O-Zone: Ball of confusion

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jay from Redondo Beach, FL:
Sooo now with the roster looking as it does, can you help me and a lot of us Jags fans figure out who do you expect to be Leonard Fournette's backup going into the season? We know what T.J. Yeldon is, and we can assume Corey Grant's role. But I was pretty shocked we didn't target a running back the whole draft? Any undrafted or potential cuts from another team? Any ideas, Sir John O?
John: I, too, was a little surprised the Jaguars didn't select a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft. I thought they might go that direction in the middle rounds for a so-called every-down back to be the backup when/if Fournette couldn't go. Remember, though: Chris Ivory, the backup much of last season, played sparingly late in the season and barely at all in the postseason; when the Jaguars released him in the offseason, they saw little need to replace him on the depth chart. Also, remember: Head Coach Doug Marrone talked a lot about liking Yeldon last year, and Yeldon performed well when called upon. I expect at this point he will be the top backup – and I expect Grant will have at least a slightly expanded role next season. The Jaguars also like first-year veteran Tim Cook. I could see the Jaguars signing a veteran here, but I don't sense they feel it's a "have to."
Stephen from Jacksonville:
Do you expect the Jaguars will again participate in joint preseason practices this year? How far in advance is that decision typically made by teams?
John: I do expect the Jaguars to participate in joint practices this year. I expect this because Head Coach Doug Marrone likes the format. I expect the practices to be with New Orleans and Minnesota. I would expect a decision soon.
Jim from Pahrump, NV:
With our current group of wide outs, do you feel we have the next generation of Thunder and Lightning? Which two?
John: I can't compare young players who have yet to develop with two of the best receivers in NFL history. This current Jaguars group has a lot of potential. Marqise Lee, DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief all have traits that make you think the Jaguars can get needed production from the group. I doubt any will be as good as Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. That's not a knock. Those two set a phenomenally high bar. Most receivers that ever have played the game aren't as good as those two.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Sometimes you confuse me. If Ben Roethlisberger is released, we pick him up after paying Blake Bortles the money already. They compete. Ben wins the job. We sit Bortles. Bortles quit developing. Now what?
John: I recently sarcastically mentioned the Jaguars claiming Roethlisberger off waivers if the Steelers released him. My mistake. I forget myself sometimes.
Chris from Mandarin:
What am I missing from the linebacker position? Telvin Smith Sr. and Myles Jack are good-to-great players. Blair Brown appears to have the potential to be a capable starter. Lerentee McCray is primarily a special teams player that could come in during an emergency. After that, the position is very thin. Am I forgetting anyone because that doesn't look like a full group?
John: Not really. The Jaguars don't appear deep at linebacker. They drafted Leon Jacobs in Round 7 to address the situation. It's possible they could acquire a veteran at the spot. The offseason isn't over yet.
Richard from Jacksonville:
The league wants to reduce the number of kickoff returns in an attempt to reduce injuries. A simple way to do this is to remove the penalty for a kickoff out of bounds and to treat a kickoff out of bounds like a punt. Is this something that should be considered?
John: Maybe – but I don't the league will consider it. Allowing kickoffs out of bounds would dramatically worsen field position for the receiving team and therefore would reduce scoring. This is because kickers easily could position the ball near the sideline because of the spot of the kickoff – and because defenders wouldn't be allowed to rush the kicker. I could see the league just making all kickoffs punt plays before I could see it legalizing a kickoff out of bounds. But we'll see. The league is determined to make this dangerous play safer. I suspect few things will be off the table in the coming offseasons.
Paul from Jacksonville:
As I looked at our picks over the weekend, I kept thinking, "This is what a winning team's draft looks like." Usually, teams that are drafting late in the first round aren't turning heads with their picks. It's understandable many Jaguars fans, particularly our younger ones, have difficulty seeing that. It's been a while. Next year, though, I hope more of us can act like we've seen this before.
John: One would hope. One doubts. But one would hope.
Frank from Ponte Vedra, FL:
It appears that choosing not to re-sign Chad Henne was about more than just money. Considering the lack of experience behind Bortles should we be worried?
John: When teams move on from players, it's rarely about just one thing. But in the case of Henne, if the Jaguars not re-signing him wasn't all about money, it was a big factor. He signed a two-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs worth $6.7 million. Jaguars reserve quarterback Cody Kessler will make about $1.5 million over two years and rookie sixth-round quarterback Tanner Lee would be on a low rookie contract if he makes the roster. Should you be worried if Bortles get injured? Sure – and when you worry, get in line behind a lot of others. An NFL team usually isn't as good with their backup quarterback as it is with its starter. The Philadelphia Eagles were an exception last season. Those exceptions are rare.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Allen Lazard compares a little more closely to Brandon Marshall in terms of size and speed than he does Allen Hurns. It seems like it isn't going to be easy to make the 53-man roster as a receiver this year. Is it likely they can keep Lazard on the practice squad to start the season?
John: Many Jaguars fans are understandably fascinated by rookie undrafted wide receiver Allen Lazard. This is because he was ultraproductive at Iowa State. But remember: Lazard went undrafted for a reason – and while many undrafted players make NFL rosters, they still by definition enter as the longest of long shots. If Lazard's play in training camp merits being on the 53-man roster, the Jaguars will find a place for him on the 53-man roster. If not, he might make the practice squad. It's probably best to watch Lazard participate in at least one NFL practice before trying to determine whether it's worth worrying about making special room on the roster to keep him.
Antwaun from Nashville, TN:
Any chance that Allen Lazard plays tight end next season or in the future for the Jaguars?
John: Yes.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, would you do us the honor of engaging in some rank speculation just for fun and now that it's getting slightly easier to think about again? Had the Jaguars beaten the Patriots for the whole 60 minutes as they did for the first 55, do you think they'd have beaten the Eagles? I know some may engage in the simple math of Jaguars lost to Patriots and Patriots lost to Eagles thus... But I don't think it would've been so simple. The Eagles were great last season no doubt. And they were well-rounded. Still, I think the Jaguars' defensive would have smothered them and L4 would've run for a couple of touchdowns. Throw in some dazzle from Bortles, DeDe, Cole, Grant, special teams, and the obligatory defensive score and Jaguars win. Thoughts?
John: I think the Jaguars would have won the game. But while many Jaguars fans wrote me after the Super Bowl expressing the belief that the Jaguars easily would have won, those fans seriously underestimated the Eagles. Philadelphia was playing very, very well at the end of the season; Super Bowl champions usually aren't playing poorly in January and February. But I do think the Jaguars' defense – with two weeks to rest a couple of nagging injuries that hurt late in the AFC Championship Game – would have made the extra play or two needed and won it. Or maybe not. Alas, we'll never know.
Jess from Castle Rock, CO:
John, let me filter out some of that "white noise" for you: 2017 was Tom Coughlin's first year as Vice President of Football Operations and Doug Marrone's first year as head coach. All players drafted or signed through free agency prior to 2017 (and there are quite a few on the team) can only be credited to General Manager David Caldwell. The players drafted and signed through free agency in 2017 can be credited to Tom and Doug ... and David. Is that clearer?
John: What?

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