improved late last season. That was a good sign. The key for Chaisson is building on that improvement and developing that improvement to the point that it's consistent. The Jaguars need he and defensive Josh Allen to live up to their draft status and potential. It, too, is critical.

Mark from Prescott AZ

John, please help. How can I find Amy?

I'll just leave this right here.

Nancy from Negative

Countless years of OTAs and training camp hearing "_ looks amazing" and "_has made a significant step up" and "this year looks promising" just to be a bottom five team … I am sorry if I am extremely hesitant to jump for joy at good news or only take bad news with a grain of salt. This organization has sucked so bad for so long I don't care about OTAs or training camp anymore. It all means absolutely nothing. We won't know till week 18 if this team is 0-17 caliber or 1-16 caliber. Just saying._

I wouldn't call you Nancy from Negative as much as Nancy from Spitting Truths, and there's no reason to apologize. It would be strange if some – or many – Jaguars fans don't feel at least a smidge of skepticism regarding the feel-good nature of this offseason. There indeed have been many recent instances when offseason optimism went painfully awry. The presence of a potential franchise quarterback in Lawrence absolutely gives this optimism a more weighty feel, but can I tell you for sure this team will be improved? Do I know that hope won't lead to heartbreak? I cannot. I'll still write and say what I believe – that this absolutely has the look of a team that can take some serious steps forward. And I do believe those steps forward can be supported by a quarterback and organization solid enough to create something that lasts. But I won't begrudge a wait-and-see approach. That's only fair.

Steve from Sunroom Couch

Dear John, Regarding Ejay's comments about the food and nutrition program, are you participating or still hitting up Sbarro's?

S'Barros 'Til I Die – or until it is no more.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, have you gotten vaccinated? How did it go?

I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Despite my fear of needles and aversion to inconvenience, it was no big deal.

Cory from Alexandria, VA

Justin from Jacksonville proposed Mike Peterson or Paul Posluszny as the best middle linebacker in Jaguars history. There is another player I would submit: Daryl Smith.

Smith played multiple linebacker positions at times in his career. I considered him more of an outside linebacker, which is why I didn't mention him in the discussion. But he probably is the best linebacker in Jaguars history. A strong argument can be made to that effect.

Boomgrounder from Duval

Hey O, I don't know, Mike Pete was a really good MIKE LB while here in Jax. I'm not taking anything away from Poz but I gotta go with Mike Pete on his lateral agility.


Dave from Jacksonville

Zone, one of the best offensive line coaches I can recall, Alex Gibbs, once said he'd never draft an offensive lineman in the first two rounds, because it takes three-to-five years of development in order to run his system properly. The Jags now have the ideal model for that type of offensive line. Are we to expect this year to be the best this line can hope to be? How does our line stack up against other veteran units? Also, is there a backup ready to break the lineup? It is way too early for camp battles, but what does your crystal reveal, wizard?

I'm not sure how to answer about how the Jaguars' offensive line stacks up against other veteran units; better than some and not as good as others, I suppose. But this line indeed is in an ideal situation in terms of cohesion, experience and continuity. That's because the projected starting five – left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jawaan Taylor – in 2021 will enter its third consecutive season starting together. In that sense … yes, it's the best chance yet for this group to show its potential. I would be surprised to see a backup win a starting position, though if forced to select one can I would say rookie tackle Walker Little. He has first-round ability. It would be surprising if he doesn't start for this team eventually. It's tough to project that happening this season, but who knows?

Mac from Jacksonville Beach

To further on Artie's point: When we win, I watch the other team's postgame press conferences to gloat and see how sad they are about losing.

Your pettiness is glorious. Stay strong.