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O-Zone: Turning point

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Rob from Jax

Any insight on why the running back position generally has a shorter shelf life while the linebacker position seems to last a bit longer? Is it just the act of absorbing the contact more often rather than initiating the contact? I always looked at those positions as opposite sides of the coin, though I'm sure there's more to it. Thanks O.

The difference lies primarily in the running back position's dependence on physical ability to be effective – and perhaps no other position in football has quite that level of dependence. A defensive lineman or pass rusher, for example, can rely on technique and/or leverage to be effective. A safety can perhaps overcome being a step slow by being in proper position. The same is true of linebackers, where a smart player can be better than a more athletic player by reacting a half-step quicker or recognizing something the offense is doing more quickly than the more athletic player. Such experience and knowledge can benefit a running back – but for the most part if a running back can't make defenders miss and run away from defenders, they lose their effectiveness in a hurry.

Jordan from Minneola

Will the Jaguars change their jerseys soon?

I don't expect the Jaguars to change uniforms in the next few seasons, thought they are eligible to do so because they last changed in 2018; NFL teams that don't change owners can change uniforms every five seasons. I wouldn't rule out some alternative or throwback options in the coming few seasons; that seems overdue. But I would be surprised if there's a new "regular" uniform design before there's a new stadium in place. That sort of "synergy" makes sense.

Matthew from Madison, MS

Woah! The King of all Funk has an editor?


Sean from Oakleaf, FL

Not counting the two-week vacation in the United Kingdom, is there a road game on the Jaguars 2023 schedule you are looking forward to attending or at this point they are all the same - a major inconvenience for the senior writer?

I heh-hehed a bit at the thought of the two-week London stretch being a vacation. While I resist complaining about spending time in one of the world's great cities, I assure you that no work-related travel – even to London, even writing/discussing the NFL – qualifies as "vacation." As far as games I'm "looking forward to" in 2023, let's go with the back-to-back games at New Orleans and Pittsburgh. The latter is one of the most underrated NFL downtowns, and I love its traditional feel. I've had some very enjoyable trips there. As for having enjoyed past trips to New Orleans … well, I probably should just leave that alone.

Lance from the hip side of St Augustine, FL

I think OK and Okay are the same thing.


Greg from Section 122, Always the Bank, Jacksonville, FL

Before I start, I owe you an apology. I have written in many times very critical of the approach to the renovations, the tailgating going away, the funding etc. Not any item of this is directed at you, and perhaps it came off too personal. Sorry. Richard's comment yesterday struck a cord with me and I came to realize perhaps age is a larger part of my resistance. Have I gotten that old where I am reflexively resisting change for the sake of change? It is true as you get older you remember more that you have lost than you have to look forward to. Getting old isn't for the faint of heart. Hope I am able to make some memories with my grandkids at the new stadium when it finally opens. Thanks, and again sorry KOAF.

You're referencing a heartfelt recent email from Richard from Jacksonville that discussed health, EverBank Stadium and just what a facility – and a football team – can mean in terms of memories. And it goes without saying that apologies aren't necessary in the O-Zone; we're discussing football and trying to have a good time (sometimes) while doing it. As for aging … no, it's not for the faint of heart. I realize that more and more by the year. But as my late grandmother – the perfectly eccentric and wonderfully wise Grace Oehser – often said, "Getting old stinks, but it's better than the alternative."

DenMiz from Duuvalll

So, Why are you so unpopular with the Chicago Police Department?

You wouldn't have change for a thousand, would you?

Tom from Cairo, Egypt

As with Derrick Henry, your doubt about Jalen Ramsey's Hall of Fame case surprises me. If Jalen Ramsey is not a Hall of Famer, which current active cornerbacks are?

Henry, a running back for the Tennessee Titans, may eventually be a Hall of Famer – and I'm in no way arguing against him. But as of this writing, he has 8,335 career yards and four 1,000-yard seasons. Jamal Lewis retired with 10,607 career yards and seven 1,000-yard seasons – and he was not a Hall semifinalist in 2023. I think Henry can get in, I just think he may need another memorable season or two. As for Ramsey, he may point to have a better case than Henry: six consecutive Pro Bowl selections and three first-team All-Pro selections. I'm not saying Ramsey's not close, but he – like Henry – just may need another memorable season or two.

Johnny from Westside

We won three remarkable games last season via really "fluky" plays (heel kick forced fumbles, for example). Now, as a navy aircrew veteran I appreciate continuity-of-team more than most. My question is this: will we be improved enough on defense to overcome the "need" of last-second fluke plays? Is our quarterback going to make the leap? (I think yes).

These are legitimate questions, and they're important issues to remember when assessing the Jaguars. The 2022 season was memorable, and the Jaguars appeared to build a foundation for the future. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence appeared to take a first step toward elite status. That development from Lawrence, as well as an offense that appears capable of taking a significant jump, makes the Jaguars the favorites in the AFC South entering 2023. But they weren't great in 2022 and they indeed needed multiple miracles to win the division. That means they must continue the development from 2022 in 2023 if they are to be as good as Jaguars fans expect. I don't realistically know how much better they will be defensively. I think they can be a good, opportunistic defense; I'm less certain they can be great. But I do believe Lawrence will make the leap. If he does, that can raise everything else about the team and make the Jaguars one of the AFC favorites.

Marc from Oceanway

Zone, This question may require you to dig deep into your Funky brain. Why do you think running backs of yesteryear maintained their high level of performance for so many years (Emmitt Smith, Frank Gore, John Riggins) as opposed to the wear and tear running backs seem to suffer these days?

A couple of thoughts – and these are more theories than anything close to fact. One is I think Smith, Riggins and Gore are Hall of Famers – and Hall of Famers tend to be outliers. Another is neither of those three runners really relied on speed. Smith had unreal vision and ability to make people miss. Riggins had deceptive speed and the physicality to get the most from every run. Gore had phenomenal vision and toughness. Teams also stuck with runners longer in previous eras. It's vogue now to run running backs hard four or five seasons, then let them go and churn the position. That mindset wasn't as prevalent in past eras.

Ken from Northport

Since we're in the dead zone, let's step outside the jags for a minute. I heard a national talk show host talking about former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck being in the Hall of Fame. I don't see it. Your thoughts.

I don't see it, either. Luck was phenomenal at times, and was a rarity in that he needed comparatively little time to acclimate to the NFL. But he played just six seasons. While three of them were high-end good, I'm not sure that will be enough to make the Hall. Also: He chose to retire when he did rather than have his career cut short by injuries. I don't know if that should sway voters, and I'm not sure it should, but it might.

Bo from Winter Springs, FL

Would you agree that the hit that Jaguars linebacker Shaq Quarterman put on Henry was the turning point of the season in 2022? The Jaguars record to that point, the way that game was feeling at the time, and how everything transpired in the game and season after that; that seemed like the play if you had to pick one. Been a longtime Jags fan and I will never forget this past season for as long as I live.

It's as good as any, so … sure.