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O-Zone: True that

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Brian from Charlottesville, VA:
My oh my, how times have changed. As little as two years ago, we were clamoring (and willing to pay just about anything) for a player who could rush the passer effectively. We wanted to give Olivier Vernon $15 million per year and he hasn't been effective as Dante Fowler Jr. has the last two years. Now we're planning to let a 24-year old who can approach double-digit sacks each year walk away without compensation – one who Pro Football Focus coincidentally says plays the run extremely well. What did I miss? Fowler Jr. should be a player we're making other moves to keep, not one we're planning to let walk. Young pass rushers are hard to find.
John: Good eye, Brian – and good perspective. There indeed has been a lot of assuming among observers that the Jaguars will not attempt to re-sign Fowler following the 2018 season. The Jaguars' salary-cap situation dictates that Fowler leaving is a possibility, but I don't know that it's nearly as much of a foregone conclusion as many believe – and I certainly don't see it as a no-brainer. While Fowler has not developed into a "pure pass rusher" along the lines of Von Miller – and while he isn't quite on the level of his teammate, Yannick Ngakoue – he is as you note really good and improved dramatically last season. I also agree that he's a very good run defender. The Jaguars must decide by May 3 whether to exercise the option on Fowler's contract for 2019. I doubt they will because that will mean paying him $14.2 million for that season. But that doesn't have to mean Fowler leaves after 2018. The reality is the salary cap and the need to retain players such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack and Ngakoue likely will make it difficult if not impossible for the Jaguars to retain Fowler. But the rush by some observers to write Fowler off and assume he lacks value indeed is premature and misguided.
John (AKA Jagtatto) from Ramsey, NJ:
I finally did it, Johnny O. I'm the proud owner of two season tickets to the Jags: Section 410, Row G. I've been wanting to do this for so many years. I'm going to root our tyranny on against the G-men here in New Jersey and then head there for the game against the Pats in Week 2. Life is good!!!
John: Indeed.
Jordan from Jacksonville:
The new uniforms are incredible. Love them.
John: Fer …
Chris from Mandarin:
The new uniforms are growing on me already. Really, fixing the helmet is all that matters to me. I can dig it.
John: More and more fer.
John from Quebec City, Canada:
I love the new and simpler look of the team, but the only thing missing is that it should have had a gold trim around the numbers.
John: Fer … with a caveat.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
The jags uniforms stink!!!!
John: Somewhat predictably not fer.
Rob from Jacksonville:
I'm so heartbroken with these uniforms.
John: Overdramatically not fer.
Mac from Jax Beach:
The new uniforms make a statement. They signify what this team is trying to be. We're not trying to win a beauty contest out there; we're trying to win football games. No frills, no glamour. We're going to rush four and our corners are going to play man and we're going to shut you down. We're going to run Leonard Fournette down your throat and you won't be able to stop him. You know what we're going to do and it still won't help you because we're the better team. Simple as that. That's what the new uniforms say. I for one love them.
John: Fer with a biceps flex …
Jason from North Pole, AK:
This actually feels like the best schedule we have had in years. We don't have any three-game road stretches. We play the Patriots early in the season, when they typically aren't at their best – at home, in the heat of September. We got the Steelers at home in prime time where the crowd will be ferocious. We play the Eagles in London, where we historically have had a huge advantage. That's three of our toughest games where we were given an edge just through scheduling. Our bye week is mid-season right after the London game. There are lots of things to like about this schedule. Getting a Monday Night game will come after we have a few more winning seasons. This is about the best first-place schedule a team could ask for.
John: A big thing to remember about a schedule there's really no such thing as an easy one. Another is the whole "first-place" schedule thing is a touch overblown. There are only two opponents for each team each season are different from the other teams in their division; those are against one team from two other divisions within a team's conference. To review, NFL scheduling works like this: six games against divisional teams (in the Jaguars' case, the AFC South), four games against teams from the other conference (for all AFC South teams, that's the NFC East in 2018), four games against teams from another division in the conference (for all AFC South teams, that's the AFC East in 2018). Each team then plays the corresponding finishing team from the previous season from the two other divisions in the conference, so the 2017 first-place AFC South Jaguars in 2018 will play the 2017 first-place AFC North Steelers and the 2017 first-place AFC West Chiefs whereas the 2017 AFC South second-place Titans will play the 2017 second-place AFC North Ravens and 2017 second-place AFC West Chargers and so on. So, while a division champion's schedule is in theory tougher than a runner-up's schedule the difference isn't so extreme that it should decide the division champion. But perhaps I digress … no, the Jaguars' schedule isn't on paper outrageously difficult. And once you get through October, it could end up quite manageable.
Big on Blake from Philly:
How mad is Bill Belichick after seeing his second game of the season? A rematch of last year's AFC Championship, which was arguably decided by the refs in Foxboro, to open up the Jags' first ever game in the newly-branded TIAA Bank Field? I know every Jag has that game circled on their calendars already and I'd love as much to be there as I know the Patriots are already dreading it. Sure, we don't have any Monday Night Football, but that's as great a mea culpa as anyone will ever get from the NFL. Go Jags!
John: I honestly doubt Belichick is all that worked up about this. The Patriots, after all, have won a lot of games over a lot of years in a lot of difficult situations. But you're right that it will be a big game and I expect the scene at EverBank Field, soon to be named TIAA Bank Field, to be as frenzied as any game. Maybe ever.
Mark from Archer, FL:
John, I like the schedule we were given. Bye week right in the middle of the season. No more than two away games in a row. We get a home game before and after the Thursday night game. Obviously, there is no way to know in the offseason just how good a team will be during the regular season; what we think might be an easy or hard game could be the opposite. But if you just go by the setup of the home and away games, it is very much in our favor.
John: You're correct that it's impossible to judge the toughness/ease of an NFL schedule in April. Too much changes on a year-to-year basis and injuries have too much influence on teams to judge so early. It is, in fact, difficult to know a schedule's true difficulty until five or six games have been played. But the schedule does lay out in well in some ways. The Thursday game at Tennessee in early December could be a major advantage because of the 10-day break until the next game (provided the Jaguars win the game), and the schedule overall doesn't look incredibly daunting in the second half of the season. At the same time, the Jaguars better be good early; the schedule in late September and October appears difficult, particularly in October. The Jaguars also could make a legitimate case that having road games in the final two weeks of the regular season two consecutive seasons is what my father used to refer to as "a bit much." So, no such thing as perfect schedule. Ever.
Matt from Philadelphia, PA:
Overall, I'm pleased with the new uniform designs. I was hoping to get a matte-black helmet and maybe a few more gold accents, but I like the classic look. I do worry that without names/numbers they would just look like plain T-shirts though...
John: No need to worry. I spoke with a guy the other day and told him the Jaguars need to have names and numbers on the jerseys next season. He said OK. All good.
Mason from Palm Bay, FL:
Jalen summed it up perfectly, "You're gonna like the jerseys when we're ballin in em."
John: Spittin' truth fer.

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