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O-Zone: A sort of awe

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Damien from Appleton, WI:
Which do you think will be a bigger story: How will the Jaguars address improving the running game or how will they get Myles Jack playing more snaps?
John: The bigger story nationally undoubtedly will be how the Jaguars get Jack more snaps; he is a high-profile player who could have been a Top 5 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft if not for knee issues. That level of player is going to draw eyeballs nationally. But the more important issue for the Jaguars almost certainly will be the running game – in part because it's the tougher issue to control. All the Jaguars need to do to get Jack more snaps is to say, "Here are more snaps, Myles … go play--" and I absolutely believe Jack will get ample snaps this season. Improving the running game will be about improving the line as a run-blocking unit, committing to the run more and perhaps improving the running-back position – and even then it's not as simple as saying, "Here … go play."
George from Jacksonville:
Zone, whenever my wife tells me something I say, "That's not what O-Zone would do," or, "That's not what Johnny O would say." I came home today and my dog, Zoney, and she were gone with just a note that said "Ask that #*&% Zone where I went." So my question: "Do you know where my wife and doggie are?"
John: Out.
Glen from Orange Park, FL:
We know the opponents and the game in London. When do we find out the rest of schedule?
John: The NFL schedule typically is released in mid-to-late April in advance of the NFL Draft. I've heard nothing to indicate that won't be the case this offseason.
Chris from New York, NY:
Chris Ivory led the AFC in rushing the year before last. He runs violently. He averaged over four yards a carry every season except last year. While playing with Drew Brees in New Orleans, he averaged 5.2, 4.7, and 5.4 yards a carry. He's under 30 and has had a light workload. He is not the problem. O-line and quarterback play will handicap any running back.
John: OK.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
If the first three picks in the draft go Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Jonathan Allen, then who would be the best available non-running back for the Jaguars to take?
John: This is a tough question, and it's a real possibility because I don't see the Jaguars being able to trade down out of No. 4 overall. I also assume they're not going to take a safety or a cornerback at No. 4. That makes running backs, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, Tennessee's Derek Barnett possibilities - and quarterback. Because I just don't see the Jaguars selecting quarterback No. 4, I'd say Barnett – because defensive line/pass rush is always valuable. Let me clarify that answer by saying this: this feels like a year when the mocks and projections may be way off compared to how general managers really feel. Players such as Thomas are being projected in the Top 3 by some analysts and much further down the draft by others. If the Jaguars face your scenario at No. 4 and don't take a running back, the selection could be shocking – and it might be the right choice because of the unpredictable, hard-to-sort nature of much of this year's first round.
Bob from Sumter, SC:
Just looking at highlight reels, Leonard Fournette's running style reminds me of Jerome Bettis - one cut, downhill, can bounce it outside, run over people and surprising speed once in the secondary. Do you think there is truth in that an elite back can help elevate the offensive line in the sense of giving the unit an "if-we-can-hold-the-block-a-second-longer-he-can-break-one" kind of mentality?
John: To an extent, yes, but it's tough to draft a running back on the assumption he will make your offensive line better. I adhere more to the opposite theory – that a quality offensive line can elevate the level of pretty much any back. By extension, it's difficult to overcome a struggling line with even the highest-quality back.
Chris from London, England:
O Man, what are your thoughts on the signing of Mychal Rivera??? Lots of fans saying roster depth, but I have a feeling he could be more and a useful addition!
John: I think Rivera will be a key part of the Jaguars' tight-end rotation. He is a versatile, experienced player who can receive and block. He's yet another example of the Jaguars this offseason signing experienced veterans – i.e., fifth-year veterans or older – to ensure that this has the overall feel of a more experienced, professional roster next season. Could the Jaguars draft a tight end and upgrade the position overall? Absolutely. But Rivera's presence helps them to not be forced to do that.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
Any thoughts on Mychal Rivera? Do you think his signing affects the draft at all? What are the team's expectations of him?
John: I think the signing of Rivera affects the draft in the same way as many of the recent signings. By signing a slew of veteran, experienced players, the Jaguars will enter the draft truly not needing to draft for need. Rivera means if there is a tight end they like in, say, Rounds 3-6, they can draft him. But they don't have to draft the position there – and they darned sure don't have to depend on a mid-round rookie to play anything close to significant snaps next season.
Mac from Neptune Beach, FL:
You were extra sassy in the March 23 O-Zone. I don't like it.
John: On a scale of of 1-to-10
Zac from St. Augustine, FL:
Somewhat off topic, but your thoughts on the NBA and having players not compete every game and instead have guys rest certain games to increase the longevity of their careers. Will this ever spill into the NFL? A reduction of Thursday night games, London games, additional bye weeks?
John: I think the NBA is in a brutally tough spot, because it's a league driven by star power that markets itself as such – and yet, there absolutely is benefit to resting these stars throughout the course of the regular season. There without question is logic to sitting a player such as Stephen Curry a few nights each season in order to rest him for the postseason and to increase his chances of a long career. I probably would be all for it if I were the player or the team executive. At the same time, if I had paid to take my son to an NBA game when he was 10 years old, I can imagine the disappointment he would have felt if his favorite player had "rested." And considering I don't like to pay more than five dollars for … well, pretty much anything … I can imagine what my level of anger would have been at the situation. Fortunately for those of us who follow the NFL, this isn't likely to be a trend in this situation. There are situations when teams rest players, but it's always late in the season when playoff seeding has been decided. That situation angers some fans, certainly, but I think most fans of teams generally can understand the benefit and understand it's a smart thing to prepare for the postseason in a physically demanding sport. It almost certainly won't happen in another situation in the NFL. There are only 16 games in a season. While players certainly could benefit from rest, each game during the NFL regular season is far too valuable to risk a loss because you're resting a player who might otherwise be able to play.
Jaginator formerly from Section 124:
Leonard Fournette = Ron Dayne 2.0
John: That's the concern. No doubt.
Anonymous from Cube 34:
Thanks for always putting the O-Zone Live interviews in text format. The videos won't play on the computer at work and the boss sometimes frowns when I have earbuds in. Pesky employers! Do you ever have similar issues at your work?
John: Some do, but not this guy. While there are strict guidelines governing the on-the-job behavior of most Jaguars employees, I do not adhere to such things. This is because I am acknowledged as a free spirit, special and "above the law" 'round these parts. As such, I do things when I want, in the manner I want, wearing what I want and – above all – listening to whatever I want. Indeed, I'm not embarrassed to say that because of "who I am" I'm treated with more than a bit of deference, respect and even a "sort of awe" by even the highest level of Jaguars management. It's a bit embarrassing at times, but – alas – hardly undeserved. I know all of this for the simplest of reasons: I asked Lamping. He promised he would get back with me when he was done with a couple of meetings. And once he got a run in.

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