O-Zone: At some point...

PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Monday O-Zone, NFL-Owners-Meetings style …

Let's get to it … Jeff from DeFuniak Springs, FL:
John, I think Blake Bortles is really focusing hard on improving and I think he is taking this more seriously than he did last offseason. I think the Jaguars would be wise to have a better backup option than Chad Henne if Bortles fails. Tom Coughlin said it is all about winning. Let's set the team up with a backup option. Thoughts?
John: My thoughts are that while it is vogue to say Bortles didn't work hard last offseason to explain why he struggled last season, I just don't know if that's the case. Bortles worked last offseason – he just worked in a different way than he did the previous offseason, meaning he stayed in Jacksonville and worked with his receivers rather than going to California to work with personal quarterbacks coaches. That seems to have caused his mechanics to slip, which perhaps was part of the reason – though certainly not the entire reason – he struggled at times last season. As for backup options other than Henne … I suppose they exist, but I don't know that there are significantly better backup options than Henne. He has NFL starting experience and has had productive games in the NFL. He's probably not as good as, say, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I don't know that Fitzpatrick wants to go somewhere to be the backup with no chance of starting. If you're looking for a backup who is going to be willing to play a backup role, Henne likely is as good as any option. Remember: If there were great backup quarterbacks available, they wouldn't be backups. They would be starters.
Zach from Fort Myers, FL:
Do you think it's possible that we use our fourth overall pick on Obi Melifonwu, a big-body corner out of UConn who posted very explosive numbers at the Combine – not to mention a player who had a solid college career? Imagine Obi, Jalen Ramsey, Barry Church and Tashaun Gibson in the secondary.
John: This is odd not because it's the second time in a span of several days I've received a question about the Jaguars drafting a cornerback at No. 4 overall, but because it's the second time in a span of several days a question about the Jaguars drafting a cornerback at No. 4 has mentioned defensive backs on the Jaguars' roster and not mentioned cornerback A.J. Bouye. It's not completely out of the question that the Jaguars would select a cornerback at No. 4, but the free-agent signing of Bouye shouldn't be ignored. When figuring how the secondary is going to look next season, figure him into the starting lineup.
Royce from Jacksonville:
Mr. O, when will the Jags have to make a decision on Blake's fifth-year option and does this happen before OTAs or training camp?
John: The Jaguars must decide on Bortles' fifth-year option by early May, so it's just before organized team activities and well before training camp. But keep the whole fifth-year option story in perspective. While I imagine the Jaguars will pick it up, whether they do or not really doesn't change much about the team's quarterback dynamic. Whether or not the Jaguars pick it up, Bortles is almost certainly going to be the starter next season – and whether or not the Jaguars pick it up, he is going to have to play at a higher level than he previously has played to remain the starter in 2018 and beyond.
Steve from Hudson, FL:
Do you think Mychal Rivera may be the answer to the question about a fullback? Seems to me he may be just the right skill set/size for the task plus good hands. Just fanning here!
John: No, you're not fanning. Rivera, a tight end who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the Oakland Raiders last week, can play the role of a fullback – and he said as much upon signing. I would be surprised if that's the Jaguars' only fullback option entering OTAs and training camp, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's a serious option.
Josh from Pensacola, FL:
How much do you think having a legit defense will help Bortles? Do think the pressure of feeling the need to be the "savior of the franchise" will be alleviated? I wonder if that pressure led to a lot of his bad decisions. Your thoughts?
John: I thought the Jaguars' defense was pretty legitimate much of last season, but it certainly could be more legitimate with a lock-down, pressure-situation pass rush – and there's no doubt getting a pass rush that can force turnovers and improve field position would help everything. How much would it help Bortles? Some, though a strong running game that would create more play-action situations would help more. I don't put much stock in the idea that pressure led to Bortles' struggles last season, though. I wouldn't say he's immune to pressure, but he handles it pretty well – and he doesn't seem to carry the weight of too much on his shoulders. Bortles' struggles seem to come from mechanics, experience and decision-making more than him feeling pressure to be the savior of the franchise. I just don't know that he sees himself that way – and I think he would handle it OK if he did.
Greg from Carlsbad, CA:
I met John at a bar in San Diego before the '15 game. As far as his professional skill as a writer and decency as a human being, I'll say this: he's taller than I thought he'd be.
John: That wasn't me.
Robert from Amelia Island, FL:
The total guaranteed money to be paid to the nine new Jags far exceeds the total that the eight departing players will be paid by their new teams. I find it very interesting, however, that the total base salaries this year indicates that the Jags will be paying less for their new acquisitions than the new teams will be paying for their eight new players. I think this represents good roster fiscal management by Dave Caldwell. What's your take on this?
John: I think the Jaguars hope the nine players they acquired are better as a whole than the eight departing players.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Do you see the Jags drafting a quarterback in the first two rounds or will they allow Blake to lead this team to a Top 5 pick next year and then draft a quarterback?
John: I doubt the Jaguars draft a quarterback at No. 4 overall. Their decision on a quarterback in the second round seems far more interesting. I think there's a chance the Jaguars could take a quarterback there or that they could possibly try to move up a few spots into the first round if there's one they like. I doubt the second-round or late first-round scenario would mean that player starting this season.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
If the Jaguars think there's an elite talent at cornerback or safety in the draft, and that it's more likely to be a hit than any other players available at No. 4, then I wouldn't mind the pick at all. Defenses are playing in nickel more and more, and having that much talent there could really be something. Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Marshon Lattimore/Jamal Adams/Malik Hooker and Aaron Colvin could stabilize the back seven of the defense for many years. Then we just load up on waves of defensive linemen.
John: I'm warming to the idea of the Jaguars possibly selecting a defensive back at No. 4, but it's a lukewarm warming at best – and it's still hard to project a safety there. On the one hand it would be a positive thing because a selection of a player such as Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker would mean the Jaguars are absolutely selecting the player they think is the best player. The presence of safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson already on the roster would mean Adams/Hooker aren't need selections. Still, it's just hard to predict that considering you're usually not rotating safeties. An elite corner … well, considering teams indeed are in nickel defenses these days so much more than they are in base defenses … yeah, it certainly is reaching the point in the NFL that it's hard to have too much talent at that position.
Daniel Since Day One:
I don't think I can imagine a worse scenario for the team then to draft a quarterback (who is not yet NFL ready), then throw them out to the wolves in their first season. Coughlin won't allow that. Anyone we draft at quarterback needs at least one complete year and maybe two or three before they should be on the field. If we had done what we said we were going to do with our last three high quarterback picks, things would have been much better for the team.
John: If the Jaguars take a quarterback in the first three rounds in next month's draft they will be taking him with the idea that he will play well before his fourth season. You can get away with letting an early-round quarterback sit for a season, but not much longer.

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