O-Zone: Score the ball

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Fournette is saying and doing the right things, right? I want to believe. When is it OK to trust this guy, Zone?

This is tricky – and as with most NFL offseason storylines, the only accurate answer is we must wait and see. Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette indeed has looked the part this offseason, and he appears to be taking every necessary step to be ready for next season. He appears to have taken his conditioning seriously and appears to be focused in preparing for next season. He appears focused on showing the Jaguars he is serious about 2019 and ready to put a difficult 2018 behind him. He has participated in the Jaguars’ offseason conditioning program even though players are not mandated to do so, and he is working with new quarterback Nick Foles on his own time to ensure he knows the Jaguars’ new playbook as well as possible. He was as expansive and forthcoming during his media availability on Friday as I can remember him being, and he pretty much addressed any issue that arose last season. Those are all good signs. As I’ve stated often this offseason, we won’t know the end story on Fournette until the regular season because the only way he’s going to “prove” himself is with a healthy and productive season. But Fournette’s doing all he can this offseason to set himself up to succeed. And that’s all you can ask of a player in the offseason.

Nick from Palatka, FL

Hey Z: Ya know, skydiving is a popular diversion here in Palatka. Would you please let Mr. NFL know that in the spirit unconditional kindness there is an expertly packed parachute with his name on it waiting for him. And a driverless car ready to pick him up and bring him on down whenever he's ready to take the plunge. I hope it's soon!

That’s not nice.

Blues Man from Jacksonville

John … This week Foles said that the running backs will be a big part in the passing attack. I believe he said that though he has an idea where the ball is going, he won't know that until the last second before the snap, and that the backs need to be ready and prepared. Since our best third-down back (T.J. Yeldon) is no longer with us, who do you see being the passing threat out of the backfield? Fournette appeared to be OK catching the ball, but I'm not really familiar enough with the other backs. Any ideas on who may emerge as our running back passing threat?

I expect this will start with a by-committee feel, and I also expect it will play out in training camp. The Jaguars would like Fournette to play this role extensively, and they may get their wish; he has been far better out of the backfield than originally anticipated, and he has been better at times as a receiver than a runner. The Jaguars also have discussed veteran free-agent signee Benny Cunningham in this capacity, though the thought here as of now is Cunningham likely will play a larger role on special teams than in the offense. One player to watch here: Thomas Rawls, who signed as a free agent in January. He looked quick out of the backfield in the first week of organized team activities this week and he could have a role as a receiving back.

Bruce from St. Simons Island, GA

What’s the over/under on how many games Foles plays this year? Based on his past, I believe it’s about 5.

That could be the takeaway if someone looked at Foles’ career games played, averaged them over his number of NFL seasons and used that to determine how many games he might play. That also would be a pretty silly, misinformed way of doing that. If you’re thinking Foles will be benched for ineffectiveness, that would be surprising given the team’s commitment to him. If you’re thinking he will miss games because of injury, that’s probably a reach. Yes, he missed much of the last half of the Eagles’ 2014 season with a broken collarbone, but his low number of games played the last three seasons has been because he has been behind other quarterbacks on the depth chart. I wouldn’t be surprised if Foles misses a game or two next season because it’s the NFL and players get hurt. But his past doesn’t necessarily point to him missing two thirds of a season because injuries.

Sean from Jacksonville

Do you ever wish to take a paid week off at this time of year to just clear your head and get ready for the long haul? Or do you prefer to be a glutton for punishment and deal with questions asking about the minutiae of the Jaguars? I think you could use the time to train for the next marathon in town.

If I preferred to go a week without answering O-Zone questions, I would do it. No one forces me to do this every day and the Jaguars pretty much let me set my schedule. If I were to take a week or a few days off from this, though, I probably wouldn’t do it at this time of year. It’s May. OTAs are going on. There are topics to address.

Alan from Orlando, FL

Enough jokes. Tell me something good about our receiving core, Zone. Anyone showing anything? At all?

There are never enough jokes, but here’s something serious: The Jaguars’ receiving corps appeared to have a good first week of 2019 organized team activities. Wide receiver Keelan Cole had a highlight reel catch deep down the field Friday, the sort of reception that made you feel good about his future during his rookie 2017 season and the type he rarely had last season. A couple of highlights in OTAs doesn’t mean Cole is destined to regain his starting job, but it’s a start. Perhaps the most encouraging story regarding the Jaguars’ receivers, though, is veteran Chris Conley. He signed as an unrestricted free agent from Kansas City, in part because he had worked with Foles in Kansas City – and Foles believed Conley could make an impact. Conley early in OTAs has shown an ability to use his elite speed and athleticism – and he has made plays more consistently than any other receiver. He and Foles on Friday combined for the highlight play of the first week – a deep bomb on which Conley got a couple of steps behind the defense with Foles hitting him in stride for a touchdown. Encouraging stuff.

Roger9965 from Greenbush, ME

Just a quicky today, King of Funk … when a player gets a signing bonus with their contract, is that paid out all at once, or over the life of contract? And if the player is cut before their contract is over, do they still get balance of the bonus?

NFL signing bonuses typically are paid at the time of the signing. In terms of the salary-cap accounting, the bonus is spread out over the number of years in the contract – but the actual money is paid when the player signed. The player keeps the bonus if he is released, but the team can try to recoup bonus money from a player who retires before the end of the contract.

Paul from Jacksonville

If we're gonna consider getting safeties on the free-agent market past their prime, perhaps we should consider a guy like Carnell Lake? Oh wait ...

Carnell Lake was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He made the Pro Bowl in his lone full season with the Jaguars, 1999. He’s 51 years old now. Primarily because of his age, I don’t think it would be a good signing.

Steve from Duval

I’m sick of this small market BS. I know we are but as you pointed out, Jimmy Smith should be in the Hall of Fame and Fred Taylor is a Top 20 running back all time. I don’t blame Terrell Owens for not showing up. We should all boycott that whole entity it’s a joke.

I empathize with Smith and Taylor, each of whom should get far more consideration for the Hall of Fame than they are currently receiving. I didn’t empathize with Owens because he was upset about having to wait for the Hall of Fame and there was nothing wrong with him not being a first-ballot Hall of Famer; many worthy players have waited, and his anger over having to do so was disrespectful not to the Hall of Fame but the others enshrined. As for the entity being a joke … it’s not. It’s imperfect because the voters are faced with the impossible task of selecting five inductees from a pool of candidates nearly double that. There certainly are other ways the Hall could choose those enshrined, but I doubt there’s a superior one.

Sam from Winter Park, FL

How many times did "Mr. NFL" get his head dunked in a toilet by someone from Jacksonville in high school?

Often. #duval

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