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O-Zone: All ripped up

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Logan from Wichita, KS:
I am going to predict right now our defense takes a HUGE step back next season. The offense will continue to be as effective as a dead cat in a mouse-catching contest and the "new scheme" or old one will fail or be figured out and we will be yet again in the Top 5 of the draft. This sucks.
John: Well, I suppose your scenario indeed would suck for the Jaguars – except that there's no reason to think the defense will take a huge step back next season. I don't know that the Jaguars will be the sixth-ranked defense in the NFL next season, but there's no reason they can't be a Top 10-to-12 defense – which essentially is what the Jaguars' defense was this past season. The unit was improved and solid, but it wasn't great. As far as next season, it can be a defense that can improve – if it improves as a pass-rushing unit, which is an area I expect to be addressed in the offseason. It can also improve in producing takeaways, an area that should improve as the pass rush improves. As for the offense … well, a lot of that depends on quarterback play more than scheme. That's probably about Blake Bortles. That's the Jaguars' great unknown. We'll see how that develops.
Chris from Mandarin:
What I am most excited about this season is that Dave Caldwell will not have the final say on offensive-lineman acquisitions. Tom Coughlin is an amazing evaluator of that part of a team. I know that this area will become a strength soon. Count on it.
John: OK.
Justin from Jacksonville:
Hey, Zone. I saw a mock draft recently that only had two offensive linemen going in the entire first round the first of which didn't come off the board until Pick 20. I know mock drafts are essentially popular guessing games, but are the offensive line draft prospects really this bad?
John: Mock drafts indeed are guessing games, but they're usually at least indicative of a general consensus among draft analysts. And yes … the general consensus among analysts this offseason is that the 2017 NFL Draft isn't a great one for offensive linemen.
Max from Wyckoff, NJ:
O-man, you never answer my questions any more. I guess I need to find a new O-Zone?
John: Oh, gosh. Please don't.
Rick from Chicago, IL:
Recently I saw an interview with Justin Forsett and he talked about his experience with the Denver Broncos. He said what impressed him the most was the veterans there had such a high standard – and what they expected every day. If that is one of many traits you need to win in the NFL, where is this going to come from in the Jags locker room? We are still a very young team and that leadership doesn't work from players who don't know how to win yet. Blake Bortles sure doesn't have the experience to help the team yet.
John: Experience and veteran leadership indeed are areas the Jaguars still need to improve. I believe it's very important, and I believe it has been a big area of need. Perhaps the biggest area lacking is a core of veterans who set the standard about which Forsett spoke. That's a difficult standard to establish with free agents, and it has been difficult for the Jaguars to establish because many of the players who should be establishing it – i.e., players drafted between about 2009-2012ish – are no longer with the organization. The hope is that many of the players drafted since that time will prove worthy of being re-signed and therefore will form the core moving forward. We'll see.
Nate from Vidalia, CA:
Tyson Alualu has been one of my favorite players on this team for a long time. A grinder. Definitely hope he sticks around and finishes his career here.
John: Hey! One fer Tyson!
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
I am really excited to see Keenan McCardell as the wide receivers coach. What are the odds Coughlin gets the band back together and they hire Fred Taylor as the running backs coach? I've heard worse ideas, what do you think?
John: I don't mind the idea in theory, but it might bother Tyrone Wheatley a bit seeing that he was hired as running backs coach last week.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Julio Jones is the best receiver in the NFL. True or false?
John: True.
Jeff from Richmondale:
I have a theoretical question for you. Let's say you have a solid roster but you're being held back by your quarterback play. You also have eight or nine picks in the draft. Do you think it would be worth the risk to draft a quarterback in every round and increase your chances of one of them becoming great? It sounds dumb, but hey … it's all about the quarterback isn't it?
John: Your approach in theory is an intriguing one, because it indeed is all about the quarterback. One major issue in your approach would be logistics, because it would mean a minimum of eight or nine – and possibly more – quarterbacks in organized team activities, minicamps and training camp all needing repetitions. That never would have been realistic in any era, and it's certainly not realistic with current limitations on practice and meeting times, etc. The realistic limit on quarterbacks you could have legitimately fighting for a job? Three, maybe four – and even that's high.
Jerome from New York:
This is more of a statement than a question, but I really like what this organization is doing inside. We are fixing inside the walls of this team. I am very excited about this team now. I go through this every offseason with the Jags. I even try to go Jacksonville to see at least one home game every year. I just love Jacksonville. I know the draft is not here yet, but if he is still available we should really draft Jonathan Allen. So happy about Tom Coughlin, Doug Marrone, the offensive coordinator – even Keenan McCardell as wide receivers coach is gonna be great for our young receivers. It's gonna be beneficial for A-Rob a lot –and Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns – but it's gonna really help A-Rob. I'm excited and this is just the beginning. Maybe I will be taking three or four trips to Jacksonville this year. Let's see what happens. To be continued ...
John: #DTWD
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
"We're going to turn this around under Gus Bradley and make a run." - When we were 2-6, that wasn't going to happen. BUT there was a chance if Gus was gone we could. Why not THEN?
John: I understand the perception is that there was no way the Jaguars at 2-6 weren't going to make a run with Gus Bradley as head coach. I also understand that perception became reality when the Jaguars in fact did not make a run in the second half of the season. But the reason the Jaguars didn't make a head-coaching change at that point was they believed the best chance to make a run was to maintain Bradley as the coach. I understand fully the chorus of groans and the many, many eye roles this statement brings about. I understand many observers might even laugh out loud at the notion. That's fine, but no matter how people feel about the fact that the Jaguars felt that way midway through last season that indeed was how they felt. Therefore that was the reason they didn't make a head-coaching change earlier than they did.
Matthew from Arlington:
Not a question but just a comment that I am glad to see Gus picked up so quickly by the Chargers. Didn't work out here but, sue me, I like the guy. One fer Gus.
John: Absolutely. One fer Gus.
Dave from Los Angeles, CA:
Random observation. I've been following the NFL for 20 years and have never until the last few months heard NFL franchises referred to as "programs" – because that has always been a college football concept. I'm hearing it quite frequently all of a sudden. What gives?
John: I have no idea. It's probably the way Cris Collinsworth says "boundary" instead of "sideline" a few times on Sunday Night Football and everyone has to say it. It's just one of those things no one can control and we all must live with, I suppose.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
This whole thing hinges on the quarterback. It has always hinged on the quarterback. It will always hinge on the quarterback. Sure, there are a myriad of factors that can HELP the team, but eventually, to play in the biggest games, the quarterback has to be the one to get you there. That being the case, even as much as I want a winner as fast as possible, I STILL find myself hoping it's Blake. It's so weird.
John: So, if I've got this right, you're saying one fer Blake even if rips you up inside! Or, #BBTWD … as weird as they may feel sometimes.

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