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O-Zone: One-track mind

Posted Feb 20, 2018

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Bradley from Carson City, NV:
You have to believe Leonard Fournette, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook will progress to some extent. Say Allen Robinson returns strong from injury – and possibly add a young, talented tight end. I see Blake Bortles becoming a consistently good quarterback who knows how to win. He certainly deserves that opportunity. Still, I'm intrigued with Lamar Jackson. Any thoughts on Jackson and his potential in the NFL?
John: Jackson was the Topic of the Day Monday in Jaguar Land and NFL Draft Land – that the result of Hall of Fame General Manager Bill Polian wondering during a Monday appearance on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo if Jackson was tall enough to play quarterback in the NFL, and also worrying if Jackson had an NFL arm. This wasn’t the first day the Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner dominated pre-draft talk and it won’t be the last; he almost certainly will be among the most-discussed and most-controversial prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. My early thoughts? You can’t see Jackson’s highlights and not be intrigued – and you have to worry you’re missing something special if your team passes on him; he’s that electrifying and dangerous as a runner. The concern about Jackson as a passer: at times he can look fantastic, and at other times he can look equally bad. You also worry about what worries you about any quarterback who depends heavily on running – i.e., what happens if that element gets taken away and defenses needn’t defend his running ability? Will he be as effective as a pocket passer? That’s always a concern. Would Jackson be intriguing as a second-round selection for the Jaguars? Yes. Would he be a wise selection at the end of the first? That’s a lot iffier. Still, any quarterback outside the Top 10 is a gamble – and inside the Top 10 often is a gamble, too. Jackson’s not a worse gamble than most.
Kent from Jacksonville:
Hypothetical draft scenario: both Derwin James and Jackson are available when the Jags pick at No. 29. Who do you think they'd take?
John: I’d be shocked if they’re the only two players left on the board when the Jaguars select.
Brian from Charlottesville, VA:
If Blake Bortles were also a free-agent quarterback this offseason, how do you think he'd rank in the pecking order? I think he'd probably be second behind Cousins, all things considered.
John: This offseason’s free-agent pecking order has the feel of the beauty being in the eye of the beholder. That’s assuming Drew Brees won’t be in the conversation – and I will continue to assume Brees will re-sign with the New Orleans Saints until facts prove differently. How would all that “beheld beauty” be ranked if Bortles were involved in the conversation? I think he would be in a tight pack behind Cousins. No. 2? Yeah, very possibly.
Seb from Anaheim, CA:
Do you see a possibility of Drew Brees hitting the free-agent market – and of so, would the Jaguars go after him? Grabbing Brees and drafting Lamar Jackson could be the perfect for the future.
John: Wow. Big day for Jackson and Brees here in the O-Zone; I can’t imagine it will be the last. I would have no problem with the Jaguars selecting Jackson after the first round because his talent is intriguing enough to make the gamble worth it. As for Brees hitting free agency, I’ll … well, you know.
Jacqueline from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Oh O. We usually think so much alike when it comes to THE Jags but you let me down when you said you wanted Mark Andrews or Hayden Hurst to be drafted as tight end. I'll give you a tip: We NEED Mike Gesicki from Penn State! He and Blake are a match made in heaven. He's enormous – 6-feet-6 with a massive wingspan and he loves to make leaping catches over everybody's head. He'll be waiting when Blake sends a bomber down the field. He's a matchup nightmare – and quick, too. Pleeease, O ...put a bug in T.C.’s ear on this one. I want MIKE in teal come camp!
John: I mentioned Hurst and Andrews in a recent answer about tight ends and the Jaguars in the April 2018 NFL Draft; I didn’t mention Gesicki because the answer was about the possibility of the Jaguars selecting the position more than who they might actually select. But there’s a lot to like about Gesicki. Traditional program. Big Conference. A lot of production. So, yeah … one for Gesicki!
Tyler from Ashburn, VA:
Will we be keeping Marcedes Lewis at the starting tight end spot or will we replace him? If we replace him, will it be from free agency or from the 2018 NFL Draft?
John: I expect Lewis will remain with the Jaguars and I expect him to have a similar – i.e., starting role – to what he played this past season. But remember: tight end is a multi-dimensional position in the modern NFL, and most teams carry essentially two starters. The Jaguars certainly did a couple of years back when Lewis and Julius Thomas played blocking and receiving tight end, respectively. I would expect the Jaguars to draft a tight end in the first few rounds in April and to immediately play the receiving role opposite Lewis.
Joe from Neverland:
I understand that we were one play away from the Super Bowl, but we also left many plays on the table in the last 55 seconds of the first half. That is not easy to forget.
John: Look, I understand that the hurt of the AFC Championship Game is still real – and I understand it’s not going to go away any time soon. I also understand that seemingly everyone has chosen to accept the widely-held belief that the Jaguars approached that game far too conservatively. That notion has become so accepted that to not accept it is to seem to defy logic. But what I understand about the Jaguars approach in the final 55 seconds or so of the half – as well as their approach in the fourth quarter – is that those situations were far from the only times this past season the Jaguars took such an approach. This was not a team that threw the ball often – or all that effectively – when backed up against its own goal line. Considering the circumstances to close the first half in the title game – the interference penalty on the previous series, the delay-of-game penalty earlier a series before that – the move made sense considering how the Jaguars had played much of the season. I generally believe in being aggressive in those situations – and if you have confidence in your offense in those situations, then by all means: be aggressive. But the Jaguars’ offensive line was struggling to protect in that game and the receivers for the most part were struggling to get open. Those I believe were far bigger factors than any “lack of faith” in Bortles. Considering those factors, it made sense that the Jaguars’ coaches believed a conservative approach was their best chance to win in that scenario. Does that mean people have to like it? Does that mean the staff won’t get criticized? Of course not. But if the Jaguars lacked aggressiveness in that game, they lacked it for some legitimate reasons.
Biff from Jacksonville:
Avett Brothers or Jason Isbell? Bonus question (worth no points): Better Isbell album: "The Nashville Sound" or "Something More Than Free?” You get these both right and I'll buy you dinner and a beer.
John: Isbell, though I admit being far more familiar with his work than the Avett Brothers. I consider Isbell’s “Outfit” – written and performed as a member of the Drive-By Truckers – perhaps the best song of the last two decades, and his authorship of it gives him a decided leg up over all comers. As far as Isbell’s solo work … what … no “Southeastern?”
Jack from Oviedo, FL:
I know this is a petty question, but how many time does this team need to change its uniforms? Fans continue to have to swap new jerseys, etc.
John: The Jaguars’ decision to change jerseys and helmets is way above my pay grade. I know this because I mentioned the topic to Jaguars President Mark Lamping a few weeks back and after he said, “Hello, I’m Mark Lamping … what’s your name?” he said “Uniforms and helmets are way above your pay grade.” The NFL allows teams to change uniforms only once every five years except in the case of an ownership change, so I guess you’ll be safe for another five years.
Edward from Los Angeles, CA:
Why is quarterback that one position where if you start to consider an upgrade it feels dirty, like you're cheating on your partner or something?
John: Because quarterback.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Last year we had a super season. Last year is gone and we might go 16-0 or 8-8. Who knows? I can't believe the fans that think if we change the quarterback we can count on doing better. Seriously?
John: Because quarterback.
Jim from Middleburg, FL:
Why do you never call anymore?
John: Because quarterback. No wait …


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