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O-Zone: The better option

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Ien from Harrisburg

Big O: I am very surprised you are letting some of the sportswriters off the hook on the Jags! If we compare this team to our division, we are right there in many places. Quarterback play – play best rookie performance of all rookies last year (no credit). Running back – at least the second best in the division. Wide receiver – Now about the best in the division. Offensive line – healthy, the second-best next to Indianapolis and Tennessee. Edge rusher – Josh Allen … I would say the best in the division not mentioning Yannick Ngakoue. The D-Line is weak. Linebackers is very good and corners and safeties unproven. Kicker and punter – the best in the division. How does that add up to the worst team in the division and league? Plus all the intangibles of young talent … I can't see it. Show me ...

Here are a couple of thoughts on your thoughts. One: The reason I let sportswriters "off the hook" when they project how the Jaguars will fare is because what most national media say about the Jaguars simply doesn't interest me much. I don't expect someone who covers another NFL team – and in many cases, someone who covers 31 other NFL teams – to have more insight to the Jaguars than I do. When I want insight on another team, I typically call someone in the local media that covers that team rather than a national media member who doesn't cover them closely. Given that, why should I get bent out of shape because of something a national media member says or writes about the Jaguars? Sometimes, they hit. Sometimes, they miss. But they rarely are as tuned in to the team as locals. As for why many national sportswriters see the Jaguars as the likely fourth-place team in the AFC South … that's easy. They finished last in the AFC South last season, and they have the youngest roster returning – and the least-experienced quarterback. That makes the Jaguars the logical fourth-place selection. Thing often happen in the NFL that defy logic. We'll see if the Jaguars can make such a thing happen this season.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

How has Shaq Quarterman impressed so far? Really excited about him and the depth he provides. Also the high ceiling I personally think he has. Having Joe there as a role model of how to play the position bodes very well for his development.

The Jaguars have yet to practice in pads in 2020 Training Camp, so no players – particularly defensive players – have had much of a chance to impress so far. That's true of Quarterman, a fourth-round rookie inside linebacker who played locally at Oakleaf High School. But the Jaguars like Quarterman. He has impressive leadership skills and equally impressive potential – and impressive football smarts. And yes … having veteran middle linebacker Joe Schobert as the starter absolutely gives Quarterman someone to pattern himself after. He's the kind of kid who will do just that.

unhipcat from carlsbad, ca

Hi, John. Nice articles. I bet you're glad football's back.

Hi, hip. Nice emails. I bet you are, too.

Charles from Riverside

Hello, John. How important positionally is it for the offensive line to have all five of last year's starters returning this season? Especially in consideration of a new offensive playbook. Also, how does that compare to the defensive line, where it seems there has been a lot of last-minute movement in personnel? But the defensive playbook remains generally intact from the last couple of years. Which would the coaches prefer – stability at playbook or stability in player personnel – if they could choose?

Continuity is important to offensive line play because so much of an offensive lineman's job is knowing who to block when and who to pass off to a teammate in pass protection. Cohesion and feel for a teammate is also important in run blocking, particular when pulling or blocking outside the tackles. It's not as important for defensive linemen because the job there is often about pursuit of the ball and physical ability more than working together as a unit. Familiarity with the playbook therefore is a bit more important for offensive linemen than defensive linemen, though that's true of the entire offense compared to the entire defense. As for what coaches prefer – stability at playbook or personnel – that's easy: stability at playbook. It means coaches have kept their jobs.

Kyan from Ludwig

Where are we most likely to see K'Lavon Chaisson play? Strong-side linebacker or at an edge spot? I have read things on both. The possibility of Yannick Ngakoue, Chaisson, Josh Allen and Myles Jack all on the field together would be exciting.

Jaguars rookie K'Lavon Chaisson hasn't been on the field in practice yet, so it's tricky projecting exactly where he will play and when. I anticipate Chaisson playing strong-side backer in base downs when he is ready and playing edge in passing situations. Chaisson in that sense brings a different skill set than Leon Jacobs, who has started at strong-side backer most of the last two seasons – but who comes off the field in nickel situations. And yes … getting the Jaguars' three best edge players – Chaisson, Ngakoue and Allen – on the field at the same time with Jack obviously is the objective. Look for multiple such packages.

Rob from Orange Park, FL

Can you provide any reasons to be optimistic about being better able to stop the run this year given current personnel? I guess the linebacking should be better but anything else?

Defensive tackle Al Woods indeed opted out of the 2020 season, and he was projected to be a big part of the run defense. As Head Coach Doug Marrone essentially said this week, it would be disingenuous to say his loss isn't a concern. Still, Woods – who signed as an unrestricted free agent – wasn't the only offseason addition. They selected nose tackle DaVon Hamilton in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and signed defensive lineman Rodney Gunter as an unrestricted free agent. They also signed middle linebacker Joe Schobert as an unrestricted free agent and selected Chaisson to play outside linebacker/defensive end. And while defensive tackle is important to stopping the run, it's not right to completely dismiss the importance of linebacker play there. The Jaguars' linebacking corps looks significantly better. That can't hurt the run defense.

Jim from Neptune Beach, FL

KOAF, reading comments about Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II's arm strength, I think it is less important than other things. Being able to look off defenders, having a really quick release, finding the second/third option, throwing catchable balls to receivers in stride are skills that I saw last year and represent a huge leap from our previous quarterback. And, those are skills that don't necessarily rely on arm strength. With those, and a new style offense, I'm looking forward to a breakout season from Minshew and the offense. How many times with the previous quarterback did we see a stare-down on a single receiver, slow wind up and throw, poorly placed balls to receivers, etc.? The best receiver we had during that time was Allen Robinson, and his skill was wresting jump balls away from defenders. Minshew's the guy!

Arm strength isn't everything, and I agree that other attributes – grasp of offense, pocket presence, accuracy, ability to read defenses – are more important. The way to look at arm strength is there's a certain level necessary to succeed in the NFL. Former University of Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was as good as any quarterback I ever saw at the college level. But he lacked the arm strength to throw across the field to the sideline and he simply couldn't make it in the NFL. I think Minshew's arm strength is enough to make it in the NFL. We'll see.

Chris from Mandarin

Check out Minshew's touchdown pass to wide receiver Dede Westbrook during last season's finale against the Colts. His arm strength is fine. I don't know that he's ever going to throw the ball 45 yards downfield while being tackled, but it doesn't seem to limit him other than that.


Red from O-Zone Comments Section

No question, John. Just wanted to let you know your daily O-Zone Q&A's stink. Might as well do one that's 100-percent stupid Gene Frenette questions since you obviously have an eternal "man crush" on him.

It's "Q&As." There's no reason for an apostrophe because you're trying to say multiple Q&As rather than a Q&A possessing something. Now … as far as devoting an entire O-Zone to longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette? Maybe I will … and maybe I WILL!!!!!!!

Jimmy from Johnstown

Speaking of arm strength, remember when Mean Gene, won the World Arm Wrestling Championship and the ripped off his shirt and yelled "That's right. … That's how you do it, bro ... That's how I roll. … Show me the money" on national television?

I do remember this. Sadly, I'm not allowed to reminisce because Red no likee.

Jon from Ocala, FL

Hi O, I'll take Gardner Minshew II and his intangibles over Blame Gabbert and his "cannon."