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O-Zone: They're out there

JACKSONVILLE — Let's get to it …

Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

Hey, John. What's up? Do you think DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. could be the next Thunder and Lightning?

Chark and Shenault have the potential to be very good NFL wide receivers, perhaps even one of the NFL's best receiving tandems. They could achieve that and still not be as good a tandem as former Jaguars wide receivers Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith. That's not a knock on the potential of Chark and Shenault. It speaks to the level consistently reached by McCardell and Smith, who rank among the NFL's best receiving tandems in NFL history and were unbelievable good together from 1996-2001. Either way: This conversation is insanely premature for the simple reason that Shenault has yet to participate in an NFL practice; while talented, he must first show he can adapt well enough to the professional game to even contribute – much less reach the level of McCardell and/or Smith.

Tom from Jacksonville

As noted by a question last week, I come to the games to take my mind off other things and enjoy the football. I pay for my $120 ticket for that enjoyment. I can see protests any day on TV or in person – and do most days. Kudos to the Jaguars and Owner Shad Khan for their march and comments, but I'm not paying $120 to watch further protests that I can see for free elsewhere. Is that hard to understand?

It's not, but there probably will be overlap between social statements and sports this season. There will be people who won't like it like it for many reasons. That won't prevent it.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

There is often quite a disparity between Pro Bowl selections and All Pro selections. I understand the voting process is different, with the Pro Bowl factoring (unlimited) fan votes. But within the league, which is considered the more prestigious?

Associated Press All-Pro is considered the NFL's most prestigious individual "All-Star team"-type honor. Exclusivity is a main reason. At wide receiver, for example, 10 players plus alternates might be named to the Pro Bowl whereas four players – two first team and two second team – would be named All-Pro.

John from Cape May Courthouse

I fully support the Black Lives Matter protests, as well as players' right to kneel during the National Anthem. But for the life of me, I don't understand why the National Anthem is even played at sporting events. It's literally the only time I ever hear it. It's not played at schools, or work, or places of worship. It's not on the radio, or retail stores, or played on elevators. So why is there a need to play it at sporting events? If leagues don't want the distraction of players kneeling, don't play it.

I don't have the answers to all that's happening right now. I do doubt the answer will be to stop playing the National Anthem at sporting events.

Zachary from Washougal, WA

Hey John. I grew up in a San Francisco 49ers household. I loved Steve Young because, like me, was a southpaw. As an eight-year-old in the mid-90s, I wanted my own team. No. 8 and lefty Marky Mark (Mark Brunell) sold me (along with the super-cool logo and colors) on the Jaguars. That said, this team hasn't had a quarterback. They tried selling us on Gabby (Blaine Gabbert) and Borty (Blake Bortles), but seem cautious about Gardner Minshew II. He's the only quarterback since David Garrard that gives me hope. Build around this man.

I'm never sure how to answer questions about the Jaguars not "selling" or believing in Minshew. It would be difficult to promote or "sell" Minshew more than the Jaguars' marketing and promotions people did last season when he was a rookie, and it's not the job of the head coach or general manager to "sell" people on the quarterback. The job of Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell is to determine what's best for the franchise. On that front, the Jaguars have determined will start Minshew next season. They haven't given him a lifetime contract or declared him their Quarterback for All-Time, but they … wait for it … have made him the starter. The reason there is some caution is because he showed some flaws in 12 starts last season; that's expected for a rookie, but it's fair to want to see him work through those flaws before doing cartwheels and patting themselves on the back for finding a franchise quarterback. The reason there is hope – and there indeed is a lot of hope – is he showed a lot of savvy, poise and other things that good quarterbacks show. He's getting a chance to prove he's more than hope. That's enough for now. What other approach could the Jaguars possibly take? What other approach is there considering the circumstances?

Fred from Naples, FL

I really enjoyed your podcast with Keenan McCardell. Thunder was absolutely one of my favorite players who was fearless going over the middle and played with a passion unmatched by many. I was curious about what your take was on his comments regarding having to be a coordinator first before becoming a head coach or whether you just had to be a great leader of men. I am a bit surprised that he has not "moved up the ladder" quicker that he has. He seems to coach with the same veracity with which he played the game. In your opinion does one need to be a coordinator first or can one attain the goal by being a great leader of men without having coordinator experience? Also, what are some the things that Keenan needs to do to become a head coach?

I have long thought it was ridiculous that most head coaches must be coordinators before ascending to the head job. The skillset for being a coordinator is dramatically different from that for being a head coach; doing one well in no way prepares you to do the other well. Being a good coordinator is about calling plays well and game-planning well; it's nice if a head coach can do that, but it's far more important that he be a leader of people, that he handles adversity well and that he can set a vision for an organization. If players don't believe in the head coach, it's hard for a team to function. But the reality is many NFL owners lean toward hiring coordinators because it's easier to tell fans that they're hiring a coach whose offense or defense ranked in a certain range than it is to say a coach did a great job coaching linebackers. There's also a league-wide perception that a coach should be a coordinator before being a head coach and it's difficult to break out of that mode of operation. I think McCardell has a chance to be a head coach and I think he would do well. He realistically probably has to be a coordinator, which could mean doing it briefly at the college level or getting a chance on an interim level. It's a little tricky to do from the receiver position these days because the overriding trend is hiring quarterbacks coaches as offensive coordinators and then hiring coordinators as head coaches. Here's hoping that changes – and here's hoping McCardell gets an opportunity.

Michael from Jacksonville

If I had the choice to end racism forever but in return the Jaguars had a losing record forever then I'd take that option in a heartbeat.


Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL

In our "Glory Year" of 2017, the Jaguars defense forced 33 turnovers: 21 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. Last year they forced 19 turnovers: 10 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. Obviously, that is a big drop-off. Any thoughts on how those statistics might change in 2020?

Get leads, then get opponents in situations where they're throwing because the games situation dictates it, then rush the passer effectively. That's the best way to force fumbles and interceptions.

Chris from Mandarin

Jacksonville's municipal budget is atrocious. In terms of debt, Jacksonville is one of the 10 worst cities in the country when it comes to unfunded pension liabilities. Jacksonville is also one of the worst 10 cities in terms of being able to pay its other types of municipal bond obligations. How is Jacksonville supposed to be able to pay for this Lot J project, and then within the next 10 years, major refurbishments to the stadium? It doesn't seem like a very feasible proposition.

It won't be easy. Very little worth doing is. Also: Being in the modern NFL – and being competitive in the modern NFL – is expensive. The Jaguars and the city will have to be creative on this one.

Marty from Arlington

"Remember, David: Not everything's a conspiracy. They're not all out to get you." That's just what someone who was out to get you would say.