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O-Zone: Only the beginning

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Sean from Jacksonville

Cut Riley Patterson and sign Brandon McManus? I thought Riley was going to be their #1 this year. I'm a tiny bit surprised they didn't keep Riley to at least battle it out in training camp. What the heck?

The Jaguars signed kicker Brandon McManus Thursday and traded released Patterson to the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed draft selection. McManus is entering his 10th NFL season and was something of a surprising release by the Denver Broncos this week. The Jaguars wanted a consistent, experienced player at the position. Patterson was a little shakier at times than would have been ideal. I, too, was a little surprised at the move. But it wasn't shocking.

Al from Orange Park, FL

Trying (and failing) to understand the new fair catch rule. After a fair catch, one option is to drop kick the ball?? Can you explain that one to me, Sir? Why would anyone ever want to do that?? What am I missing???

The NFL on Tuesday changed its kickoff rules. A fair catch previously resulted in the receiving team starting a new set of downs at the spot of the fair catch – unless the fair catch occurred in the end zone, in which case the receiving team began its ensuing possession on its own 25-yard line. Under the new rule, a fair catch anywhere inside a team's 25 will result in the ensuing series beginning at their 25. This represents another effort by the league to make kickoffs – and specifically, kickoff returns – safer. Many observers believe this is the latest step toward kickoffs eventually being eliminated. I tend to agree because the kickoff is perhaps the sport's most dangerous play and there's no real way to make it significantly safer without eliminating it. The aforementioned change is currently only for the 2023 season, but I suspect it will be made permanent. As far as the "dropkick" option, this always has been included in the fair-catch rule. The clause gives receiving teams the option of a drop kick or a free kick – without a tee – following a fair catch. What it means is teams have the option of attempting a field goal without a rush following a fair catch. It's rare – and when it does happen, it usually follows a punt late in a game or a half. Six players in NFL history are believed to have made such a kick, with the last being Ray Wersching of the San Francisco 49ers in 1976. Nine have been tried since, with Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye missing the last attempt – a 60-yarder at the end of the first half of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London in 2019.

Jon from Brentwood, UK

So, Zone. I'm vexed, I'm truly vexed. Please would you explain how trading away a kicker with an 87.8 percentage to replace him with one who has a career average of about 80 percent, and has never had a season much over 85 percent, makes sense? Seems a downgrade.


Chris from Fleming Island

O-Man: Any additional insight into why the Jags changed kickers? Aything deeper than they thought McManus was better.

Nope. That was it.

Kevin Jacksonville Beach, FL

Hi John. I have to ask. What happened with Riley Patterson? It's been reported on Jaguars media that it was his job to lose and that he would be the starting kicker this year.

I indeed speculated that Patterson likely would be the starting kicker. When McManus became available, that changed the Jaguars' direction.

Nick from Palm Coast, FL

Can you explain the new kickoff fair catch rule and why Andy Reid thinks there is going to be problems with it?

Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid was quoted as saying of the rule, "Where does it stop? Taking pieces away and you're playing flag football." I don't know that he's wrong. Many coaches and players reportedly were against the rule. But it's the era of player safety and this was about that.

Deane from Daytona Beach, FL

Yo O-Zone! They say iron sharpens iron. With the addition of Calvin Ridley into the wide receiver room and an extremely talented core of receivers in place, having to face great receivers in practice day in and day out, could that not help elevate our secondary becoming better without necessarily going to free agency? If that happens to be true, I would expect that our offensive line could do the same for our defensive front. What says you O-Zone?

That could help a bit. Remember, though: NFL teams typically only practice starters versus starters for a few weeks in training camp. I'm not saying practice competition doesn't help. But it sometimes doesn't have quite the effect some observers might believe.

Pedal Bin from Farnborough, Hampshire, UK

Oh Mighty 'O' / King of all Funk, I admit I know nothing of all the intricacies of new stadium builds in the NFL, with some teams owning their stadium and others not. But as our owner is a billionaire who has a fortune estimated to be between $12-15 billion, what is stopping him just building his own $2 billion dollar stadium and then "struggling" to live on $10 billion? He tried to buy Wembley Stadium for a reported £750 million a few years back so clearly, he likes to buy things. Why not buy a nice shiny new stadium for his football team?

Wembley Stadium is in a London market where such a purchase makes sense because an owner can hope to earn enough to justify the purchase price. That's not possible in smaller markets. Smaller markets need a public/private approach and I expect a public/private approach to be found for TIAA Bank Field.

Lou from Jacksonville

Most people, with limited incomes like me, go to the game and leave. So unless I'm getting better view or more comfortable seats, I don't see any reason to have to get an upgraded stadium and pay more money in taxes.

This is a fair sentiment. The reason an upgraded stadium is needed is teams must generate local revenue to compete financially in the NFL. The Jaguars are perennially at the bottom of the league in this area, and they can't continue to fall further behind and remain in the league.

Stephen from 113 and Jacksonville via Pennsauken NJ

John, Can you walk over to Jaguars President Mark Lamping's office and ask him when he is going to take the Jaguars' stadium proposal over to City Hall? I don't suspect he will do that until after July 1 when the new mayor and city council get sworn in. In the meantime (and this is key), stop entertaining and answering stadium questions until we have something more than we have now (which is nothing). The tiresome speculation is, well, really tiresome. Later, time to chase some kids off the lawn. Thanks.

Lamping/the Jaguars and the City will navigate this process when the sides agree it is appropriate, and I suspect we'll have details soon enough. In the meantime (and this is key), people ask questions in this column, and I respond in the most informative and entertaining way I know how. What's tiresome to some is interesting to others.

Marlin from Greenway Palms, FL

Hi O-Zone, I just watched the Ireland announcement from Tony Boselli. Does he always look that angry? Ádh mór leis an bhfeachtas margaíochta nua!

He's not always angry. Maybe the appetizers were cold. Cá bhfuil mo bhlaigíní in ifreann?

DenMiz from Duuuval

I keep reading all the back-and-forth banter about the stadium. My mother always told me to be careful about the grass being greener on the other side; it might be artificial turf. It's absolutely necessary for stadiums to stay up to par with the rest of the league. I personally am not a fan of spending millions (or hundreds of millions) for a sport/entertainment because Jacksonville (like ALL other major cities) has serious issues that truly must be addressed, but it's a necessary evil if we want to continue to have an NFL team. Something nobody has mentioned or discussed is the recent research conducted back in 2022 about how awful artificial turf is. Yes, I get the whole crying that the "sun is in our eyes," and "it's freaking hot," but at least we have REAL grass.


Mike from Azores

Hey John, considering that the Los Angeles Chargers were allowed to play in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium. Why couldn't the Jags rebuild one side of the stadium at a time and remain in place through the construction? They should have seating for 30-35K fans and could possibly use the new practice facilities in some way for temporary locker rooms! Just a thought?

Nothing is final regarding the Jaguars' stadium of the future. We're at the beginning of the public-discussion phase of the process, and I expect many paths to be considered. Something along these lines certainly could be among them.