JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Johnny from Howey in the Hills
Mr. O: There seems to be two polar opposite views of running backs. One is to run them 30-plus times a game to see how they hold up physically and on the opposite, run by "committee." From a running back's perspective, it seems the run-till-I-drop mentality creates more immediate contract value for them. However, on the flip side, the "committee" backs that have longevity make it up in the long run as they have much less wear and tear on their bodies and a longer playing lifetime. What say you?
There's some truth here, with a couple of twists. Workhorse-type backs that get most of their team's carries early in their career tend to be top-end backs. It's being a top-end back more than the amount of carries that puts them in the high end in terms of positional value when second contracts approach. The downside of that indeed is that those players get devalued by teams because of the perception that the high number of early carries lessens future production potential. The "committee" backs indeed have a chance to have longer careers, though backs often have shorter careers than other positions regardless of wear-and-tear in their early NFL seasons.
Deane from Daytona Beach, FL
Yo, O-Zone! I have not seen or heard much about Ventrell Miller! How is he progressing? Do you see him pushing for playing time? How do you see the linebacker lineup being on opening day?
Miller, a fourth-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2023 NFL Draft from the University of Florida, began '23 camp working his way back from foot surgery early this year. He was limited in early 11-on-11 work but had a big tackle for a loss in Monday's "live" practice. I expect Miller to push for special teams playing time and a reserve linebacker role this season. I expect the Jaguars' starting linebackers corps Week 1 if healthy to be as follows: outside linebackers Josh Allen and Travon Walker and inside linebackers Devin Lloyd and Foye Oluokun.
Josh from Atlanta, GA
Who is the best receiver in the league?
I would go with Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings. A lot of arguments can be made for other players, but it's hard argue against Jefferson.
Nick from Palatka, FL
Hey, Zone. With training camp essentially over, do you get the sense that the defense – even with key (sorry) losses/injuries – will be at least as good as last year, just by organic maturation and knowledge of the scheme? If so, do you think that the team will be better since the offense can't help but be awesome if healthy? Thanks.
I do expect the defense to be better than last season. While defenses may not benefit from continuity as much as offenses, there is an advantage to having all starters returning and having played in this scheme for a season. Players such as defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, Lloyd and Walker also could/should take steps. I don't know that this will be a Top 5 defense, but lost in the angst many observers are currently feeling over the unit is it wasn't at all bad last season. It was 12th in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in turnovers created. If it can continue to produce turnovers and get marginally better rushing the passer, it should complement what could be one of the NFL's top offenses.
David from Maplewood, NJ
John, I brought my teenager down to see the grandparents and my 16-year-old, my father and I went out to the Miller Electric Center for practice. Nice facility, good time had by all, huge upgrade from the temp high school bleachers they used to throw up to open practices to the fans. Well done and we remain "all in" that there is no ceiling on what this team could possibly accomplish this year. Let's GO!!!
One fer the MEC.
Scott from Gilbert, AZ
Zone, the initial depth chart is pretty much as anticipated, with the exception of Ben Bartch who will be listed at left guard once he comes off the Physically Unable to Perform list. However, I am a little surprised to see rookie safety Antonio Johnson listed behind Daniel Thomas. Would you guess that is more the result of Thomas' four years of experience and Johnson's limited reps to date? Or do you get the sense coaches believe Thomas will simply be the better option at a backup free safety this season? I'm thinking Johnson possesses some great special teams attributes, as does Thomas, but is there any chance we dress five safeties on game day? It would be nice to have the versatility of Andre Cisco, Rayshawn Jenkins, Andrew Wingard, Thomas and Johnson at the ready, but with as many offensive weapons as Head Coach Doug Pederson will want to create multiple looks on that side of the ball it just doesn't seem possible.
The depth chart released Tuesday was unofficial and compiled after a little less than two weeks of practice. Most rookies with the exception of the right tackle Anton Harrison (first team), running back Tank Bigsby (second) and tight end Brenton Strange (second) are behind veterans at the same position. It's early in the process. Johnson and other rookies have potential. Johnson appears to have a chance at a bright future. It's OK to let young players earn their way up the depth chart in the preseason.
Ken from Rabun Gap, GA
Hey, Funkster. I read months ago that teams will be able to keep a "protected" third quarterback on the roster (practice squad) now, so that teams don't go through the same scenario that happened to the Denver Broncos a couple years ago. Please elaborate on this rule and comment on what you have seen from our third stringer Nathan Rourke. Does he have a chance to unseat Beathard next year? When does Beathard's contract mature? Bring on the Funk.
The new NFL third quarterback rule says teams may elevate a third quarterback from the practice squad if the first two quarterbacks become unavailable in a game because of injury. Rourke, a rookie who played in the Canadian Football League last season, has looked like a player who needs some time and repetitions to be ready to function in the NFL. This is not unusual for a young, third quarterback. C.J. Beathard this past offseason signed a two-year contract extension. It would be a surprise if he wasn't the team's backup quarterback for at least the duration of that contract.
Stuart from Cottonwood, AZ
Prepare for not nice. Fumbling is a concern. If Travis Etienne Jr. had played in his rookie season. he would have spent most of it on the bench due to his fumbling. Glad that didn't happen.
Etienne fumbled five times last season, and a couple of them were costly. It's not yet fair based on his first season to call him fumble-prone. It is fair to call it an area to watch and an area he needs to improve in 2023.
Don from Marshall, NC
If sacks were so important then former Jaguars pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue would have gotten a better contract than a one-year deal. This team will never lead the league in sacks because they are a more versatile team. Besides that, the Jaguars offense will dictate the games. This team is stacked. They got what they need. Just sit back and enjoy it and let the men do their jobs. Go Jaguars!
Don remains "all in."
DenMiz from Jax
In a recent Jags article, "Among the day's highlights: Three consecutive touchdowns in goal-line drills by the first-team offense followed by three-consecutive touchdowns in the same drill by the second-team offense." Is our offense that good or is our defense that bad? I know it's early, but what's your observation of the team balance? Sounds like our offense is completely dominating the D! Is this a reflection of zero pass rush, offensive line play, secondary troubles, or all of the above?
I learned long ago not to read too much into one side of the ball "dominating" the other or "winning" in training camp. Many drills are set up for players to work on concepts, and drills such as one-on-one pass rush or seven-on-seven passing – while easy fodder for those analyzing practice – aren't really game situations. It's also very, very difficult to simulate game situations when practicing pass rush. The Jaguars' pass rush looked better Monday in practice when the drill was two-on-two and included defensive linemen working together as opposed to alone against a single offensive lineman. The offense has looked good. Very good at times. Is it "ahead" of the defense in some respects? Probably. That's to be expected. This is probably going to be an offense-centric team.
Paul from Jacksonville
How much playing time do you think Beathard will get against Dallas?
A lot after the first couple of series.