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O-Zone: Real solution

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Paul from Jacksonville Beach, FL

This is the dead zone, right? I'm bored.

This indeed is the dead zone, which (un)officially begins when minicamp ends in mid-June and (un)officially ends when training camp begins in late-July. I won't tell you it's the most exciting time of the year for football fans. I also won't tell you it's always easy to find questions to move the Jaguars conversation forward during these five (or so) weeks. I will tell you there's a long season approaching, with an offseason to follow that's almost equally long. This is pretty much the lone extended time off for coaches. It's the last extended time for players until the end of the season. This time will be over soon enough. Training camp starts in 19 days. Whee.

Michael from Orange Park, FL

The O-Zone is an optimistic place these days. I admit this makes me uncomfortable. What about it, Zone? What do you see that could trip this team up this season?

Optimism does seem to reign in the O-Zone these days, and I sense the same is true in many corners of the Jaguars' fan base. There are many legitimate reasons for this, particularly quarterback Trevor Lawrence and what appears likely to be a high-powered offense. But there are factors that could "trip the Jaguars up" in 2023. Injuries are the most obvious; this was a very healthy team last season, and the injuries sustained were in spots where the Jaguars had good depth – primarily along the offensive line. The Jaguars also were an opportunistic defensive team last season that thrived on turnovers and big plays at critical times. If they can't repeat that – or at least come close – that could cost them in close games. Perhaps the biggest factor facing this team, though, is the need to improve from last season. While the Jaguars were good in 2022, they also needed a remarkable late-season run – a run that included double-digit rallies for victories in the last five home games – to win the AFC South title. If the Jaguars are "only" as good as they were last season, that might not be good enough. They are capable of being an AFC power, but they must improve to get there.

Chuck from Jagsonville

Two things. First: The conversation about losing a home game each year. Big deal. If it helps the team be financially secure and STAY in Jacksonville, so be it. We still have them in Jacksonville for all the other games and hopefully many playoff games in the future. Five teams this season lost a home game to the international series, including Buffalo. Would we prefer to have seven-to-eight home games a season or none? Second: The financing thing. Jacksonville had to pay up to get a team in the first place; I am not certain why anyone would have thought that would be the end of the investment in the facilities to keep the team. Every house needs a facelift from time to time, or maybe even a tear down. The stadium is no different. Just saying.

Good eye.

CaptBob from Jax

There has been a lot of talk recently, including me, about acquiring a defensive end. How much would it cost to re-sign Smoot? The odds he will make a full recovery – especially in the first year back – are not great but one has to root for a fan favorite.

I think there's a good chance defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot, who remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after a December Achilles injury, will play for the Jaguars sometime this season. It seems doubtful he would play at the start of the season at this point. I would expect a short-term, comparatively inexpensive contract with some incentives with the idea being that Smoot could work back to health and sign a longer deal – somewhere – moving forward.

Brian from Gainesville, FL

Big O, you've repeatedly spoken about how the NFL wouldn't allow a small market team to fund its own stadium. I understand and I get why Jaguars Owner Shad Khan isn't going to do this. But suppose he wanted to? It's his money, and if he wanted to build a stadium, who is the NFL to tell him he can't? What else does the NFL get to vote on regarding an owner's money? Contract values? Guarantees to players? I'm curious.

NFL Owners vote on many issues that dictate direction and financial health of the NFL, perhaps most pertinent in this discussion being new prospective owners. Just as an owner can't sell a franchise to whatever owner or ownership group he/she pleases, an owner can't simply say, "I want to play in this facility or that facility" without ownership approval. Who are NFL owners to do this? Owners – and ownership has its privileges.

Nathan from Utah, US

Thank you for your response on my proposal for the NFL of the Future. As Steve Martin playing Lucky Day in Three Amigos always says: "I think you misread ..." The idea of such a realignment is to enhance the history and passion of current rivalries. Case in point: When the Jaguars played in the AFC Central Division. The continuing rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jaguars has been epic because it can only happen twice in one year if the second matchup is a playoff one. With the locale and history of the cities, how do Dallas and Houston not play twice a year? And on and on down the realign. Picture Indianapolis and New England twice a year again keeping that decade-long rivalry – that was Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady – alive. With a realignment plan, such as mine, that not only cuts travel distance between division opponents by a total of 7,328 miles, wouldn't having teams who also share stadiums – such as the Giants and Jets, and the Chargers and Rams – in the same division be something that could have owners want enough, to allow such a realignment? This is the dead zone for crying out loud. Put a micro – sorry cellphone – in front of your boss, an NFL owner, and ask? Thanks again. GO Jaguars!

You proposed an extensive realignment. This was in a recent O-Zone, and I answered as I typically do when asked about realignment – that I have little, if any, sense that owners want this sort of change. Remember: Most owners didn't want the realignment that produced the current divisional setup; they were forced to do it because expansion made the setup of three divisions in each conference uneven. The move to 32 teams made the current alignment of four teams per division mathematically logical. Again: To get realignment passed, owners have to want it. My sense is too many owners – particularly the owners in traditional divisions such as the AFC East, West and North and NFC East and North – like the current setup for this to happen. Would the Cowboys like to play the Texans once a season? Maybe. Would they like it at the expense of playing the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders and New York Giants twice a season. And while the Steelers have something of a rivalry with the Jaguars, they don't value it on a level anywhere close to their rivalries with the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. That's pretty much the same answer as before. Because that's the answer.

Cristiano from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Regarding the name of the Stadium of the Future, I have a suggestion: KOAF Palace.

I am the king of all funk.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, are there any stadiums, other than home, that you like in particular?

I like the Tennessee Titans' stadium because of the press-box view. It's only a few stories up. I'll enjoy it while it lasts. The Titans are scheduled to have a new stadium beginning in 2026. I doubt the layout will be as media-friendly.

Dave from Jax

Zone, that's OK. I wouldn't want to be stranded with you on a desert island, either.

Good eye.

Brad from Section 38

In your response to Tom from Charlottesville, you mentioned how the Skyway doesn't travel to the stadium area. JTA has been testing autonomous vehicles to connect the Skyway to the stadium for years and are expected to be operational by 2025. Jaguars President Mark Lamping mentioned the autonomous vehicles at one of the Huddles I attended as part of the solution to the inevitable loss of parking around the stadium due to development.

Good eye – and good point. When answering a recent O-Zone question about mass transit and how it relates to the Stadium of the Future, I focused on the skyway and vehicles of the past. Call this the ultimate old-man moment for me. Autonomous vehicles indeed appear to be a part of JTA's future and likely will be a part of the parking/transportation solution for downtown on Jaguars game days – and other days.

Joe from the Westside

You're a little bit of an instigator, aren't you?

Do we have a problem? Because I can solve a problem.