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O-Zone: Pads popping

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

David from Orlando, FL

Zone. Most NFL defenses are using some hybrid of man and zone coverage, but correct me if I'm wrong: It seems more zone coverage is on the rise. If this were a trend, could you see this eventually devaluing the "shutdown" corner in a similar way teams seem to be reevaluating the running back position?

Cornerback already is a bit devalued compared to other NFL positions, though certainly not as much as running back. No corner ever has been selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft and corners aren't selected in the Top 5 nearly as routinely as pass rusher, defensive line, offensive line or quarterback. Why? Because a pass rusher and defensive lineman can impact every play whereas a quarterback can choose not to throw toward a cornerback. But I don't expect cornerback to be further devalued in any way similar to running back. The spotlight this offseason on devaluing of the running back position has been mostly about running backs who were recently very good getting released or not being offered second contracts by their teams. That's because of the toll the position takes on players' bodies and therefore on their performance – and their potential for future production. That's not a huge factor for cornerbacks, so I don't expect corners already performing at a high level in the NFL to be devalued.

Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

Hey, Zone. What's up? Let's say left tackle Walker Little and left guard Ben Bartch are playing at high level when left tackle Cam Robinson comes back from being suspended. Do you trade Cam or bench him? #IWATJ

I would keep Robinson as a reserve in your scenario. Remember: Robinson is suspended for the first four games of the 2023 regular season, which leaves 13 games after he returns. That's a long season in which injuries can become a factor. The Jaguars probably wouldn't have made the postseason last season if they hadn't had three quality offensive tackles – Jawaan Taylor, Little and Robinson. Little was able to perform at a high level after Robinson sustained a season-ending injury with three regular-season games remaining. Injuries are easy to ignore in the offseason. They're less easy to ignore in November.

Ryan from DUUUval

Since Stadium of the Future transportation seems to be a recurring topic this Dead Zone, I'll throw in my two cents. How about a Gondola system over the river? It'd provide a fun connection from the Southbank to the Northbank all year round and would open up a lot more parking options on gamedays.


Mike from Azores

Hey, John. I'm very much looking forward to the upcoming season and a deep run in the playoffs. Will anything thing less than a division crown and at least one playoff victory be a disappointment?

Disappointment is a matter of perspective. If you're looking forward to a deep run in the playoffs, then not winning at least one playoff game would be a disappointment. I expect many Jaguars fans feel that way. I look at it a bit differently. Winning a division title is difficult in the NFL and I expect the AFC to be tough this season. If the Jaguars win 11 games and make the postseason as a wild card, I have a tough time seeing that as disappointing. If they win the South and lose their first playoff game to a hot team … well, I'm sure many fans would be disappointed, but I have hard time not seeing that sort of season as successful.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, given that Prisco was in the know on the Jaguars coming to Jacksonville, does that now make HIM the KOAF?

When it came to news during the expansion process and in the early days of the Jaguars, then -Florida Times-Union Jaguars beat writer Pete Prisco was pretty much the King of All Whatever.

AF from PVB

I have watched in amazement as Head Coach Doug Pederson has created such a great culture from such a pile of not-so-great-culture. Now, he goes and signs his son, who has as much chance of making this team as did Tim Tebow. That signing by then-Head Coach Urban Meyer was, I believe, one of the more disastrous early moves that he made in culture building. I can see nothing in this move that adds to the overall well-being of the locker room culture, and in fact fear it will have a detrimental effect at some level. I love Doug, but I can't say I love this message.

My sense is you're a little "over"-concerned. I never got the idea Tebow being around hurt the culture as much as it was a bit of an eye-roll move. As I said often with Tebow … this will play itself out soon enough. If tight end Josh Pederson is worthy of being on the roster, he'll be on the roster. If he's not, he won't. That will take care of itself well before the regular season. Either way, I don't expect it to have dramatic ripple effects throughout the organization.

Johnny Realname from Westside. For real side

So yeah, I guess I've been swayed ... swayn ... swayne ... swown? I still think it's a fool's paradigm to pay for (literal, he is literally worth a billion dollars) a Billionaire to have a new stadium to show off to his billionaire buddies from their million-dollar yachts. No wait: I'm still not down with this. I'll vote yes, but what choice do I have? Extortion is remarkable in its effectiveness, and we can, pay up or lose the team. Anyways, I won't keep on about it, and you'd probably have to edit the extortion but you're the only person who I can tell, everyone else has blinkers on. Yes, blinkers not blinders look it up America. Love the show.

I won't edit the "extortion." Why would I? People can feel how they want to feel about the Jaguars' Stadium of the Future, and they certainly can feel how they want about how that proposed facility will be financed. And as I've written here multiple times, the first reaction of many people always will be to recoil at the idea of public money funding professional sports stadiums. All I can tell you is that in the NFL, small-market teams play in stadiums funded more by public money than private money. That gives the stadiums a chance to succeed financially. The last two small-market stadiums to be approved – in Tennessee and Buffalo – have this financial structure, and NFL owners will expect a similar structure in Jacksonville. That's the price of participating in the nation's premier sports league. Is that extortion? Or the cost of doing business? One other thing to remember here: Jaguars Owner Shad Khan is committing $1 billion to this project. That's not nothing, particularly if it's your money.

Gabe from Washington, DC

While we're in the Dead Zone, how about one fer Chris Eubanks?

Chris Eubanks is an American tennis player who is in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in his first appearance in the main draw of the tournament. Eubanks, 27, never had been in the Top 100 before this summer. He beat No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets in the Round of 16 and will play No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev in a quarterfinal at 9:15 a.m. Eastern Wednesday. It's a remarkable story. One fer Eubanks.

Scott from Atlanta, GA

With all this talk about should/will a certain ex-Jaguars cornerback make the Hall of Fame, I wonder if he will have a TO-style process. Where voters debate how someone can be let go by so many teams and still be Hall of Fame worthy. Or maybe we'll get a great speech from someplace else.

Former Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey will play for his third team in eight NFL seasons when he plays for the Miami Dolphins in 2023. I don't know that that nomad-ish career will hurt his Hall of Fame chances the way it did wide receiver Terrell Owens – in part because it's not unprecedented for elite cornerbacks to change teams often. Darrelle Revis, perhaps the best corner of the last two decades, played for four teams in 11 seasons and played for the Jets twice. The thought here is Ramsey still has some doing to do before he is Hall-of-Fame worthy. We'll see.

Crash from Glen Saint Mary

OZ! The new stadium should be called The Cat Hoouse.


Glenn from Jax Bch

Hey John, I'm a big fan of the first padded practice. Wondering if any of those open dates are going to coincide with that first padded practice? I'm in a season-ticket holder since Day One and really enjoy the first day of hitting as the players seem to, too. Could you get me any information on that? Thanks.

I expect Monday, July 31, to be the first padded practice of Jaguars 2023 Training Camp. That is one of the dates open to the public. More information can be found here.