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O-Zone: A helping hand

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Chris from Niagara Falls, Canada:
If Blake Bortles can't have contact with his quarterbacks coach until spring, how does he know which fundamentals to work on? Are there certain fundamentals that are written in stone for quarterbacks so that any private-training facility could help him?
John: As with any sports skill, there are basic quarterbacking fundamentals that can be taught. Whoever is hired as the Jaguars' quarterbacks coach will work with Bortles on those beginning in April. Reports as of Wednesday afternoon and evening were that former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett would be hired for that position, and I believe those reports. If so, Hackett will have thoughts of his own and will influence Bortles during their time together. That's the nature of a coach-player relationship. In the short-term, though, when Bortles discussed this issue shortly after the season he seemed to have a clear idea of areas he wanted to improve. He said he knew even before the draft what needed work. He believed he had improved those last offseason and that he would improve more this offseason. Listening to him, you got the idea that he had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to work on and how he wanted to get that work done in the coming months. Entering this offseason, that's what you wanted to hear from him.
Marty from Jacksonville in Section 237:
John, in regards to Marshawn Lynch refusing to speak to reporters, have you ever gotten anything meaningful from a player interview? Players nowadays are coached by their agents to say almost nothing. Just pablum. They're politicians. Why bother to interview them?
John: I've gotten plenty meaningful from players interviews, and do pretty much all the time. If you know what you're doing, players will give you good answers. If you don't, they won't.
Armanda from Vacaville, CA:
John, this may be a ridiculous question BUT ridiculous things have happened in the NFL so … are the Jags holding walk-ins for their long-snapper position? I mean, I figured that's easy enough.
John: It's not.
Brian from Richmond, VA:
I followed Rashaad Reynolds and Aaron Colvin through the draft process last year. The Jags ended up with both. We all know No. 22 (Colvin) and how he looks like he's going to turn out, but what about Rashaad? He seemed just as good as Colvin. Did the Jags like him this year? You think he could maybe be on the team this next season? Him, Colvin, Demetrius McCray and Dwayne Gratz as a solid backup sounds like a solid secondary for a long time. #DTWD
John: The Jaguars liked Reynolds a lot last offseason and were disappointed when he had to go on injured reserve in the preseason. I think he has a good chance to be on the team next season.
Ruben from Oxnard, CA:
If Trent Richardson were to be released, is he a low-risk signing with high upside? Or is he all name at this point and best avoided? Would love to take a flier and if it works out, stick it to the Colts.
John: He's certainly low risk … as far as upside …
Anthony from Jacksonville (DUUVALLL!) :
I'm curious on your feelings about Justin Houston, Bryan Bulaga, Charles Clay, and Devin McCourty as free agent acquisitions? Also how will the Jags improve the special teams? Sorry another free agency question.
John: All of those players will be high-profile free agents, and I think McCourty and Bulaga would be good fits. That's because they're good players. Teams have a tendency to find a way to keep good players. We'll see what happens on that front. On the special teams front, I'd expect the Jaguars to make a significant effort to keep more players who specialize in that area on the roster – and furthermore, I expect them to commit to keeping those players on special teams units. That usually helps special teams.
Bill from Green Cove Springs, FL:
With the Colts improving pretty fast, and the Texans a quarterback and a couple of key people away from being a good team and the Titans trying to improve fast, this could be a real tough division to win in the next couple of years.
John: Yes, and maybe it won't be.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
Regarding the difficulty of getting quality assistants to come to Jacksonville, I think that is overblown significantly. This is one of the biggest if not "the" biggest sports league in the world and there are only 32 teams. I would think the status of the head coach would be a bigger issue. I like Gus, but there is simply no room for error and if you are looking for a job, stability would seem to me to be a pretty big factor. A new head coach or established head coach could offer at least the appearance of more stability, no?
John: Most coaches, assistant or otherwise, assume there is no job stability in the NFL. That's why they sign multiple-year contracts.
Matt from Jacksonville:
O, what year are we on of the rebuilding plan?
John: Three.
Kenny from Rochester, NY:
About players rising on the draft boards, is it usually because media finally start doing homework on guys they didn't see play on Saturdays or do scouts see stuff at workouts and then go back to the film and see attributes and players actually rise up on teams' big boards, too?
John: It's a little of both. First, teams don't usually set their boards until closer to the draft so the saying itself – rising on draft boards – isn't all that accurate. But to your point, players can make marginal jumps during the pre-draft process. Those jumps usually aren't more than a round or so, because teams focus more on in-season performance than combine and Pro Day performances. Most the "movement" this time of year indeed comes from media discussing players with people around the league in more detail. The media covers the season during the season, then learns more about the players this time of year, which is why you often see players supposedly "flying up draft boards" starting … well … now.
Blake from Minot, ND:
I get that every coach has their own way of labeling defensive positions. But universal on defense we have: end, nose tackle, stud, sam, mike, will. Essentially the "Leo" is a 3/4 hybrid "stud" backer. But why do we use the term Otto? That seems only a Jaguars term. Is this Gus talk for a Will backer?
John: No, but it's essentially Gus Talk for a strong-side – or, "Sam" – backer with good pass-rushing ability.
Austin from Atlanta, GA:
I genuinely appreciate the players when they give us interviews. Who are the players on this team that don't like to talk to the media? I get the feeling Chris Clemons doesn't really enjoy it, and that Cecil thinks all questions being asked are stupid.
John: It's safe to say there are things Clemons likes more than speaking with the media, but you couldn't be more wrong about Cecil Shorts III. He is one of the most genuine and easy-to-work-with players I ever have been around – and he generally takes time to answer questions honestly as possible. I'm sure he thinks some questions are stupid. That's OK. Some of them are.
Christian from Orlando, FL:
Will you point out some specific examples of players in the league that you believe would be ideal OTTO linebackers? Are they any available in free agency this offseason?
John: I'll focus on players scheduled to become free agents. Bear in mind that drawing parallels is difficult because most teams play strong-side backers and the Jaguars are the only team with the so-called Otto position. What you want is a player who can hold the edge similar to a strong-side linebacker who also can rush the passer – someone such as, say, Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack, who is pretty much an ideal Otto. Malcolm Smith of the Seahawks has played some strong-side linebacker, and he has the obvious connection of having played for Gus Bradley. Names such as Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger of the Giants and Ashlee Palmer of the Lions also catch your eye, but it's early and I plan to look at this more in the coming days. Think of players who can stop the run who may have some untapped pass-rush potential. You're probably not going to get the ideal because the ideal has skills such as Mack, and players with that level of skill usually aren't free agents.
Bryant from White Plains, NY:
So, we have the Dead Zone once a year. Are we currently in the Silly Zone?
John: Is there any other time?
Steve from Denver, CO:
O, will our new coaches help with any of this year's potential free agents to get them in a Jags uni?
John: That probably won't be necessary. If players have trouble getting into their uniform, a member of the equipment staff usually is on hand to assist.

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