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O-Zone: Ride the bull

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Brett from Canton, MS

I know it is only preseason, but man … that opening drive was nice. The run-pass mix was ideal. Quarterback Blake Bortles was calm and accurate. The offensive line looked good aside from right tackle Josh Wells on the one play Bortles got hit. And Leonard Fournette is a man among boys. Gets me amped for the season to start! Go Jags!

As I reviewed the 2018 preseason opener late Thursday night into early Friday morning – and as I perused emails from my wonderful readers (he knows who he is) – I kept returning to this point: That indeed the performance of the first-team offense was far and away the biggest takeaway in the Jaguars' 24-20 loss to New Orleans Saints. Yes, it was just one series. And yes, backup quarterback Cody Kessler's performance deserves a ton of mention. But after talking throughout the offseason about Bortles looking poised and confident – and after documenting Fournette's weight loss and training-camp quickness – it seemed telling to see both in live action Thursday. I have seen nothing from Bortles and the first-team offense in camp to make me think this group isn't going to improve significantly from what was a better season in 2017 than many people think. I think that's a big reason this team deserves to be the AFC South favorites with a real chance at a Super Bowl push. Thursday night certainly seemed another indication of that.

KC from Mendocino Complex, CA

John, Donte Moncrief looks more like Keenan McCardell than Jimmy Smith. He may not be their deep threat after all, but their possession receiver. I'm drafting Keelan Cole in my fantasy league!

Do what ya gotta do.

Jeremy from Dodge City, KS is live streaming the first preseason game ... only in a select few places. Thanks for the tease, you guys suck!!! I guess I'll just watch the highlights.

The team on Thursday followed league guidelines when streaming video to certain area markets as well as the United Kingdom and Mexico. The idea was the provide a service – and to do the best we could while operating within NFL rules. You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time. And apparently, we damned sure can't please Jeremy in Dodge City.

Johnny from Jacksonville and East Palakta, FL

Hey, Zone. I'm hopeful I can retire wealthy, but also working hard to ensure that outcome. Instead of hoping things change, is the leadership at the only free website licensed by the NFL to represent fully our beloved Jags actually *doing* anything to improve the situation? Second, no one cares about Jerell or Logan or whether they're here or there or anywhere. Third, replay review for "judgement" penalties is necessary. A bad call costs teams games and men's careers. There's too much at stake to get it wrong and the four or five minutes extra in a game isn't important.

First, the NFL now maintains many of the structural and technological aspects of all teams' websites; we remain hopeful the situation can improve. Second, don't tell me no one cares about Logan or Jerell; I CARE, damnit. As for reviewing judgment penalties … my sense is it will be a long time before you see this. The league always has wanted review to reverse clear, obvious mistakes. If you start reversing judgment penalties, then you get into situations where replay starts as many arguments as it ends. I realize there are those who would argue that's already the case, but this isn't an area I see the league moving on anytime soon.

Steve from Hilton Head, SC

John, I'm slumming it this week on Maui. Have to spend next week on Kauai. Have I missed anything? If not, I'll check in for the regular season.

You're good.

Chris from Roseville, CA

Before all of Duval panics, please remind them that the 1985 Bears went 1-3 in the preseason.

I get very, very little sense of panic from the readers over Thursday's loss. Maybe that will change, but I doubt it. Thursday was a positive, not a negative. My sense is most people understood this.

Tony from Land of Confusion

Chad did a great job as the backup and I sincerely wish him well in Kansas City, but if Cody Kessler can be this good on a consistent basis then we definitely upgraded. He was pretty decent as a rookie thrown into the fire in Cleveland, but Thursday he looked like starting material. Yeah, it was against the Saints' twos, but you could see his mind working at NFL quarterback speeds and he was extending plays and for the most part putting the ball where it needed to be. Since I know I'm supposed to be asking a question – and since this is the time of year when this sort of thing gets asked when the backup does well – what are the odds that Cody gets a shot at the starting job?


Bill from Folkston, GA

I have seen before where players are picked up for their special teams play. So, I kind of think of them as I do like Tinker. They could play in other than special teams in a pinch but not expected to. How many of those types of players does a team normally carry on its 53-man roster?

This varies from team to team, often depending on the team's true commitment to special teams. The Jaguars this season made a real effort in free agency to acquire such players: tight end Niles Paul, safety Cody Davis, safety Don Carey. They also re-signed defensive end Lerentee McCray. That would give them four special-teams-oriented players. That's a good number for a team committed to special teams because that means seven players including kicker, punter and long snapper dedicated to the unit.

Sam from Orlando, FL

Plenty of people have jobs where they can get seriously hurt or sadly, not come home. They usually make far less money than football players. What makes football different? If you don't want to get hurt, don't play.

The vast majority of emails I receive make valid points. As with everything in life, there are exceptions.

Jags/Mavs from Virginia Beach VA

O! How much do you think the scrimmages against the Pats last year helped the team's growth? I mean, it can't hurt for young players to observe how a team with their track record prepares. How much do you think the scrimmages against a talented Vikings team will help us this year? Or, is just more about being able to hit someone who isn't on your team?

It's so difficult to quantify how much such a thing helps. I thought the primary benefit the Jaguars gained from practicing against the New England Patriots was seeing how that franchise practiced, and how it did things on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps there was something there that reinforced what Head Coach Doug Marrone was trying to do in his first training camp. The team certainly looked and played like a championship team quicker than many expected, so perhaps the days in New England contributed. Will the Vikings have the same benefit? Minnesota is a good team with a good defense. Measuring yourself against a team at that level can't hurt.

Bill from Hammock, FL

Johnny O: I am seeking your opinion on something totally irrelevant. We all love the "Sacksonville" name for our defense, but I was thinking about a name for our strongest position – the cornerbacks. We have the best duo in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. How about a Sylvester Stallone Rambo take off-RAM-BOU? The big screen could show Rambo making one of his inspirational remarks and Ramsey and Bouye are shown? Yes, no, maybe?

I want to say I respect the effort. I really do.

Scott from Jacksonville

I keep reading about how training camp is grueling but what exactly is different than what other teams do? All teams get the same amount of practices and hours per day correct? What am I missing?

I don't cover other teams. I cover the Jaguars, who have had nine consecutive padded practices in 88-to-90-degree temperatures with coaches and players pushing at high intensity for two-and-half hours most days. It's grueling. More grueling? I haven't the foggiest.

Ed from Jacksonville

The website is acting like it's 1999. This team is going play like it's 1999. Prince was a genius. How could he have known 1999 would even happen?

We remain hopeful the situation will improve. Then again, I was dreaming when I wrote this. So, forgive me if it goes astray.

Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

There is a lot of people who want to ride the bull until they see the bull in real time.

Not having the foggiest idea what this email means – even upon re-reading it – didn't diminish my enjoyment of it in the slightest.

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