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Big Cat Country Q&A: Is a bubble situation possible for the NFL?

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NFL: AUG 01 Jaguars Training Camp Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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Let’s answer some questions — this time with former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Austen Lane from ESPN 690 over the column for the week.

Today we’re talking the COVID-19 pandemic, how a cancelled preseason affects this young team, the possibility of a bubble situation for the league, and more!

Oh yeah... and follow Austen Lane on Twitter here!

Johnny from Toronto, Canada

Q: Do you think a lack of preseason games for a young team like the Jaguars will be detrimental to their season? Will it have that great of an effect? Or are we reading too much into it?

A: Not having a preseason will be extremely detrimental to the organization. The Jaguars are the youngest team in NFL and coming off of a disappointing 6-10 season. The best way to gauge young talent is when the lights shine brightest and the pressure is on. Without any preseason games it’s going to be that much harder to evaluate and figure out the personnel you want to keep going forward. This is will fall on Doug Marrone to make sure that he ingrains as many live action scenarios as possible during training camp so he can get a proper evaluation on his players. The last thing you want to see happen as a coach is a talented player slip through the cracks and end up on another team.

Diz from Frisco, TX

Q: Having played against Jay Gruden offenses in the past, what is your opinion of his scheme? Were there things you liked or didn’t like about it? Do you feel like it would be a good fit for the existing personnel?

A: I’m very optimistic for what Jay Gruden can bring to the Jaguars offense. There’s two types of coaches in football, the coaches who make the players fit his style and the coaches who tailor their style to fit his players. Jay Gruden’s history has shown the latter. He’s a game caller who loves to spread the ball around and keep defenses on their heels.

I think you’re going to see a quarterback-friendly system that will incorporate short passes and play action. I’m also looking forward to seeing screen passes which feels like something Jaguars fans haven’t seen since the Bush administration. Most importantly... this offensive scheme (pending everyone stays healthy) should be a great litmus test to see if Gardner Minshew can be the man in Jacksonville for years to come.

Moe from Cleveland, OH

Q: In 2017, the Jaguars had a very successful run game and I think that was attributed to the different style in backs they had. They had Leonard Fournette for power, Corey Grant for speed, and T.J. Yeldon as a hybrid. Do you think they will be able to replicate something similar for this season to take pressure off of Gardner Minshew to make plays or is this too optimistic?

A: The 2017 season was no accident in terms of why the Jaguars offense was successful because they had a variety of running backs you had to prepare for. Obviously, Fournette was the featured back but they were able to throw in wrinkles with Yeldon and Grant. The signing of Chris Thompson is huge because he’s played in Gruden’s system before and he also gives you a legit threat in the receiving game. Also, Fournette will be spelled more now which will make him fresher for situations when you are trying to pound the rock on third-and-short. Variety is the spice of life and variety at running back can be very beneficial for a second year quarterback in a new system.

Keefe from Scottsdale, AZ

Q: From your perspective as a former player, do you feel that the NFL is going to be different and do things the right way in regards to COVID?

A: We have to understand that nothing is going to be perfect no matter how you handle the situation. In the past I would’ve told you that the NFL’s only job is to make as much money as possible and if that means cutting corners than so be it but players are realizing just how much power and influence they can have on the game. So if the NFL puts their players at risk and handles this situation the wrong way you better believe you’re going to have a bunch of outspoken and self-aware employees in those locker rooms that will hold the powers that be accountable.

Jason from Miami, FL

Q: Would you opt out this season?

A: My decision to opt out would rely on my answers to two questions... Would I be putting any family or friends at risk if I was to play? Will I be having fun if I play this season?

Eric from New York City, NY

Q: Experts have said coronavirus spreads much faster indoors than outdoors. On a typical practice day, how much time do players and coaches spend indoors vs. outdoors? Does that amount change as the season goes on?

A: A majority of your time is usually spent inside the facilities. I say the ratio from time spent inside to outside during training camp is probably 3:1. The way technology is with practice footage and film breakdown at your fingertips, I expect more time being spent outdoors with walk-through situations while video breakdowns and film study can be done at the players’ homes and hotels.

William from Jacksonville, FL

Q: How would a bubble situation work in the NFL? Do you think the league will have to do that at some point to preserve the season?

A: In my opinion a bubble situation would be next to impossible for a few reasons. Number one, traveling is still a thing so it’s hard to enforce a bubble when you are required to travel form city to city for games. The resources you’d need to enforce such a bubble would be unrealistic. The NBA has an advantage because of roster size and staff. You’re talking about putting 80+ players and staff in a bubble from each team for an extended period of time? I don’t see it happening.

Eric from Jacksonville, FL

Q: If a young player wants to opt out, do you think today’s coaches would help them feel free to do so? Or do you think a young player would be “blacklisted” for leaving?

A: Regardless of what era you play in the NFL will always be a cutthroat league. I don’t think a young player choosing to opt out would cause him to be blacklisted but it always goes back to the age ol’ NFL question. Does the talent outweigh the situation? Meaning... if that player was to take a year off will his job still be there waiting for him when he got back? If he’s a back roster guy, then probably not. The turnover year to year of NFL rosters is insane and as messed up as it sounds I think if you choose to opt out without having a solid resume built up in the NFL you are going to get lost in the shuffle the following year.