O-Zone: A-OK

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bo from Dresden, NC:
John, who on the roster made Tyson Alualu expendable? He seemed like a Tom Coughlin-type guy – also very durable and dependable. What is your take?
John: My take is I was surprised the Jaguars didn't try to re-sign Alualu when he became an unrestricted free agent this offseason – for the exact reasons you cite. Alualu, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday, indeed was a reliable, durable defensive lineman in seven seasons with the Jaguars – and while he never fulfilled the expectations of being the No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, he absolutely was a good player for a long time. I haven't asked Coughlin or General Manager David Caldwell why Alualu wasn't re-signed, but the Jaguars signed defensive end Calais Campbell as a free agent, and they like second-year end veteran Jonathan Woodard. They also have Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue at defensive end and there's a draft coming up. This feels like more of a legitimate case of the team feeling it was time to go in another direction at the position as opposed to a commentary on where Alualu is as a player. Here's guessing Alualu plays several more NFL seasons and here's guessing the Steelers are happy with the signing.
James from Duval:
Alu Alu??? Really. Sad to see this this one go. I really like Tyson. One fer Tyson Alualu?
John: You know what, James? I'm sad to see Alualu go, too. He dealt with microfracture knee surgery early in his career and often during that time played despite not practicing much during the week – and despite sometimes not knowing during warmups if he indeed could play. He also dealt with a lot of tough questions, and a lot of outside criticism, during his career. Through it all, he handled himself with class. One for Alualu? No doubt.
Chaun from St. Louis, MO:
Let's say everyone stays healthy. Do you think Dante Fowler Jr. will win his starting spot back?
John: I suppose it's technically correct to ask about Fowler winning his job "back," because he did start at the Leo position in Week 1 last season. But the reality was Yannick Ngakoue pretty much started over Fowler all of last season. Still, that's being nitpicky about your question. Will Fowler start this season? I have no idea. He has to outplay Ngakoue to do it, and he didn't do that last season. If Fowler develops as a pass rusher and is more consistent in that area, then he certainly can win the job back. He's an athletically gifted player and gives the Jaguars a lot in terms of pursuit and run support. Will he develop? That's a major storyline for the offseason and training camp, but I don't pretend to know the answer.
Don from Jacksonville:
The fact that our senior writer doesn't have Deshaun Watson going in the first round concerns me about his football IQ.
John: It should actually have the opposite effect. I think there's a chance Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson gets selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but it's very likely he slides down late in the round. There are enough serious questions about his arm strength and the way he read defenses in college that it's hard to see him in the Top 10. If he slides that far, he may get selected late in the first round. But there's also a good chance he could slip out of the round entirely.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
How do substitutions on defense work? Is it all up to the defensive coordinator based on the package he wants on a given down? Does somebody keep track of who needs a rest and relay that to the defensive coordinator, who then will change the defensive look according to the available personnel? How does this all work if the opposing offense is in hurry-up?
John: The team enters the game with a depth chart in each personnel grouping. That depth chart ultimately is the decision of the defensive coordinator. Plays are charted throughout the game, and the coordinator is made aware of the need for substitutions. At that point, the availability of personnel could come into play when deciding the defensive play call. If the opposing offense is in hurry-up, defensive substitutions often depend on just how much hurrying the offense is actually doing. If the offense is calling everything from the line and not substituting, then the defense is unlikely to substitute. If the offense is hurrying but substituting on occasion, then it's possible sometimes for the defense to adjust personnel as well.
Dave from Duval:
Care to make a friendly wager on Deshaun Watson going in the Top 5?
John: Not really, because that would make it seem as if I was rooting against Watson to be selected early. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hope for his sake he is selected No. 1 overall. But when doing mock draft version 1.0, I had him sliding to the end of the first round – and once he slid there, I didn't project any of the teams late in the draft selecting him. It's very possible some team could trade into the first round to get him. I think multiple teams may do that for quarterbacks this year. But I don't project trades in mock drafts, so I didn't project that happening.
Cody from Savannah, GA:
Over the past few days or so I've been looking at a lot of the new mock drafts and about 90 percent of them have us Leonard Fournette at No. 4. Aside from the other 10 percent, what do you think the real possibility of landing him is?
John: Fournette indeed was the selection in six of the 14 mock drafts included in this week's jaguars.com 2017 mock draft tracker, v 8.0. What does this thrilling statistic mean? Most obviously, that when looking from the outside in, the Jaguars appear to have filled some needs through free agency and seem to have few – if any – glaring needs entering the draft. It also means national analysts realize Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone put a priority on a strong running game. The analysts also see that the draft isn't perceived to be strong at some traditional spots, which means running back at No. 4 might make some sense. All of those factors went into my thinking when I projected the Jaguars to take Fournette at No. 4 in the first 2017 Jaguars.com mock draft this week. As for the question: what are the chances of the Jaguars landing him? Well, if they want him, I believe the Jaguars will land him because I believe he will be available at No. 4. The question is whether they indeed want him. No one outside a select few will know that until draft day. I believe it will come down to Fournette or a defensive lineman. I waver every day, and I doubt that will change until draft night.
David from Charleston, SC:
NFL.com posted the updated power rankings after all the big free agents had signed and they had the Jags behind all three of our division foes. Besides past record, what makes the other teams better? I know the Jags haven't exactly put their skill to the field and I'm no expert, but when I compare the teams in the AFC South I have a hard time seeing how the Jags won't win. What say you, Mr. O?
John: I say the Jaguars haven't won more than five games in a season since 2010 and right now every team in the AFC South has a legitimate reason to be ranked ahead of the Jaguars. The Texans won the division last season and have a top-level defense. The Colts and the Titans are perceived to have better quarterbacks – and based on last season, that perception is hard to argue. I don't have a particularly hard time seeing the Jaguars not winning the division next season. They have to make significant improvements and take a mammoth jump. They're capable of doing that, but it's awfully hard to predict it until something more happens than some good free-agency signings.
Chris from Roseville, CA:
Time will tell for Blake Bortles-Jalen Ramsey, but the Jaguars haven't had a home run in the first round since Big John Henderson in 2002. Some might say Reggie Nelson, but most of his career has been outside of Jacksonville. We've had a little better success in the second round (MJD, Mathis, Daryl Smith). We will never win unless we start hitting on first- and second-round picks – no matter what number they are drafted.
John: I'm as big a proponent of a wait-and-see approach on young players as anyone, but I'm hard-pressed to not project Jalen Ramsey being a home run. Aside from that … yeah.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
I frequently start coughing uncontrollably, then finish by sneezing. This happens most often reading the O-Zone. What does that mean?
John: Everything's working properly.

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