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O-Zone: Ah, kids...

Posted Jan 26, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. – Let’s get to it …

Chad from Orange Park, FL:
I’ve come to trust your opinion as you are unbiased and seem to look at things through a different lens. A couple of years ago you said you saw this team making and advancing in the playoffs when everything seemed bleak. You also were level-headed on Blake Bortles’ development as you foresaw many of the problems he had last season (2016) even though his 2015 was great statistically. Can you give a very level-headed silver lining for this team moving forward? I know the majority of the team is coming back and we will have lots of experience, but I can’t get out of my head that nothing is guaranteed. The chemistry may not be there next year and the AFC looks to be much-improved next year. Can you give some sort realistic answer just for the sake of closure?
John: I know the future no better than anyone else, though I do try to look at the NFL from a less extreme day-to-day, hour-to-hour lens than many do. As for your question, I expect the Jaguars will be very good – even improved – defensively next season, providing they remain relatively healthy. Young players such as linebacker Myles Jack, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue are going to form much of the core, and I believe Jack is poised for super-stardom. And while this defense by necessity will change some personnel in the coming years, it has potential to be good for several seasons. I absolutely think the offense will improve next season. I expect wide receiver Allen Robinson to return, and I expect players such as center Brandon Linder, running back Leonard Fournette and left tackle Cam Robinson to continue to develop. That’s a decent start for the offense. An intriguing storyline this offseason will be whether the Jaguars can add the sort of boost in talent offensively they did on defense the last two offseasons. I expect some pretty major additions at wide receiver, tight end and at least two offensive-line positions. I expect the Jaguars to look long and hard at quarterback, and I expect options outside the organization such as Alex Smith and Kirk Cousins to be explored. Whatever the details of what the Jaguars do offensively, I do not expect them to remotely “stand pat” – and I expect this to be a more reliable running team with more legitimate options in the passing game. That last part doesn’t have to mean a new quarterback, but it will mean a focus on being able to make plays more consistently downfield. So, realistically: I think the Jaguars will enter the season with a good chance to return to the postseason. How healthy they are when they get there, and how the postseason will go? Well, Chad: I’m good, but I ain’t that good.
Keith from Jacksonville:
As we're talking about offseason possibilities with the wide receivers, how is AR15's rehab going? Will he be back for camp?
John: I expect Robinson to be re-signed and I expect he will be brought along slowly during the offseason. That's the norm with torn anterior cruciate ligaments. I expect Robinson will be ready by the regular season and that he will be productive.
Mark from Jacksonville:
What are your thoughts on Poz being back for 2018? I know that he is a free agent and plays in only about a third of the snaps, but I think he is still a valuable piece of the defense. Do you think the Jags will try to re-sign him, let him walk or is it possible that he retires? I know it is all speculation at this time, but interested in your thoughts.
John: My thought is that middle linebacker Paul Posluszny still wants to play and very much wants to play for the Jaguars. I absolutely could see him back on a cap-friendly, short-team deal. At the same time, there are a lot of teams running this defense that could use a middle linebacker of his ability. This will be one to watch.
Rob from Jacksonville:
Is it fair to say this is a "Super Bowl-or-bust" team now, moving forward?
John: For players and coaches, this already was Super Bowl or bust. That was their mindset all season. And there’s little doubt that now will be the fans’ feeling: You only get to come out of nowhere once in the court of perception. That once happened for this team last season.
Thad from Albuquerque, NM:
If we take a step back next year, we are back to a rebuild. No way around it. We will for sure have a new quarterback going into 2020 if we fail next year. We will be losing critical playmakers due to their contracts coming up and the AFC South will be locked down by the three teams that have a star quarterback in place already. Next year is our last chance with this team to be in the Super Bowl. It's all or nothing. And I'm betting on nothing because we are never allowed to be happy or get nice things as Jags fans.
John: Please. Stop. Talking.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
What would you say to fans that have become disenfranchised with the NFL as a result of the absolute travesty that took place Sunday? Why even watch if the league will so unfairly officiate such a big game purposely? Keep in mind: nothing you can tell these fans will change their perspective that the refs absolutely helped Tom Brady as they have done over the past decade. What would you say to people like me who now see the NFL as barely more than the WWE? And before you jump up on the sports-are-above-influence-of crooked-refs high horse I will just remind you of that NBA ref convicted of fixing games.
John: It sounds as if you’re pretty dug in – and if you say they’re “nothing I call tell these fans” to change perspective, then perhaps there’s “nothing I can tell these fans” to change perspective. Look, the Jaguars got a few calls against them Sunday that I thought were very bad. Was it done on purpose? As part of a great conspiracy? As part of a league directive? No, I don’t believe that. Do officials get familiar with teams that they are used to see winning, thereby creating situations that some well-known players get the benefit of the doubt more than lesser-known players? I’d be hard-pressed to argue against that possibility.
Abe from Catonsville, MD:
I know that "fans-are-gonna-fan" is the obvious answer, but the attempts to read a conspiracy into refereeing for high-profile teams like New England is silly. If that was actually happening and a league was conspiring to get a popular team from a bigger market into the finals, that would be hard to keep secret. And the moment it broke, that would be the end of that sport. No smart business would ever risk it. Accuse the NFL of a lot of things, but it certainly is smart.
John: This is probably a better answer to the last question than my effort.
Fred from New York:
In Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs blew a big fourth-quarter lead to the Heat and missed a shot at the end of regulation that would have won the title before falling to Miami in overtime and again in Game 7. That team responded by winning the championship in 2014. I hope Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone has a little of Spurs coach Greg Popovich's magic in him and can similarly motivate the Jags to use this loss to make them stronger next season.
John: I think Marrone will take a very similar day-by-day, workman-like approach to the 2018 offseason and season that he took this past season. It’s an approach that served this team well. I wondered in the first few days after the loss to New England whether there might be a hangover effect from that game. Listening to players at the Pro Bowl this week, I am less concerned about that. This is a young, confident team that sees this past season as the start of something, and I don’t think one loss will cause that to change. And yeah – I think what happened Sunday and how close this team came to its goal this past season might get mentioned somewhere along the line next season.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
How many straight days has it been? I lost count.
John: I have put in three miles 1,125 consecutive days, dating to the day after the Jaguars’ 2014 regular-season finale in Houston. My son tells me it’s 1,057 days. The discrepancy is because I worked out on an elliptical twice while in Lincoln, Nebraska, for Randy Gregory’s Pro Day in March 2015 when the hotel treadmills were broken. I told my son ellipticals count and he told me they didn’t. I said they do and he told me he hated me for ruining his life. Things escalate in our house sometimes.

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