JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC
I've got to side with Guillaume from Paris. While the Colts may have had a good running game, and while Peyton Manning may have thought that they needed to "establish the run" in order to have success executing the play action, the research is pretty clear. Within the scope of a single game, play action works pretty well regardless of how well the team is running the ball. Maybe the coaches and the analytics experts see it differently, but from what I've read, the data seems pretty clear.
I admit I laughed at part of this question, and yes: It was the part that read "While Peyton Manning may have thought they needed to 'establish the run,' in order to have success executing the play action …" It's at least somewhat amusing that Manning in nearly two decades essentially running the offense from behind center might not have a clear idea of what's important to run a particular play. But then I realized I may not have been clear enough in my original answer. I wrote that Manning said establishing the threat of the run is what is important in play action. That didn't mean an offense had to be statistically successful running to run successful play-action plays, and it didn't mean an offense had to be among the league's top rushing teams. It didn't even mean it had to be great running in a particular game. It meant the offense had to do enough to convince a defense it could do enough in the running game to make teams defend it a certain way. For Manning, that often meant getting a few four-to-five yard runs early in a game – or convincing a defense that he was committed to calling a run in certain situations. The idea was for the play fake to convince a safety or cornerback to hesitate just enough to give the receiver an advantage. Manning believed this was important. But hey … if your data says differently, or if you believe differently, you crazy kids can agree to disagree.
Gary from St. Augustine, FL
Gruden seems to really want to practice. When do you think that will happen?
You're referencing new Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden saying earlier this week the Jaguars' offense needs practice time – and soon. Gruden said this in a video conference with local media, and he made it clear his biggest concern isn't the players learning the offense but him getting an adequate idea of what the players will be comfortable doing in the offense. As for when the Jaguars actually will practice … I would expect at this point for it to be training camp, probably late July. That's a guess, and it could happen before then, but that would be my best estimation.
Mark from Ocala, FL
Do you honestly think defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will play for this team in 2020?
I do, though I wouldn't bet my mortgage on it. I think at some point he will realize the Jaguars aren't trading him and that the way he's going to get paid this season is to play for the Jaguars. I could be wrong. We'll see.
Radford from Orange Park, FL
Upon first glance, the picture of Cassius Marsh on the website for the article discussing him made me think he had a sheik sword tattooed upside down on his face. Turns out it was just eye black that had smeared somewhat in that shape. Do you ever toss on some eye black in certain situations?
Eye black works for the O-Zone in most situations. This is even more true since I became the King of All Grizzled Funk.
David from Chuluota, FL
O-Zone: With all the various position coaches on offense, defense and special teams, what exactly is the head coach coaching? Why not call the head coach what he is: Project/Public Relations Manager?
There is an element of truth to this. A head coach rarely gets into the weeds in position groups, and he's typically not at the forefront of game-planning meetings. Nor should he be. A head coach essentially steers the ship and deals with daily issues. He sets the tone, and ensures 60 players, 20 coaches and a slew of support staff are moving in the same direction. He establishes philosophy and a standard. He makes final decisions and settles disputes – and his presence prevents disputes and ensures all involved understand what's important in a given day, week, month, etc. If all of this seems a little vague and nonspecific, that's because the job at times is a different thing each day. Why not call the head coach something else? Because the title is fine. He's the head coach. And he gets more blame than anyone if teams lose and more credit than anyone if they win. Rightly or wrongly.
Brian from Jacksonville Beach, FL
Who will be the Jaguars' rookie of the year?
My guess is this will be cornerback CJ Henderson; he plays a position where players can play at a high level immediately and a Top 10 cornerback should be very good, very quickly.
Kevin from Bakersfield, CA
O-Zone, I've always felt that you were honest about the team's performance. I saw in a recent response that you referred to the 2017 defense as "dominant." I've always felt that was a narrative created by those that diminished the play of Blake Bortles, who was great during a stretch that year, and overstated the defense looking back at the stats and the big games. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the defense padded the stats during blowout wins, and were less than dominant against the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, and Seattle Seahawks (close games), shredded by the San Francisco 49ers, and gave up 40 points in a playoff win against Pittsburgh. Good, yes … but dominant??
The truth probably lies somewhere in between. The Jaguars' 2017 defense absolutely was dominant at times, and the unit was remarkable in creating big plays at key times. It perhaps wasn't as dominant as the great defenses of all-time – and there perhaps have been some better defenses in recent seasons – but the reality may be that there are very few truly "dominant" defenses in this era of the NFL. Most defenses are going to have at least a few games during a 16-to-18 game stretch where they allow big yards and big points. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens, remember, were one of the great defenses of all time and they allowed the Jaguars 36 points and 421 yards that year in a game in which wide receiver Jimmy Smith had 291 yards receiving; and the Ravens also allowed New York Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde 481 yards passing in the regular-season finale. The game two decades later is even more geared toward offense, which makes dominant an even more relative term when it comes to describing a defense.
Greg from Atlanta, GA
I was impressed by the writing of William Nack, who you recommended recently. Any great Twitter follows – you know, besides Frenette?
No. Longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette is the all-time best "Twitter Follow." I think most educated people agree on this.
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ
O-man, have you ever reminded your readers that 76 percent of statistics are made up?
No, but you just did.
Ken from Fernandina Beach, FL
O-Zone, What do you think quarterback Gardner Minshew II has to do this year to keep Head Coach Doug Marrone, General Manager Dave Caldwell and himself (as the starter) around for foreseeable future? I think they have to make playoffs. If not, Gardner becomes a career backup and we get a new front-office/coaching staff next season.
I don't think this is quite a playoffs-or-blow-it-up scenario, nor do I think that should be the case. I believe if Owner Shad Khan sees improvement and a significant step in the right direction – particularly from Minshew – then I think they should maintain status quo. And I believe Khan would see it that way. What would that be? Improved play from Minshew. A .500 record. A defense that never feels as if it can't stop the run the way it felt too often last season. I don't if those things are exactly what Khan is seeking, but those things feel like they're close.
Jason from Salem, OR
Hey, O: What's it like now with Lot J? Sbarro aside, what does a foreign entity grab in Jacksonville outside the stadium that they will remember?!!
I'm a bad source of information on this. I get to TIAA Bank Field early on game days and leave late; my game-day responsibilities make it difficult to soak in the game-day atmosphere. Best advice: find the Bold City Brigade and Teal Street Hooligans tailgate. The people there won't steer you wrong. Actually, they probably will steer you wrong. But that's sort of the idea.