O-Zone: The Great Unknown

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Brian from Greenwood, IN

I get that all teams will suffer when the starting quarterback goes down. However, is it really a smart move to head into the season with a sixth-round draft pick rookie as the backup quarterback? Especially considering that Nick Foles, as a starter, has a history of injury. This team is apparently one play away from giving Gardner Minshew the keys.

Foles’ injury history is a bit exaggerated. He has gone into a season as a starter just twice previously – 2014 with the Philadelphia Eagles and 2015 with the St. Louis Rams. He missed the end of ’14 with a broken collarbone, then was benched in ’15 because he and the Rams’ offense were struggling. And injuries at quarterback are a little more chancy than most positions. If you protect the quarterback and he does a good job avoiding high-impact hits, he probably will avoid injury; if a quarterback takes an awkward hit, he has a chance of getting injured. Either way, the Minshew Topic remains an issue as the regular season approaches. He has done enough to be on the roster and he could be the backup. But Head Coach Doug Marrone talked this week of wanting to see more from Minshew. He didn’t show more against the Falcons. I could see the Jaguars signing a quarterback if one they like comes available over the weekend. That’s a big if, because there’s not much out there. I doubt any new quarterback would be the backup entering Kansas City in Week 1 because the new quarterback won’t be as deep into the offense as Minshew. What would happen later? Stay tuned.

Brian from Round Rock

Coaches learn things in the preseason about a team, but fans learn almost nothing. This is because the intent of decisions made during preseason games have nothing to do with winning the game and no one knows the intent of various decisions except the coaches. For example, they run plays just to challenge a particular player and see how they react and perform, not to succeed against the defense.

True.

Nicholas from Mogadishu, Somalia

During the preseason when clubs had 90 or so players on the team, where were all the extra lockers located? Do they bring in extra lockers, or is the locker room built to accommodate the preseason players? During the regular season are these lockers vacant?

Most NFL locker rooms have space to accommodate a 90-man offseason roster. When teams reduce to 53, players have more space and there are many empty lockers around most NFL locker rooms. This is the case with the Jaguars.

Dave from Dallas, TX

Hey Mr. O: Is Head Coach Doug Marrone drinking in the Last Chance Saloon this season? If so, is it fair, given that we were unusually affected by injuries and BB5 last season and probably need a year for new quarterback Nick Foles to bring the offensive relationships to maturity?

The NFL isn’t fair. Most coaches have at least a foot in the Last Chance Saloon. The exceptions are usually coaches who have gone deep in the playoffs often or won Super Bowls. Aside from that, few coaches can withstand double-digit-loss seasons unless there are significant reasons.

Mike from Atlanta, GA

I love the idea of the Jaguars using more 3-4 fronts. I don't think it should be their base, or used more than 4-3. But sometimes to mix it up, give the opposing team something else to study, and to maybe cause some confusion on critical short yardage situations. The personnel perhaps even lends itself to this defensive front. We don't have much depth at outside linebacker; Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen on the outside with Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones inside is an awesome defensive front. Then you have Myles Jack at mike with I'm guessing Leon Jacobs at the other middle linebacker spot. I am very excited about this defense and probably most opposing offenses are going to have some serious challenges this season.

That’s how the Jaguars will use a 3-4 this season – as a package to allow Campbell, Dareus, Ngakoue and Allen on the field at the same time with Ngakoue, Allen and Campbell outside and Ngakoue/Allen on the edge. Ngakoue and Allen are good standing up, so it gives those players a chance to play in a different look. And yes: it gives opposing offensive coordinators something to consider when game planning.

Joshua from Sacksonville, FL

Had a thought about what to do with the preseason now that the bubble-wrap method is gaining momentum. The league should make it very clear, promoting the four preseason games as a quick summer league. Developmental/evaluation games. The fans won't feel they are being led on by the hope that starters will play. Owners can still have their four-game revenue stream. Sometimes packaging or altering the perspective of something is better than trying throwing the baby, I mean money, out with the bathwater.

I don’t mind your idea, but I think the league soon will go to two preseason games with an extra postseason game. That sounds like a plan that would avoid two extra regular-season games.

Clyde form Sacksonville

Mr. Jones got a big surprise Friday morning after the Jaguars lost to the Atlanta Falcons. Watched his interview after the game and he talked like a vet that was 100 percent sure would make the 53. I was thinking the whole time, “Don't be so sure, Mr. Jones.” Welp, he did play very good and I wish him the best playing for whoever does pick him up. He earned a spot somewhere, but not a Jaguar! Tough business! Let's get onto with giving KC the beating of their lives! Go Jaguars!

I had gotten the impression for the past week or so that Datone Jones was very much on the bubble and might need an injury somewhere on the line to make the roster. While he had made a couple of splash plays late in the preseason, there are always two or three players who impress fans and observers with preseason statistics who are seen differently by the decision-makers. Jones was one of those players this preseason.

Chris from Space City, TX

O-Man, I respect your insight. Please tell us what have you seen at training camp to make you believe we have "depth" at wide receiver? If Chark and Westbrook elevate their games this year, I do agree we have a bright future in front. Plus, it appears that we now have at least a decent quarterback. But "depth" at wide receiver is a bit of a stretch. This unit will be lucky to be in middle of the pack at that position group but more likely near the bottom.

I didn’t say the Jaguars had Pro Bowl receivers among their front-line receivers. I said the team had depth at the position. I’m assuming DJ Chark Jr., Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook will be the top three receivers entering the season. That leaves Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole as the fourth and fifth receivers. Both of those players have had seasons in which they have had at least 700 yards receiving. That means the Jaguars aren’t sweating it significantly if they lose a starter and play one of those players. That’s depth.

Fabian from Jacksonville

What's up, John. There has been a lot of talk about the Jags integrating a 3-4 scheme due to the arrival of Josh Allen, a potentially elite defensive end. You stated that the reason for this was to have your three best players on the field at the same time. I’m not sure if I wasn't paying attention closely enough last year, but I don't recall the Jags using this 3-4 scheme with Dante Fowler on the roster. Thoughts?

The Jaguars believed this defense fits the skill set of Allen and that he would be able to thrive with the added responsibility. They didn’t feel that way with Fowler.

Royce from Jacksonville

Mr. O: I read that the Jags have $28 million in dead money. Is this an indication of missed evaluations by the front office? The Jags have had dead money problems in the past with football boss Tom having final say so.

The Jaguars do have $28 million in dead money. Some of that is because of the Blake Bortles contract. Some of it was planned in the sense that you sign free agents to big contracts with the idea that there is a risk of some dead money later in the contract.

Chris from Section 437

I may be in the minority, but I actually thought Minshew looked good. He had no help for the offensive line or receivers at all.

This is the tricky part about Minshew. He looked more poised after the preseason opener and did a nice job in a lot of areas. He wasn’t spectacular, but you don’t expect spectacular from a sixth-round rookie backup quarterback. What you hope for is the ability to function and get you through a short stint without the starter. There are signs that Minshew could do that when surrounded by the Jaguars starters, but because we saw him only with reserves it’s tough to know what to make of those signs.

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