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O-Zone: Already?

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … MrPadre from Kingsland, GA:
I think who the Jaguars take at No. 5 depends a lot on who they think they can get in the second round. Obviously, free agency will make a difference as well, but if they really like a free safety they feel they can get at the top of the second round then they may decide to take Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner instead of Jalen Ramsey. Conversely, if there is a pass rusher they really like that should be available in the second then they will go ahead and take Ramsey at No. 5 if available … agree?
John: Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell certainly takes a big-picture approach to the draft, which means having a game plan for Days 1 and 2. If he feels it's a deep draft for a certain position then he may wait to select that position and choose a thinner position early. But free agency likely will have more of an effect on the decision at No. 5 than who the Jaguars believe they may be able to get in the second round; that's especially true because the No. 5 selection almost certainly will be expected to start immediately – and ideally, to make an impact at times. If the Jaguars have filled a need in free agency at, say, safety that could make them more comfortable with waiting to draft the position.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, can we please stop with looking for the right Leo or Otto? We need six or seven nasty guys that just want to knock the stuffing out of opposing players – and I mean on both sides of the ball. On O, Cann and Linder are a good start. On D, we have Marks and Miller. Let's build from there.
John: There's a lot of talk these days about Otto and Leo, and it indeed takes a skill set to play those positions. But there's probably more teeth-gnashing over "exact scheme fits" among observers than among the people selecting and developing players. They want to make sure players fit scheme, but they tend not to make it as hard as some of us who discuss and analyze such things discuss it. A Leo, for example, doesn't necessarily have to be an undersized defensive end/hybrid linebacker. There's no rule that says a player at the position can't be the size of a prototypical end – so long as he can rush the passer. But to your point – yeah, the Jaguars need good players along the front. They have a few more than your question indicates, but there's no question more are needed.
Austin from Jacksonville:
John, when are you going to put the team on your back and carry us to the Super Bowl already? I say 2016.
John: I can barely carry Carrying the team … actually, now that I think of it I could probably do that, too.
Scott from Jacksonville and Section 409:
C'mon, John. Give Ralph a break. It's not his fault you spell your name wrong.
John: I actually had a teacher in high school tell me I spelled my name wrong and challenge me on it. She also told me my English and writing skills was laxing.
Tim from Saint Petersburg, FL:
John: A question and a comment. With wide-open, spread offenses so prevalent in college, why are we not seeing more safeties coming out with the skill sets now needed by pro free safeties? As far as the comment: We need to give Todd Wash a chance. I've seen many assistants in business who toed the party line and then flourished in unforeseen ways when promoted. I think the Jags see something in Mr. Wash, the coordinator.
John: The reason you're not seeing more free safeties with the skill set to play the position at a high level in the NFL is simple: it's hard to find players who can cover all over the field and play with the physicality needed to be a free safety; just because something is needed doesn't mean it's suddenly, magically available. And just because someone can do it in college in no way means they can do it in the NFL, which is an infinitely faster, more-athletic sport than the college game. As for Wash … yes, we're going to find out about him. He certainly appears ready for the role, and he certainly has the respect of fellow assistants and players. If the Jaguars draft well and they can get production from some players on the roster, there seems little reason the defense can't improve under him.
Mark from College Park, MD:
Have the Jags reached a point where we can draft best available and not for need?
John: It's very, very difficult to reach the point where need never, ever enters the draft process. As much as people – myself included – love to talk in pure, theoretical terms about drafting the best available player without regard to immediate depth-chart need, the reality is need always plays at least a small role. The challenge is to not have need be such a factor that it leads to reaching, which inherently leads to mistakes. The key to getting to that position is having a solid roster, and the Jaguars are certainly closer to having that than they were two years ago.
Preston from Oakville, TN:
O-man, hypothetically Bosa goes No. 1, Browns and Cowboys take a quarterback, and Chargers steal Ramsey … would you consider taking Laremy Tunsil? I think the ideal scenario would be to trade back, but he's a good talent to have on the line, and Luke Joeckel's contact will expire if they don't pick up his option.
John: Yeah, I think the Jaguars would consider taking Tunsil. I doubt he will slide that far, because he appears to clearly be one of the best two or three players in the draft – and he also appears to have a can't-miss quality about him. I don't know that the Jaguars actually would take him if available, because they have a lot of needs on the defense, but I think they would consider it – and I think the consideration would be, well … considerable.
Ivan from Hollywood:
As soon as a player is released, is he eligible to be signed? Also, what's the strategy of releasing players early (as the Dolphins did) versus immediately before the start of free agency?
John: Yes, a released player is eligible to sign with another team immediately. That's because he no longer is under contract with his former team. The reason teams must wait until March 9 to sign free agents is that's the day the new league year begins; player contract expire at the end of the league year. The idea of releasing players well in advance of the new league year is to allow those players to possibly sign with other teams; if a team absolutely, positively beyond all shadow of a doubt knows it's releasing a player then there's often no reason to not release him early.
Ross from Jacksonville Beach:
Since Fowler hasn't been able to play or practice yet, how has Todd Wash been able to judge his talent? Was he tested in group meetings?
John: Wash is judging Fowler the same way Jaguars personnel people and other coaches judge him – based on what they saw from him and how they graded him in college.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
There was a story talking about who should be given the franchise tag. Bryan Anger was among those listed at punter. What is your take on this? What kind of benefits would this give the Jags?
John: The benefit of franchising a punter or a kicker is you secure the player at a reasonable one-year salary while negotiating a long-term contract. That's why you see teams franchise that position; not because teams consider punter or kicker the most important player on the roster. Either way, I don't think the Jaguars will franchise Anger.
Zac from Orange Park, FL:
How do you think the skill set of Derrick Henry translates to the NFL? Do you think he has the speed to hit holes before they close in the NFL?
John: I have questions about Henry's ability to adapt to the NFL, but those questions don't involve speed as much as quickness and shiftiness. Yes, there appears to be a question about his quickness to the hole, and I wonder if he is shifty enough. Backs that struggle to make people miss struggle in the NFL, and it appears that could be difficult for Henry. At the same time, there are special players who defy those sorts of questions. Henry did that at Alabama and he has done it wherever he has played and no matter the competition, so perhaps he can do it in the NFL.
Brett from Jacksonville:
Happy Anniversary, John! Thanks for a great five years, O-Zone!
John: Wow. Five years. A guy can get a lot done in that amount of time. Wish I had.

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