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O-Zone: A River in Egypt

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Tucker from New York, NY:
So, the Jaguars are near the top of the league in sacks, and we're also at the top of the league in sacks allowed. Yet, "experts" list pass rusher as our top need rather than pass-blocking lineman. What gives, Johnny-O?
John: I don't care much what "experts" list, but I've said often there's a good chance the Jaguars go pass rusher with their selection early in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. That's because you don't draft with the idea that the draft class – even a Top 10 selection – will be the core of your team the following season. You don't really even draft with the idea that the draft class – even a Top 10 selection – will significantly improve your team the following season. It happens, but it's relatively rare. You draft with the idea that the players you draft will develop into core players in Year 2, Year 3 and beyond. The Jaguars have spent a lot of equity on the offensive line recently, using three draft selections and free-agency money over the last two offseasons. It stands to reason a lot of the players acquired with that equity will be given time to develop.
William from Section 423:
Hey, Zone … I was reading an article on the rookie quarterback report and the author was saying how Bortles could never be an elite quarterback due to his accuracy issues. I know he's had some bad balls but is accuracy really a permanent unfixable issue?
John: No.
Dan from Pinetop, KY:
What about Denard makes you feel he is not an every down back? And in regards to Blake in the offseason, do teams have independent trainers that they recommend or is it on the player to find someone to help them?
John: My opinion on Robinson perhaps not being an every-down back is really more based on very few teams having "every-down" backs anymore. The days of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew getting the vast majority of carries for teams are dwindling. They're being replaced by an era in which two and sometimes three backs have varying, equivalent roles. Robinson has done an admirable job. Not only has he added size, he has kept it on this season and appears to be able to use that size to run inside the tackles far better than many expected. I think he's going to be a very valuable runner for the Jaguars for the foreseeable future. But ideally, I don't think he would be the only major contributor in the running game. As for Bortles in the offseason, quarterbacks often work with consultants on footwork, fundamentals and technique in the offseason, and they often work with receivers independently. Players are pretty much on their own to do it, though it's not stretching reason too far to think that teams have their "thoughts" on what a player does in the offseason.
Sam from Orlando, FL:
Thoughts on the 'Noles constantly being dropped? Just win, baby? Or, win with style, baby?
John: It appears you have to win with style this season.
Jim from Jacksonville:
You have said you think there is a good chance Blackmon will play for the Jags next year. Only a month ago or so, you seemed much less hopeful. What has changed?
John: Actually, I have felt there's a good chance Justin Blackmon will play for the Jaguars next season for a little more than two months. Since early October, reports have indicated that Blackmon is in voluntary rehab and is doing well. So long as that remains the case, I believe there's a good chance Blackmon will play the Jaguars next season. I don't know details on how that will play out. Details are typically scarce when it comes to suspended players until the process begins to play out. But details aside, that's what has changed.
Roger from Valdosta, GA:
Dude, this team really sucks.
John: #hottakes
Mike from West Des Moines, IA:
I was thinking free safety would be more important in the Jaguars' defense. I don't think it is the No. 1 priority, but it should be a priority. With a good defensive line getting pressure, the back end of the defense is less exposed. However, Gus Bradley wants to run a defense that is predominantly Cover 3 and Cover 1 with press coverage. That leaves the free safety with a lot of area to cover in the pass game, and he will often need to make one on one tackles in the open field. I think it would take more skill and ability to play free safety in Cover 3 than in a Cover 2 scheme. I know that a good pass rush makes any secondary better, but can you elaborate on why you think free safety is not a priority?
John: Perhaps I was misunderstood early this week. I wrote that I didn't know that free safety would be a huge priority for the Jaguars this offseason. That wasn't to imply that it wasn't important in the Jaguars' defense – simply that it remained to be seen if it was a huge priority for the team this offseason. I think there's a real possibility they try to get better there. They almost certainly will examine free agency and the draft to see the possibilities. Depending on who's available, they could make a move. Will it be enough of a priority to break the bank or use an early-round selection? That remains to be seen.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
Bortles has had two opportunities to lead a game-winning drive this year. And you know what? He got us in position both times to win the game.
John: Yes, he did.
Jeff from Starke, FL:
Don't you think we'll pick the pass-rushing defensive end if he's there? As you've stated, left tackle is secure. We're not replacing Luke Joeckel. Quarterback is secure. Wide receiver is secure enough. All of those positions are secure enough that we're not using a Top 5 first-round pick on them and the other offensive positions guard, center, running back and tight end aren't worth using a top five pick. That gives us defensive end, defensive tackle (lesser possibility) and cornerback or linebacker (even lesser possibility) of a Top 5 pick. Or do you think it's 50/50 offense/defense?
John: You're thinking clearly, Jeff … very, very clearly. You probably don't fit in very well here.
Ted from Jacksonville:
Luke Joeckel and Johnathan Cyprien are very good players at times. Do you think their troubles are the system and job they are being asked to do, coaching or talent? It looks like Cyprien is more comfortable in the box vs covering? Did Joeckel play zone or man in college?
John: I think the majority of the issues facing Joeckel and Cyprien stem from the inconsistency that accompanies youth and inexperience. As you said, they are both very good players at times. Joeckel is very good in the run game and has struggled at times pass blocking. He needs to get stronger, which I believe he'll do in the offseason. He also has struggled at times with looks he hasn't seen before from some of the NFL's best pass rushers. That happens with most young NFL left tackles these days. Cyprien, like Joeckel, has played well a lot of the time and people have noticed his errors. Also like Joeckel, he plays a position where many of his errors are glaring. Yes, Cyprien appears more comfortable in the box than covering. He's a strong safety, so that kind of goes with the territory. Joeckel played in schemes that featured zone-blocking in college.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
If Todd Gurley is still on the board in the second round do we pull the trigger regardless of the position? He would obviously be the best player available at that range.
John: Really? How do you know?
Luke from Jacksonville:
How much gas to you think Josh Scobee has left in the tank? I love him as a player and as a person but how long before we look to the future?
John: Scobee is 32. Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is 41 and hasn't missed this season. There's no reason to think Scobee doesn't have plenty left in the tank.
Andy from St. Johns, FL:
Hey John, I wasn't able to read the O-Zone yesterday. Did I miss anything good?
John: Nah.
Bill from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
John, what happened to the pre-game flyovers? I have never heard a reason for their absence.
John: Federal budget cuts ended flyovers at sporting events beginning in the 2013 season. According to reports, the Air Force previously conducted about 1,000 flyovers at sporting and other events as part of pilot training hours. It's too bad. The flyovers were cool. Fans liked them.
Strnbker from Dothan, AL:
So, O man -- what up with this have no idea what you're talking about with the Culligan girl? Now she shows up on the O-Zone mailbag. Still in denial?
John: Wait. What?
Scott from Wichita, KS:
That was her!!!
John: I have no idea what you're talking about.

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