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O-Zone: Royal averageness

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

John from Jacksonville

Hello, King of ALL Funk! I am getting strong vibes from our rooster that the storyline for this coming season will be the offense. The sleeping giant, Blake Bortles, started to stir in a good way last season and is ready to rule this season (along with the Gang of 10 around him each play). I'm planning to watch and savor a very productive and fun-to-see offense. Take care and keep delivering your Zone Funk!

I get the same feeling this offseason. And while it’s tricky predicting dramatic offensive improvement from non-padded Organized Team Activities, there is more than a little evidence beyond OTAs to suggest improvement on this front. The Jaguars, remember, finished sixth in the NFL in total yardage and fifth in points last season. They scored 30 or more points seven times, including a 45-point game at Pittsburgh in the postseason. They led the NFL in rushing. Quarterback Blake Bortles played better in the second half of the season than the first, and the Jaguars added All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Donte Moncrief in the offseason. Those factors don’t guarantee success, but there is more to suggest that this is an offense on the rise than there is to suggest the opposite.

Tim from Fernandina Beach and formerly St. Petersburg, FL

John: I recently moved from St. Pete and am an ardent Rays fan. Due to injuries in their starting rotation, they are using their relievers to pitch a bullpen day without using any starters. The jury is still out, but it looks promising for teams that don't have or can't afford four-to-five good starting pitchers. Do you think not having a true No. 1 wideout will catch on? Or do you think teams will always need or want THAT GUY.

Many teams ideally want a No. 1 receiver. That’s because a No. 1 receiver is good enough to be effective despite double coverage, and can dictate what defenses do enough to make coverages easier to read for quarterbacks – and to open up parts of the field for other receivers. But if you don’t have one, you can’t force a player to be one – and you can’t force defenses to treat a player like one. You also can win without them, as evidenced by there only being a handful of true No. 1 receivers and more than a handful of postseason teams each season.

Tom from Jacksonville

For kickoffs, how about limiting each team to seven players so speed and evasiveness could be featured, with less chance of injury?

My first thought on reducing the number of players on kickoffs is you would risk of having so many long returns and touchdowns that it would increase the kickoff’s influence too much. While rules that emphasize player safety are great, the league still must be wary of significantly changing the game to the point that you’re adding multiple touchdowns per game and giving games an artificial feel. I’m not a big fan, for example, of college football games that end with each team scoring in the 50s because both teams scored three overtime touchdowns. The scores/statistics feel false and inflated. I don’t get the sense the NFL wants to create a similar feeling by altering kickoffs too much. While they seem willing to try a lot to save kickoffs, the sense here is they would sooner eliminate the play than play seven-on-seven.

Dakota from Dupree, SD

Zone, I been thinking about local revenue. I been thinking that the best thing that the Jaguars can do for local revenue is to get a home playoff game. Maybe two. That should really help the local revenue stream. Probably more than holding a home game in London. Yay or nay?

Nay. The Jaguars had a home playoff game last season. There’s little question that helped the local revenue, but it’s unrealistic to think a team is going to play a home playoff game every season.

Lloyd in Section 202 from Jacksonville

I understand with the new kickoff rules that the kickoff team cannot get a running start from five yards back. However, while on the line of scrimmage, could they run laterally within their specific boundaries to pick up speed and then cut up field at the time of the kick? In your opinion would the cutting, if allowed, make injuries more likely as a result?

I spoke to Jaguars special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis about this possibility late this past week. He said such a tactic is not allowed under the new rules.

Jerry from Jacksonville

The NFL as a business does a lot of things extremely well, but internet design is not one of them. All NFL websites that they have their hand in (like now with the Jags) are overloaded with stuff (not just ads) that make them function very poorly. All the apps lose connection, have too many pop ups and are frustrating to use. I wish they would find a much better provider.

So, one not particularly fer …

Tony from Duuuvalll!!!

Mr. Zone - I was stoked when we signed Allen Lazard as an undrafted free-agent wide receiver. Guy has size, speed and determination and I think all 32 teams made a massive mistake by not rating this guy in the third round. How has he been in OTAs thus far? Has he shown anything to indicate he is a special player? Or is it unlikely he will make the roster? I just need to know whether I should continue to tell people that he is the future GOAT or not. My reputation depends on you, John. don't let me down. Also, Myles Jack was not down. Good Day.

Lazard has flashed a few times during OTAs. I haven’t noticed him nearly as often as I’ve noticed Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook or even Rashad Greene Sr. I would call those six the favorites to make the roster, with Greene having the toughest time of that group.

Big on Blake from Philly

In response to your question about BB5 being a Top 5 quarterback, I agree that he has not been a Top 5 quarterback to this point, but I do feel this season presents his greatest opportunity to realize his perceived potential. If he continues to work and lead and improve, he will be a Top 5 quarterback. Hey: fifth is still Top 5. One for BB5.

I believe Bortles will be vastly improved this season. Will that put him in the range of Top 5 quarterbacks in the NFL? That’s lofty territory. I will be surprised if he gets there. I don’t believe it’s out of the question.

Brian from Gainesville, FL

Big O, maybe he won’t be a Top 5 quarterback, but could Bortles improve and play well enough to be a Top 10 quarterback in your opinion?

Sure.

Joe from Fleming Island, FL

John, I have to disagree with Sunny from Las Vegas about other players benefitting from Jalen Ramsey at OTAs. It would seem one of the keys of OTAs is getting new guys, rookies, free agents, trades, etc., to learn the system/playbook (both offense and defense) and avoid injury in the process. Jalen NOT being there allows several new, and some established, defensive backs the opportunity to get additional reps, while also perhaps allowing Bortles and the receivers some additional chances to have success and get in rhythm, while also giving the coaches more time to see these players perform. There will be plenty of time in camp for the ones to go against the ones, in the meantime the arguable "face of the franchise" is not at risk for a meaningless injury. (see Dante Fowler) Thoughts?

My thought is we’re deep into the time-honored tradition of overthinking attendance as it relates to voluntary NFL offseason work, but hey … a little overthinking never hurt anyone. Your take is accurate. OTAs have value; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t hold them. They’re good for young players who need to learn a system. They can be good for receivers and quarterbacks. There is benefit for offensive linemen trying to learn assignments. I imagine they have value for the Jaguars’ linebackers this offseason, with Myles Jack moving positions and Blair Brown learning a new one. How much value they have for defensive linemen or defensive backs? Or for a running back? That is open to debate – and of course, to overthinking.

Jeffrey from the Villa of Sir Jackson

Your Mediocracity, it has been rumored amongst the masses that his Funkiness allows others to address him as simply "John," "O," or "Zone," even asking in an incredible familiar tone, “Are you okay?” If I may be as so bold, this informality should be ceased immediately and all addressing of Your Royal Averageness should do with the with the properness the King of All Funk deserves.

“Funk” will do.

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