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O-Zone: Implicitly speaking

Posted Mar 6, 2018

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Bill from Jacksonville:
January 22: “The Jaguars felt they had to limit Blake Bortles’ game plan in the AFC Championship Game due to the poor wide receivers and offensive line.” March 5: "The Jaguars will be fine if A-Rob leaves in free agency. I mean, look how far they got without him." John, unless I’m way off base, these two statements are pretty close to what you’ve been saying since the season ended. They can’t both be true can they, John? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: You’re right that the offensive line and receivers were issues at times in the AFC Championship Game, but I’ve never said the Jaguars will be “fine” without wide receiver Allen Robinson. That implies that the Jaguars are looking at the Robinson situation and saying, “Well, there’s no risk here and we’re a better team without him on the field.” That’s not the case; life is not always simple, and the Robinson situation is about making a difficult choice. Yes, the Jaguars would love to have him back – just as they would have loved to have signed defensive end Olivier Vernon and running back DeMarco Murray as free agents a while back. And if the salary cap didn’t exist, the Jaguars almost certainly would have signed those players. But the salary cap does exist in the NFL and you can’t always do everything you want to do. It was pretty clear listening to Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell last week at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine that the Jaguars want to make moves offensively in free agency this offseason at more positions than receiver, and it’s pretty clear franchising Robinson will prevent them from doing that. That doesn’t mean the Jaguars think losing Robinson would be “fine.” It does mean they think there may be better ways to build and maintain the roster than over-investing at his position.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, I believe the consensus is we need to improve our interior line play. Two points. Why are we married to the idea of Brandon Linder just playing center? Shouldn't we be looking in free agency or the draft for centers and/or guards that would improve the line? Secondly, didn't A.J. Cann play mostly left guard in his college career? Why not put him at left guard where he has a comfort level, unless there is a difference in left guard or right guard play as there is in left tackle or right tackle? Go Jags!
John: Linder can play any of the three interior line positions; Caldwell, in fact, said last week at the combine that he can play any of the five offensive line positions. While I expect Linder to remain at center next season because I expect him to be the Jaguars’ best interior offensive lineman, I also expect the team to remain open to whatever offensive-line combination works best. That would include Cann playing wherever the Jaguars believe he needs to play to get their best offensive linemen in the starting lineup.
Dylan from Tulsa, OK:
Since it appears we may be in the market for a linebacker this off-season, do you think Shaquem Griffen of Central Florida would be a good fit? I mean he's got a crazy fast 40-yard-dash time, he’s a really good athlete, great character and work ethic, he's from Florida and an unofficial National champion.
John: It’s impossible to know many specifics when it comes to the later rounds of the draft. But it’s pretty much impossible not to like Griffen’s story. It’s an inspiration. He won the combine. I’d love to see him on the Jaguars. Would he be a good fit for the Jaguars? Would he be available at a time when they were looking to select a linebacker? We’ll see.
Ed from Danvers, MA:
I hate drafting at No. 29, too much to think about. Drafting in the Top 5 was a lot easier.
John: I’m with ya, Ed. Thinking sucks. I’m against it.
Roger from Jacksonville:
Hey, John. Has a defensive lineman ever moved to offensive line or a receiver that has good moves and does not catch very well ever moved to the defensive backfield? Why do we not see moves like this?
John: It happens. A defensive back for the then-St. Louis Cardinals named Roy Greene moved to wide receiver in the early 1980s and became one of the best receivers in the NFL. It doesn’t happen often because if a player is playing well at one position you usually don’t move him. If he’s not good enough to be in the NFL at the position for which he was signed/drafted, it’s pretty unusual for him to be good enough to make it in the NFL at a different position. These are the best players in the world, remember; you have to be doing a lot right to play here.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
I saw Fred Taylor line up wide and burn Rod Woodson on a 90-yard touchdown catch. I don't think Fournette is as fast as Taylor. I don't think so. Just nope.
John: I saw that, too.
Zac from Gainesville, FL:
O-man: I really do trust this front office, but I am confused about the A-Rob situation. I get the long-term consequences of re-signing him to a big contract. We have invested heavily in this defense. Isn't it time to invest some in the offense? I would rather have A-Rob than the combo of Lee and Hurns. Wouldn't having both of those guys cost more than retaining Robinson? Help me understand O-man, I beg you.
John: It is time to invest in the offense – and the Robinson situation is about that. That’s also what re-structuring quarterback Blake Bortles’ contract a week and a half ago was about. The Jaguars want room to invest in the offense; my sense is that could mean making an effort to improve the offensive line. As far as Robinson versus Lee/Hurns, I get your point – and I do think Robinson would be the better of the options. I would be surprised if the Jaguars retain a combination of Hurns/Lee at a larger cost than the cost of retaining Robinson. Very.
Travis from High Springs, FL:
With the Titans and the Colts both having new head coaches next year, will that give the Jaguars any advantage if we were to play them in the first few weeks of the season?
John: How are their quarterbacks playing? Are they healthy?
Paul from Kent and formerly of So Cal:
Hey John, I've been a fan of Robinson and I've looked forward to his development over the last few years. But why would teams be so quick to pay him elite-level money? You mentioned him being on par with that guy in Texas (DeAndre Hopkins), but he [Hopkins] has shown more consistency and had multiple thousand-yard seasons. AR15 has had one good season on an overachieving, stat-filled offense. Who's to say he's not more like Hurns – good, but not great? Though I would be leery of paying him much money long-term, I do think that franchise-tagging him for one year to find out is worth the risk. If he doesn't do well, we cut ties and lose nothing but a year of cash. If he dominates, then we know he's worth more years. Sign Aaron Colvin, give A-Rob the tag and let's not worry about other free agents. Draft well, play well and the rest will work itself out.
John: You say the Jaguars stand to lose nothing but a year of cash by not franchising him. If that were the case, they would franchise him. It’s what franchising him prevents them from doing elsewhere on the roster that may prevent the move. As for why teams would pay him elite-level money … because it’s free agency. And in free agency, teams tend to bid on players and offer a world of money at very high risk. It’s good for the players and I expect it will be very good for Robinson next week.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, it’s clear you think it’s less and less likely Robinson will be a Jaguar for the 2018 season. However, you keep mentioning that your expectation is that Marquise Lee or Allen Hurns (or both) will return. Why? Is it just money? I love Hurns. Seems like a heck of a guy and a good teammate. But let’s face it: he has proven he’s a fourth-stringer. And Lee might occasionally flash, but he has proven he cannot be trusted to catch the ball on any given catch. Why not at least try to mix it up with a free agent or two to go along with (hopefully) the continued development of Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole?
John: Your suggestion that the Jaguars try to “mix it up” with a free agent or two implies that those new players or two come without the flaws of Lee and Hurns and are therefore better players. If the Jaguars retain Lee and/or Hurns, they would do so because they do not agree with the implication.


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