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O-Zone: Still striving

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Arnie from Costa Blanca, Spain

How concerned are we about the O-line? I felt for the last few seasons – "at least" – that if we had had a solid offensive line, we'd be a very different team. Maybe it's partially because I want to believe the game is still won or lost in the trenches. To support this, I point to running back Leonard Fournette. I believe he's an incredible back that would have tremendous success with a decent line blocking for him –and maybe even formerquarterback Blake Bortles would have been able to prosper. Am I possibly on to something?

The level of concern over the Jaguars' offensive line entering the 2020 season depends largely upon who you ask. Many Jaguars observers and fans are very concerned about the position, and many believe it's the team's top concern entering the season. Many of those people believe the Jaguars didn't do enough to address the area during the offseason. The Jaguars' decision-makers feel differently; they believe the continuity with all five starters returning – and the likely improvement of players such as right tackle Jawaan Taylor and left tackle Cam Robinson – will make the line a strength. If the decision-makers are right, a young Jaguars offense has a chance to be much-improved. If the observers are right, the decision-makers might not be around next offseason to do any more deciding.

David from Oviedo, FL

KOAF – Do you have a prediction on Yannick Ngakoue? If you think he plays for the Jags this year, do you think he shows up before or after Week 1?

What I have said often regarding Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue remains my belief – that while his pride and committed nature makes it difficult to say for sure what he will do, I do believe he will play this season. He would lose $17.8 million by not playing. That's a staggering amount to forego no matter your level of pride. Ngakoue won't lose any of that salary if he reports for and plays in the first game; he will lose a little more than $1 million every week he doesn't play. I wouldn't be surprised if Ngakoue stays away for a couple of regular-season games to prove his point, so I guess my "prediction" is he will show up sometime in September.

Unhipcat from Carlsbad, CA

Hi, John. Gary Klein had an article in the Sunday Los Angeles Times that discussed how happy I love my teammates, dog is so excited the Los Angeles Rams' defensive scheme will be based on him.

Love of teammates and love of the game can go a long way to happiness and true contentment. #Loveisallyouneed

Tony from St. Louis, MO

Are you sure the Jags are making defending the run a top priority? The players they have lost and the players they have replaced them with don't support that narrative. There are some good run defenders on the market and the Jags are signing nobodies.

The obvious and unassailable astuteness of your talent evaluations notwithstanding … yes, stopping the run is a top priority for the Jaguars this season.

Dan from Greer

With a number of players opting to sit out the season, I'm figuring their places will probably be filled with rookies, second stringers and – I suppose – practice-team players. I'm thinking we might get a real-life version of the movie The Replacements. Great movie. Not to that level, but as Gene Hackman – the movies star – stated, "If nothing else, it should be fun to watch." And I think this season will be really fun to watch. Your thoughts on how you see the level of play …

Sixty-nine NFL players opted to sit out 2020 because of COVID-19. That's a little more than two players per team, so I don't think we'll see a notable difference in level of play because of the opt-outs. As for players being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 lists, that could happen throughout the season if there are outbreaks or incidents on various teams. If that happens … yes, the level of play could be dramatically affected. And yes … it could be a Replacements thing.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

I'm glad players have been opting out, because it means they are doing what they think is right for their and their loved ones' health. I think we get too caught up in a Hollywood idea of who is a hero and who isn't. I don't think one needs to be a hero to be appreciated in our society. I think garbagemen are as important as anyone else; without them we'd be living in squalor. With the absence of new films and TV shows, I really need some sports. I've reached the end of Netflix and I've been enclosed in a house with the Mrs. and parents for months now. I realize athletes get paid fortunes for playing a kid's game but if they want to suit up and risk injury and contagious disease to entertain me, then they can be heroes to me. Not all heroes wear capes or uniforms.

You want to know my hero? Longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette. End of conversation.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

"He hasn't yet proved the league wrong for allowing him to slip to Round 6." I guess I disagree. Do you not think in the event of 32 teams having film of every game he started before that draft that he would have been drafted more than one-to-two rounds earlier? On a one-season sample size, I feel like he absolutely proved the league he should have been drafted higher.

In a one-season sample size, Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II has proven his doubters wrong. But he enters this season needing to show that he's a starting NFL quarterback for the long run. If he does, he will have proven the league wrong for allowing him to slip to Round 6. If he does not, and if he indeed is a backup quarterback, then Round 6 will have been about right.

Chris from Mandarin

Minshew's biggest issue last season was that he did not have a reliable tight end to throw to after Week 5. I don't think it's a coincidence that they started losing games at a more rapid rate last season after James O'Shaughnessy.

Losing O'Shaughnessy to a torn anterior cruciate ligament absolutely hurt the offense. The Jaguars' tight ends on paper look like they could be the best group the franchise has had at the position on a long time. Free-agent signee Tyler Eifert has Pro Bowl potential if he's healthy. Second-year veteran Josh Oliver has been drawing praise early in training camp. O'Shaughnessy's return could help, too. If the tight ends play to their potential, it absolutely will benefit Minshew. It would benefit any quarterback, particularly a young one trying to take the strides that Minshew must take.

Bill from Jacksonville

John, why does the NFL make it so difficult to watch their games? With today's streaming options, there is no reason a fan shouldn't be able to watch every single game each week if they want to. NBA fans can open the NBA official app and purchase a game for less than $10, or even watch the fourth quarter of a game for 99 cents. You've been able to do this for two years, John. If you're an NFL fan your lone option is to buy some satellite package, and then you're still limited by in- and-out-of-market games. What's the reasoning behind giving fans access to their content like we're still living in 1999?

Because the NFL is still receiving money from its television partners like it's 2020, and the rights fees for NFL games dwarf those of any other sport in this country – double that of the NBA. Those contracts form the foundation of the league's financial structure. I expect fans will someday be able to purchase NFL games via an app, but the league will tread lightly – and slowly – on an area that is its financial backbone.

David from Orlando, FL

Zone: On their list of the Top 100 NFL players, the NFL Network had Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson at No. 1. I know he's a very elusive runner and improving as a passer, but I've also seen him disappear in playoff games. I think Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the hands down the best player in the league, yet he's at No. 4 on the list. Who do you consider the best player in football and why?

Jackson was the NFL Most Valuable Player last season, so it's difficult in that sense to not rank him No. 1. I would have put Mahomes No. 1, though. And I don't know how you can rank him behind Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson or Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. I doubt either player – particularly any defensive player – would be ranked ahead of Mahomes on a list of best players put together by NFL general managers and personnel people.

Dwayne from Jacksonville

Has Gene Frenette ever deigned to speak your name? I mean, in public?

I'm not there yet.