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O-Zone: Play for pay

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, how did we end up with Ridley again? I remember most everyone wasn't happy about the trade, but have already forgotten what we traded, and hope to continue to forget.

The Jaguars traded two conditional draft selections to the Atlanta Falcons for wide receiver Calvin Ridley in November 2022. One of the selections was a fifth-rounder in the 2023 NFL Draft, with the other being anywhere from a second-to-fourth rounder in 2024. If the Jaguars re-sign Ridley to a long-term deal, the '24 selection will be a second-rounder. I don't recall any sort of overwhelming negativity toward the trade at the time, at least not among knowledgeable people. I don't expect much negativity regarding it moving forward, either.

Ross from Mechanicsville, VA

I may get some details wrong here, but I'll try. In 2010, the Jaguars drafted defensive lineman Tyson Alualu. There were large concerns about a first-round bust and not enough production. However, he was still playing last year and was a fairly-long tenured Jaguar. It seems to me that he was not a bust as he was one of the best linemen we had until he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017. So, my question... was he a bust or wasn't he? Or is a "bust" something fans sometimes throw out eagerly when statistics don't pop?

The Jaguars selected Alualu No. 10 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. He has played 13 NFL seasons – seven with the Jaguars and six more with the Steelers. Draft labels are all about perception. I never thought Alualu was a bust for the reasons you cite. As his career continued, fewer and fewer knowledgeable fans disagreed.

Tom from Burnsville, NC

I'm not that interested in the cry, but the hue has me intrigued. Is there a pinkish hue?

There's a hue. There's a glow. In fact, the glow is rosy.

Corey from Palatka, FL

O-Dawg! Just wanted to say you look like you've toned up man! Looking good.

I can't in good conscious say I have toned up or that I am looking good. I am the king of all funk, though. Sometimes I fake it.

Dennis from Orange Park, FL

Why did Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson get a four-game suspension and Dallas Cowboys running back Ronald Jones only get two games?

The NFL this week announced it has suspended Jones for two games for performance-enhancing drugs. Robinson received a four-game suspension for PEDs this offseason. A two-game suspension often means the player tested positive for a stimulant, diuretic or masking agent, whereas a player who tests positive for an anabolic agent can be suspended for up to six regular or postseason games.

Justin from Jax

Hey, zone. All this talk about how good our wide receivers can really be this year made me think about last year and the fact that Tim Jones really stood out in camp and the preseason and really earned his spot on the team. Unfortunately, none of it really manifested when the games mattered. I'm getting a sense with the pieces we added this offseason, Tim Jones' feel good story is coming to an end with the Jags. Do you get the same sense?

Not really. Jones indeed earned a spot last training camp and preseason, and he was active for 17 games with one start and three receptions for 30 yards. The reason he didn't play much in the regular season was wide receivers Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Marvin Jones Jr. and Jamal Agnew were remarkably healthy and productive last season. Jones has been working with the second team consistently and has looked very good thus far – as good as any Jaguars receiver in this camp outside Ridley, Kirk, Agnew and Zay Jones. With the addition of rookie Parker Washington, Jones might be the sixth receiver – or an occasional practice-squad guy. But I get no sense that his story with the Jaguars is nearing an end.

Rob from Fleming Island

John, with the growing amount of revenue coming into the NFL, are there any discussions within the leadership to add the total number of players that can be on the final roster? If not, is there a reason for not expanding?

NFL coaches and general managers typically don't oppose adding more players, but ownership generally balks at the added cost. Plus: Where do you stop? Do you need 55 players on game days? Sixty? At some point, if you keep adding players you dilute the talent pool. Remember, too: The NFL increased the size of practice squads in 2020 and they now allow more freedom in moving practice squad players on and off the active roster, effectively creating more jobs on every team. If discussion about increasing roster size is to happen, it probably will come from the NFL Players Association rather than the owners. That turns into a collective bargaining issue. Would the NFLPA rather fight for that in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement or increased pay for current players – or for something else to benefit current players? The guess here is they will fight for current players, which means movement here likely will be slow. As always.

Al from Fruit Cove, FL

Hey John. In years past, the Jaguars locker room was the players' home. They each had personal storage areas, nice chairs and other amenities, training rooms and hot and cold tubs, probably a ping pong table and, as we all recall, a piece of wood for chopping. Now, with the team's base in the MEC, I'm wondering what happens on game days. Does it become like a road trip, where players' belongings and all sorts of equipment gets trucked over to the stadium? Won't they need the same medical facilities and other features in the stadium that they have in the MEC? Any idea how all that is going to work?

The Jaguars' football facilities now are in the Miller Electric Center except on game days, when the team will use its former locker room and X-Rays – and a few facilities used previously. This isn't unusual. Many, many NFL teams have training facilities that are used year-round – except on game days – miles from their home stadium.

Marcus from Jacksonville

John, I'm intrigued by how this whole running back compensation saga plays out in the coming years. Do you think there's a chance that the position will drastically change as the best college players work to avoid being pigeonholed into that position? Do you think that players like Deebo Samuel will become more common and 20 carry-a-game downhill runners will become less common? I think in five years or so we're going to see the position shift to the point that teams only carry one or two dedicated running backs for short yardage while the rest of the carries are divided up between quarterbacks, wide receivers or tight ends. I just don't think elite college players are going to dedicate themselves to that position anymore and teams will have to adapt. Either that or we're going to see the market reset by a couple major contracts, but if Saquan Barkley and Jonathan Taylor can't get those contracts, I don't know who will.

You may be right, though my first thought is I doubt the position will change all that dramatically. There might be a few players who switch positions for this reason, but remember: Being an NFL-caliber or elite-college-caliber player is hard, and players usually gravitate to the position that best suits them physically. Can a player switch positions? Perhaps, but if the player's best position is running back a change could be tricky. Remember, too: It's not as if good running backs are getting paid pocket change. There is still the chance for life-changing money. That's still pretty big motivation.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, for coaches who played before coaching, do you know which they tend to enjoy more?

Most players love playing above all else. It's a thrill that's hard to match.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

I guess total offense and total defense are the most important team stats but after that is it offensive third-down conversion rate, turnover differential or something else?

I don't know that total offense and total defense are the most important team statistics. Points allowed and points scored are more important. So is giveaway-takeaway margin. Team rushing touchdowns are also considered very important by some observers, because if you're scoring rushing touchdowns your offensive line is controlling the game and you're scoring in low-risk ways. Third-down conversion and red-zone are also considered more important by many than total yards.

Crash from Glen Saint Mary, FL

OZ! I'm hoping that Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence follows Tom Brady's example and takes a little less income so that the Jags can surround him with a formidable line and some weapons.

Maybe Lawrence will do this. It would surprise me – and it shouldn't be perceived as a negative if he doesn't. This is professional football, and you play for money.