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O-Zone: So good

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Gary from Orlando, FL

You keep talking about how good Jawaan Taylor is. Maybe, but all I see when I look at him is a bunch of penalties.

Taylor indeed finished his rookie season last season as the NFL's most-penalized offensive lineman. That's something that can be fixed focusing on technique. But he also played every snap and never looked overwhelmed against a lot of good pass rushers; that matters more at this stage of his career than the penalties. Taylor absolutely must reduce the penalties, and he must play better overall than he did as a rookie. But players who eventually become very good NFL players typically must improve after their rookie seasons. The potential and natural fit Taylor exhibits at right tackle give him the feel of a special player. There's every confidence around the Jaguars that he will develop into just that.

Jon from Houston, TX

It's clear that kneeling during the national anthem is a divisive issue in Jacksonville. But that is the point. If the players did it in private or outside the stadium as some readers suggested, that defeats the whole purpose of a protest. It's supposed to make fans uncomfortable. How fans react to that is up to them. I hope it would give most fans pause to at least consider the alternative viewpoint, one that these players feel strongly enough about that they would risk alienating some fans.

The divisiveness on this issue isn't remotely limited to Jacksonville. It's age-old and runs deep. I don't expect it to fade by the season. I also don't expect players not to kneel because of that division.

Dwayne from Jacksonville

Zone, Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell would have no problem addressing any size group. Ever.


Scott from Wichita, KS

I see there was a big conference call this week. I know what the grievances are but what exactly is Shad Khan supposed to do about it? I've seen "powerful" statements for decades. Unfortunately, the "powerful" image or statement now just makes me laugh. I guess we're at least having some sort of "conversation?" These buzz words are starting to lose their meaning.

Your email drips with cynicism, and that's fine. But there really wasn't a "big conference call" Thursday. What happened was Jaguars Owner Shad Khan participated in a video conference with Jaguars players and coaches, discussing the same issues the entire country is discussing. What's he supposed to do about racism? The first step is listening and the second step is acting, but make no mistake: the conversation is important and your quote marks around the words don't make that untrue. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone, director of player development Marcus Pollard and running backs coach Terry Robiskie all have talked about the importance of maintaining focus and momentum on this. Marrone said Friday he plans to continue focusing on this the rest of the offseason and into the regular season. That doesn't mean ignoring football, but it means acknowledging this issue's importance. The Jaguars have participated in two high-profile downtown walks to promote racial equality, and were the first NFL team to do so. Yes, something more tangible is the best step – and Marrone said he expects details on that front to be forthcoming. I don't know what that will entail, but to dismiss the Jaguars' actions on this as buzzwords or laughable strikes me as misguided and unnecessarily dismissive considering the sincerity of those involved.

Steve from Hilton Head, SC

With respect to quarterbacks calling their own plays, I seem to remember Don Shula(!) sending in a play for the Colts. Johnny Unitas called time out and told his coach to never do that again.

Yep. That was the 1960s. That was a different era. And that was Johnny U.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL

Now that the offseason is over … what, exactly, did the Jaguars accomplish?

Fair question. The Jaguars, like all teams, conducted the 2020 offseason virtually. That meant no on-field work. No practice. No repetitions with drills or plays. Marrone said Friday the team got everything done it could get done. That meant the coaches installed the offense, defense and special teams. That meant rookies and veterans have seen everything offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, defensive coordinator Todd Wash and special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis want them to see. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II also has been conducting a lot of virtual "white-board" sessions with players, so it stands to reason that mentally many players are in good shape in terms of a working knowledge of what the coaches will expect. That said, Marrone also said Friday that the team got everything done … with the exception of getting on the field. And there undoubtedly is much that can't be done without being on the field. A lot of players learn best by repetition, and many coaches feel more comfortable being able to teach that way. A lot of the offseason involves players running plays, then coaches reviewing films and correcting mistakes – and teaching nuances – based on what they saw on film. A lot of what didn't get done in the last two months will have to get done once training camp begins. That will be important for the offense because Gruden is new, and it will be important for the defense because a ton of players are new. So, the answer: They accomplished a lot, but training camp is going to be really important to accomplish the rest.

Travis from High Springs, FL

Your recent answer about quarterbacks calling plays got me thinking about something. You stated that a quarterback with more experience and familiarity with an offense was given more freedom to change plays. I totally agree with that. But even rookie quarterbacks can audible out of perceived bad play calls ... right? So, how do teams decide what plays young/rookie quarterbacks can or can't audible into? Do they have set plays designated for audibles, or does the offensive coordinator call in a running play and a passing play and the quarterback can decide based on the defense he sees?

This varies depending on the player. An extremely young and inexperienced quarterback may have little-to-no freedom to check in and out of a bad play. The approach might be to tell the quarterback to run the play if he sees one defense, to check into a specific play if he sees another certain look and to call timeout if he sees anything else. Or the approach might be to call timeout if he is uncomfortable at all. As a quarterback grows, he may have more confidence and freedom to check into plays that haven't been discussed. When I was with Indianapolis, quarterback Peyton Manning spoke of going to the line and knowing that a specific play would work against that defensive look. The problem was the Colts hadn't installed that play in that week's game plan. Manning while behind center yelled to one of his receivers – Marvin Harrison, if memory serves – a game and year in which the play had worked for a touchdown. Harrison knew the play and the Colts indeed ran the play for a touchdown. That's high-level stuff between two experienced, intelligent players. It takes a while to get there.

Jess from Glen Carbon, IL

John, I, like a lot of Americans and NFL fans, support a person's right to express their opinions, to protest, and to demonstrate. I don't know how other fans feel, but my personal issue with kneeling during the National Anthem is that it is another example of athletes being giving special treatment. All Americans have the right to their opinions, to protest and to demonstrate. The difference: we're not allowed to do it at work. Players kneeling during the national anthem are doing it at work.

Many people often frame discussions about NFL players and other professional athletes within the context of what other people an and can't do at their jobs. That parameter doesn't apply in professional sports because players possess a skillset most people don't possess. That makes them – at least during the course of their careers – valuable enough they can do things in their job that a normal worker couldn't do. Put another way: if you were so valuable at your job that your boss couldn't afford to fire you, you would be given a lot more leeway in your actions than otherwise would be the case. That's the case with professional athletes as well. And not just regarding this issue. If you dislike professional sports because athletes are treated differently than "normal workers" … well, you probably better not plan on watching professional sports.

Marm from Prescott, AZ

Good morning, John. I have a simple question for you. What in the world does a quality control coach do?

Whatever's needed. Helping with various position groups. Helping various assistants on staff. Think of it as an entry-level position.

Phil from Atlanta, GA

What's YOUR last binge watch?

I'm into Season Three of Trailer Park Boys. Jala-peeeeeeeenio.