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O-Zone: Goodness, no

Posted May 14, 2017

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Travis from North Dakota:
If Marqise Lee has another good season and is looking for a contract similar to what Allen Hurns got, do you think we pay him or let him walk? I would love to have the Allens and Lee in Jacksonville for many years, but does it make sense for the Jags to tie all that money up into their receivers, especially since we are trying to become more of a running team?
John: There is much being assumed right now about the Jaguars’ wide receivers and their contract situations, and many of those assumptions may or may not be correct. The first assumption is that it’s an elite group that must be kept together. I don’t know that it has proven itself to be that – yet. This is a group that cumulatively has had two 1,000-yard-plus seasons and two double-digit touchdown seasons. Those were turned in by Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson in 2015. Lee indeed showed serious flashes last season, and Robinson/Hurns have had standout moments outside 2015, but none have yet shown they are elite No. 1 receivers. Robinson has probably come the closest and Lee hinted at it last season. Can one or more of those players emerge as a must-keep, franchise receiver in 2017? Sure, but that emerging still must be done. All of this is a reason it makes sense for the Jaguars to approach long-term “mega deals” with Robinson and Lee slowly – and it makes sense to wait until the 2017 approaches, or even until the season plays out a bit. Hurns factors into that equation, too, because the contract he signed before the 2016 season essentially is a two-year deal that doesn’t tie the Jaguars to him beyond 2017. Can the Jaguars keep all three players? If all three show in 2017 that they merit the money to keep them … yes, the Jaguars can keep all three. My guess is they’ll keep two and that we’ll know more about the pair’s identity midway through 2017.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
Defenses stacking the box to stop Leonard Fournette just makes it harder for them to take away the Allen Robinson 75-25 balls #DTWD
John: True.
Dallas from Jacksonville:
In one of your recent answers, you said that Corey Grant is the fastest Jaguar on the team. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but isn’t Jalen Myrick now the fastest player on the team?
John: Grant ran a 4.28 at his Pro Day at Auburn in 2015. Myrick ran a 4.28 at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. I’m not going to say Grant isn’t the fastest player on the team until someone catches him. But I’m not going to say Myrick isn’t the fastest player on the team until someone catches him, either.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, it seems that some fans would rather pass a lot and lose games with a score of 49-42 than have a run-heavy offense and win games with a score of 7-3. What gives?
John: I honestly have no idea.
Travis from High Springs, FL:
Hi John, my question is about our wide receivers. I've been reading a lot of stuff that's very conflicting. I read one thing and it says Robinson and Hurns are our two best outside receivers and Lee is the best option in the slot. The very next thing I read says Robinson and Lee are our best outside receiving options, with Hurns in the slot. So I guess my question is: are Lee’s and Hurns’ abilities so interchangeable that it doesn't matter who plays which position? Because I thought that they were different types of receivers.
John: Believe not all that you read – especially if you’re reading that Lee is the Jaguars’ best option in the slot. Lee plays very, very infrequently in the slot, though he has the skill set to do it. Hurns has played far more slot than Lee, and it was Hurns who moved to the slot last season to get Lee into the lineup opposite. Robinson. The bottom line is that none of those players is a natural fit at slot receiver. That’s why the Jaguars’ best option in the slot eventually could be rookie Dede Westbrook.
Josh from Victoria, BC:
With Yannick Ngakoue looking like he's going to be the starter at defensive end over Dante Fowler Jr., and with Paul Posluszny being moved to strong-side linebacker (and not getting any younger), do you think we could see Fowler getting some rotations at linebacker to see how he does?
John: I doubt it. First, it’s far too early to assume that Ngakoue will start over Fowler – just as it’s incorrect to say that Fowler didn’t play well a lot of the time last season. Fowler right now is seen as a defensive end – no matter how much fans and observers seem to want to see him at strong-side linebacker.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
So, what you're saying from your last article is you expect the Jaguars’ defense to be elite next season, right?
John: I haven’t said that. I do think the Jaguars’ defense has some pieces that could make it the best unit either side of the ball has had in some time. And if the Jaguars’ defense develops into a defense that consistently can rush the passer in big situations, then it has a chance to be elite. The Jaguars’ defense has potential and talent, neither of which guarantees an elite defense. I expect them to be improved next season with a chance to move toward being elite. Until I see a pass rush that bothers a quarterback consistently I can’t say I expect it.
Jared from O-Town, FL:
Hey, John. I have two questions for you today. Firstly, wouldn't the ideal situation for the Jaguars be Cam Robinson winning the left-tackle spot? Branden Albert was drafted out of UVa as a guard. Seems he would be more qualified than Robinson, who has probably been at left tackle since he started playing the game. Not to mention, it would also help on the contract restructure being able to pay guard money. And lastly, this is the first time in a while that the Jags have let so many players walk in free agency. What would be the best case scenario for next year's compensatory picks?
John: The Jaguars certainly wouldn’t mind Robinson winning the job. That would mean their second-round draft selection is ready to play a premier position over a player who has played the position in two Pro Bowls. It’s not ridiculous to think that could happen, but the percentages tell you Albert has a better chance of being the starter and playing at a high level immediately. I doubt Albert’s contract will have much to do with the issue because it doesn’t appear the team plans to restructure it – and he apparently wants a restructuring before he reports, anyway. As far as next year’s compensatory selections, I don’t anticipate the Jaguars getting any. Yes, they allowed strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, left tackle Kelvin Beachum, cornerback Prince Amukamara and defensive end Tyson Alualu to sign elsewhere, but the Jaguars also signed end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church in addition to a slew of lesser-known free agents. You have to reach a point where you’re letting players go and not making as many additions before the compensatory formula starts working in your favor.
Travis from North Dakota:
Hey, John: Do you see Dede Westbrook and Marqise Lee being similar players coming out of college? Both have the ability to blow the cover off the top of the defense and play similar to me. I know Westbrook is projected to play in the slot but does he have the ability to play on the outside?
John: There are some similarities in production, and both have phenomenal quickness and speed. I haven’t seen Westbrook up close on the practice field yet, so it’s hard for me to truly compare him to Lee. I say that because it’s seeing Lee up close that makes you truly understand what made him so good in college – and what makes him difficult to defend in the NFL. There’s a speed, smoothness and suddenness to his athleticism that draws your eye when you watch him from the sidelines. It’s not so much the “jitterbugness” of a slot receiver as it is the athleticism and grace of an outside receiver. I’m not saying Westbrook doesn’t have this; I just haven’t had the opportunity to see if he has it or not. If he does … well, let’s just say it would be a good thing for the Jaguars if that’s the case.
Jagsfan from Jagsonville:
Would you say this defense is easily better than the one of the Stroud-Henderson era?
John: Goodness gracious, no. That defense helped the Jaguars to the playoffs twice and was by any measure one of the best in the NFL on several occasions. This unit hasn’t done anything close to that.

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