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O-Zone: Red, red whine

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Zach from Jacksonville

The question for the draft right now is will the Jaguars stay put and draft a corner, pass rusher or hope for a receiver to drop to them – or will they trade up for a true No. 1? They have been showing a lot of interest in finding a big-time No. 1. But there is a wild card in all of this, Brock Bowers. A good bit of Jax sports media says you can't draft him because you drafted a backup tight end last year in Brenton Strange. But if you watched Bowers last year, it's hard to not get excited about his body size and hands. He might not be the No. 1 receiver they're looking for, but a chance to add a great pass catcher I feel like they might not pass up.

I would be surprised if the Jaguars select a wide receiver at No. 17 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft – and I would be very surprised if they traded up for the position. It seems from this view that the need at cornerback – or the future need/positional value of offensive line – will trump the temptation that is a "true No. 1 receiver." I may be wrong about this, but we'll see. I would be equally surprised if they select Georgia tight end Brock Bowers at No. 17 overall, but that has nothing to do with Strange. This is because Strange and Bowers really don't play the same position. While both are tight ends, Bowers is almost exclusively a receiving tight end and Strange is more of a blocking tight end. In the NFL these days, those are really two positions. The bigger reason for not selecting Bowers therefore might be that he essentially would play the same position as Jaguars tight end Evan Engram. You could play Bowers and Engram at the same time, but that would be more like playing two additional wide receivers than two tight ends.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

I was disappointed in Brandon McManus. The kick he missed after the Trevor Lawrence injury was devastating. Do you expect the Jags will have a rookie in training camp to compete with the new mediocre veteran?

McManus missed a few too many crucial kicks in crucial situations in his lone season as the Jaguars' kicker last season – with the late field goal in a Week 13 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals chief among them. The Jaguars currently have two kickers on the roster, Joey Slye and Riley Patterson. It wouldn't be shocking if the Jaguars acquired a rookie kicker if the right one were available.

Marcus from Jacksonville

I would be totally on board with the NFL making rule changes for the safety of the players, if they would do it consistently. It's more than clear that the changes they are making are to increase scoring, which puts eyes on the TV, which adds money to their pockets. If that were not the case, then we would see grass fields in every stadium, because artificial turf has proven to be an injury risk, but that requires spending money and doesn't make them money. You can also see it in rules like initiating contact with the helmet. Very rarely do you see that called against a running back, and they lower their helmet to initiate contact more than any player on the field. If the rule increases safety and leads to more points and more money, they change it. If the rule increases safety but costs money or reduces points, it's not worth it to the owners.


Marty from Jacksonville

Hi, John. My understanding is that the hip-drop tackle penalty is for intentional hip drop tackles- where a defender grabs a ball carrier from behind, raises himself in the air, swivels his hips and drops on the ball carrier's legs. My impression is that there aren't that many of those and therefore it won't be a big deal to outlaw it. Your thoughts?

I doubt outlawing the hip-drop tackle will change the sport. But there is a significant school of thought that outlawing it will make it more difficult to play defense within rules. The hip-drop is a way for smaller defenders to tackle bigger ballcarriers. It's also very difficult for officials to officiate what's intentional, so what will happen is officials will penalize players who use the technique in ways less extreme than what you describe.

*EJ from Jacksonville   *

The new kickoff rules are interesting and may put a premium on kickers who can place the ball (like punters) and not just boot it through the endzone.

Indeed they may.

Nick from Virginia Beach

I always get disappointed this time of year when the Jags don't bring back the throwbacks. Do you think it ever happens?

Ever? Yes.

Benjamin from Jacksonville by way of Upstate SC

Protecting players from life altering brain damage and spinal cord injuries is obviously the right decision. However, I think that is where I would draw the line when it comes to player safety. I don't think the game should be changed to prevent bum knees or cranky ankles. It is a contact sport and the players signed up and are getting paid for it. I would consider broken legs, torn ACLs, ruptured Achilles, etc., all hazards of the job. Where do you think the line should be drawn, if there is one?

Those injuries indeed are part of the risk of the NFL. At the same time, there's nothing wrong with the league striving to make the game safer for players – and a case can be made that those who run the game have an obligation to do so. The challenge is making it safer while not altering the game beyond enjoyment and recognition. That's a difficult conflict point, and it's why such rules are often debated and tweaked over multiple seasons as they are implemented into the game.

Howard from Homestead, FL

The NFL is eliminating tackles deemed unsafe. What tackle is safe?

The glory is in the details. The NFL clearly is emphasizing that defenders should tackle with "textbook" form, emphasizing hitting with shoulders and hitting ballcarriers/runners above the knees and in the chest area from the front. That is a safe way to tackle and ideally all tackles would be executed in this manner. The NFL is a violent sport played at high speed with lightning quick reactions/decisions made on each play. It's not always possible to tackle in ideal fashion with the game played at this pace.

Brian from Round Rock, TX

What does Dougy P have to do this year to save his job? He seems like a guy that has checked out and is cashing in on our absentee owner. I guess he'll just keep on keeping on until he can't anymore.

The Jaguars have won an AFC South title and come within a victory of another in Doug Pederson's two seasons as head coach. The Jaguars finished above .500 in both seasons. While all NFL head coaches are in a sense "coaching to save their jobs," I don't get the idea that Pederson's job is in undue jeopardy – and I'm not certain why that would be the case.

Abel from Westside

Wassup KOAF? You say the NFL is not a sissy league! Compared to the 1970s, it is a sissy league.

It is indeed a "safer league." I've stood on enough sidelines, watched enough collisions and seen enough injuries that I can't in good conscience call the people who play this sport "sissies."  I'd suggest people who think otherwise put on a helmet and walk onto the field.

Dave from Los Angeles, CA

Do you think the NFL will be flag football in 50 years?

No, though I expect it will look different and be safer.

Zach from Jacksonville

The past two drafts, the Jaguars could be defined by defense and offense. In 2022, they selected Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd with Chad Muma at outside and inside linebacker. In 2023, they selected Anton Harrison at tackle, Brenton Strange at tight end and Tank Bigsby at running back in the early rounds. If this trend continues, then we might theoretically see a corner in the first round followed by some more defensive guys in Rounds 2 and 3.

I don't expect the trend of offense one year and defense the next year to continue. I expect more of a mix early in the draft in 2024.

Gabe from Washington, DC

I get it's the offseason and maybe people just don't have enough going on, but I do not get all the uproar about banning the hip-drop tackle. Was this kind of play even that common? It doesn't ban players from hitting low like some have said. Plenty of players can make tackles from behind without swinging their legs around to drop a guy. They do it all the time in rugby too. Stop whining, people.

One fer not whining.