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O-Zone: Pass the cream cheese

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

If the Jaguars do not make the Super Bowl this year, which of the following do you think will be the reason: (A) injuries, (B) play of quarterback Blake Bortles, (C) bad luck, (D) there will a better team in the AFC, or (E) once again the officials will favor the Patriots?

There’s never any one reason teams don’t make the Super Bowl. Take last season, for instance: The Jaguars arguably lost to a better team, and missed calls arguably had a lot to do with that. A few untimely injuries on defense didn’t help, nor did bad luck. It also didn’t help that the defense couldn’t get a couple of stops late in the game, or that the offense couldn’t run late in that game when it needed to run. Or that the offensive line struggled to protect Bortles late. A short punt at the wrong time also didn’t help. And so on.

Kenneth from Jacksonville

I understand product branding, but making every team's website look identical is just plain boring. Hopefully, someone at the league figures this out.

We remain hopeful the situation will improve.

Mark from Prescott, AZ

When should we start to worry about the status of Calais Campbell, or are they just giving him a pass right now out of concern for possible injury?

I’m bad at telling people when or when not to worry. It’s my experience people worry regardless of such advice. Campbell has missed some days of practice with what reportedly is a calf injury. But he has attended practices, and is around the team working on the side. That’s typically an indication the injury is not overly serious. And remember: Campbell missed a lot of training camp last season. He fought through it and had a decent season.

Mike from Section 238

Does wide receiver Shane Wynn still have practice-squad eligibility? It would be a shame to force him elsewhere because of numbers.

Wynn does have practice-squad eligibility, but remember: practice-squad players can be signed by opposing teams, so placing a player there really doesn’t protect that player.

Trevor from Jacksonville

Looking at his measurables, Dawuane Smoot (6-feet-3, 265 pounds) seems to be more in the mold of Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. He also had similar combine numbers as those two. So why does he seem to be only getting looks as the big end on the defensive line? The other players that play that position are between 290-330 pounds. If we don’t bring back Fowler for the 2019 season, I think Smoot could be a great backup to Ngakoue. Any chance of this happening?

I haven’t seen that sort of suddenness or dynamic pass-rush explosion from Smoot. I have seen him make plays from the big end. The question about Smoot is how effectively he can kick inside as the Jaguars like their big ends to do in passing situations.

Rick from Franconia, VA

Oh sure, we’re 11 days into camp … nine padded practices … who, if anyone, has impressed as a sneaky possibility to be a pass-rush specialist emerging behind Ngakuoe & Fowler at right defensive end? With the acquisition of Taven Bryan is Dawuane Smoot in play? Lerentee McCray? Has Carroll Phillips flashed? Bueller? Anyone? My personal dark-horse favorite after watching “film” on YouTube was Darius Jackson, but I haven’t heard his name mentioned so far. What’s your view?

Keep an eye on second-year veteran Hunter Dimick. He has been as impressive as any edge rusher in camp with the exception – of course – of Yannick Ngakoue.

Kevin from Boynton Beach, FL

Hey Zone, I have been reading a lot of good things about wide receivers Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark Jr. and Keelan Cole this offseason. With the way they seem to be progressing, any chance that they become the starting and slot receivers assuming no injuries?

I would say the chance of that happening for the 2018 regular-season opener are slim to none. Could it happen sometime this season? Maybe, but still a long shot. Could it happen eventually? Next season? Maybe.

Mike from Cortland, NY

Wuddup, brah? Two questions. Do you think you'll be more of a football "fan" once you retire from journalism? Also, do you have any favorite national analysts or writers? Just somebody you tend to agree with more than most? I'm a big fan of Rich Eisen, Max Kellerman and Michelle Beadle.

I imagine I will watch football when I no longer cover it professionally, though I doubt I will follow it with the unbridled, unreasonable emotion that I once watched sports when I was younger. It’s tough to see sports through that lens when you’ve spent years trying to cover it with some degree of objectivity and reason. As for “favorite” national analysts and writers, remember: I have been covering the NFL nearly 25 years and count many national analysts as friends. I have seen many in their finest moments – and many at their worst. I can’t say I have “favorites,” just some I know and admire more than others.

Joe from Fleming Island, FL

Sir O-Zone: The expectations for this team are very high and I am also very optimistic. Have you been around a team with sky-high expectations, who then started out losing two or three in a row. How did that team react? I would expect we have enough veteran leadership to keep it together, but what would you see happening?

Wow: Way to bring the mood down, Joe. Probably the closest I came to covering something like this was the 2008 Indianapolis Colts, who started 3-4 and were two miracle comebacks from starting 1-6. That team recovered to win its last nine games and finish 12-4, doing so because it was a veteran team that had been together a long time – and because quarterback Peyton Manning recovered from a preseason injury to put together a remarkable final half of the season. Could this team recover from losses in its first two or three games? Sure, anything is possible. And the leadership and will of this team is strong enough to overcome a lot of adversity. But 0-2 and 0-3 starts are difficult to overcome in this league. There are only so many games to make up that kind of ground.

Jonathan from Rockville

How much can we expect to see each of the quarterbacks for each team play on Thursday?

I haven’t the foggiest notion how much the New Orleans Saints’ quarterbacks will play Thursday. Perhaps I’ll go work for them for seven seasons, answer questions about their team every day and talk after every practice with their players and coaches to get a better handle on this subject. As for the Jaguars, I expect to see Bortles for a couple of series, then backup Cody Kessler into the fourth quarter, then perhaps third-team quarterback Tanner Lee for a series or two.

Big on Blake from Philly

I was thinking about your response to the first play of the year. And though I appreciate the 50-50 to Koyack, it got me thinking: Maybe not the Jags’ first offensive play of the year, but instead the Jags’ first offensive red-zone attempt of the year. How scared would the opposing defensive coordinator be if he saw Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon split backs with Bortles under center, double tight-end set with Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Koyack, with Allen Lazard split out wide? How do you cover that? Another scary set might be Fournette in the I-Form with Tommy Bohanon, ASJ at TE, Corey Grant and Allen Lazard paired to the outside. Nightmares.

OK.

Kevin from Houston, TX

What are the chances Lazard makes the team? Could it be as a receiving tight end?

My answer on this remains the same as it has been throughout the offseason and training camp. I think Lazard probably will stick on the practice squad. I think he will have a hard time making the 53-man roster at a deep position that emphasizes speed and quickness. If he’s going to transition to receiving tight end, it’s going to take some time and probably would happen with a season on the practice squad.

Andy from St. Augustine, FL

Jerrell is Back!!! Now, the dead zone is officially over!

OK.

Jack from Jacksonville

Why is Jerell?

Every fan base needs a Jerell. He’s ours.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, it seems like everything has gone right this offseason. What has gone wrong? Not that I want anything to go wrong but this right-ness is killing me!

I had a contractor that consistently struggled to show up at my house as scheduled. He also did a shoddy job patching the drywall considering I would have left a less visible seam with a butter knife and carton of cream cheese. Maybe I’m still a little bitter, and this is probably “off topic,” but that certainly didn’t “go right.”

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