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View from the O-Zone: Coming into focus

Posted Jan 11, 2017

Oehser: Thursday at EverBank Field will be eventful – and should begin to give us at least a somewhat clearer idea about the future of the Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE – The future is taking shape, and fast.

We still await details, and many should come Thursday, but for now, here’s what we know: The Jaguars’ future is going to look different.

The question: How much?

That what Thursday’s 10 a.m. press conference – actually, make that 9:55 – will be about: answering a whole lot of as-yet unanswered questions about how the Jaguars’ future is taking shape.

Expected to attend:

*Owner Shad Khan.

*President Mark Lamping.

*Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin.

*Head Coach Doug Marrone.

*General Manager David Caldwell.

Yes, this promises to be a good one, folks – and the issues to be addressed are as varied as they are important. By noon, we should have a clearer idea about the accuracy of a lot of the assumptions and speculation being kicked around Jaguars Nation in recent days.

One topic, of course, will be just how it all came together – how Khan, Tony Khan, Lamping and Caldwell arrived at the structure that is now in place. Another will be just why Khan believed Coughlin the right choice to lead the organization, and why Marrone is the right coach.

Where will roles divide? Where will power lie? Who will have control of the final 53-man roster?

Those topics will be part of the day’s storyline, and much time doubtless will be spent with Khan discussing his vision for an organization that has undergone significant change in the last five days.

And this much we do know: With Coughlin in control, his disciplined, intense personality will have a prominent, immediate stamp on the organization. Will it be a stamp identical to the 1995-2002 version, when he built the Jaguars as their first head coach? Perhaps not, but there will be a stamp. Of that we can be certain.

The 9:55 start time – a reference to Coughlin’s rule that meetings and events start five minutes early – indicates as much.

A lot of the storyline also promises to involve a slew of changes to the Jaguars’ coaching staff and how those changes will impact the defense and the offense. From an Xs and Os standpoint, here are five key topics.

*Nathaniel Hackett. Will he return as offensive coordinator? He worked under Marrone in that capacity at Syracuse University in 2011 and 2012. He worked under Marrone in that capacity with the Buffalo Bills in 2013 and 2014. He served as the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator in the final nine games this past season, taking over for Greg Olson in late October. He would seem a logical choice for coordinator, but it’s not official until it’s official.

*The offense. Change is likely here, and that’s true whoever the coordinator. Hackett, remember, essentially had a week and a half to prepare for his first game after moving into the role in October. Did Hackett call plays his way? Did he add his flavor to Olson’s offense? Of course. But it’s fair to assume that Hackett wasn’t running exclusively “his” offense, and it’s fair to assume that the Jaguars’ offense on some very real levels will be new next season.

*Todd Wash. He, too, is a logical selection to be retained as defensive coordinator, a logical move considering Wash is considered an up-and-coming, capable coach. He became the run-game coordinator in 2015, and became the coordinator this past season when the defense finished sixth in the NFL in yards allowed. He’s a solid, sensible choice. But again: not official until official.

*The defense. This will be particularly interesting. Wash in 2016 ran the same defensive scheme that had been run by coordinator Bob Babich in the first three seasons under Head Coach Gus Bradley: a 4-3, 3-4/hybrid scheme that emphasized single-high safety play in the secondary and utilized a strong-side end on one side of the line with a lighter pass-rushing hybrid “Leo” end on the other. It’s a scheme similar to that used when Bradley coordinated the Seahawks under Head Coach Pete Carroll from 2010-2012. Will the scheme remain the same? That remains to be seen, but some degree of change seems imminent.

*Blake Bortles. We saved the most important topic for last, because all of the above-mentioned changes – Coughlin, Caldwell, offense, defense and so on and so on – pale in comparison to The Blake Bortles Question. How do Coughlin/Marrone/Khan/Caldwell collectively feel about the Jaguars’ starting quarterback? Is he The Guy? Is the plan to seek competition? If so, what form will that competition take?

That topic trumps all topics because that’s the quarterback topic, but all topics are sure to be addressed Thursday. And at least some of the fog currently surrounding the topics should begin to clear.

That, of course, is what the coming days and weeks will be about. We’ll learn some Thursday and we’ll continue to learn more in the coming weeks as coordinator/coaching staffs get finalized, and as everyone involved gets a clearer idea about overall direction of personnel, scheme, philosophy and so on and so on. Here’s what we do know:

The Jaguars’ future is taking shape, and fast.

Just how much that future differs from the past we’re going to find out very, very soon.

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