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O-Zone: Bang, bang...

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jordan from Orange Park, FL:
Yo Johnny, one player I haven't heard much about after the season is Julius Thomas. He had a nice finish to the year after missing the early portion of the season. He was a reliable target for Blake when they got in sync. I believe he is the offense's 'X Factor' entering next season. Teams know what the Allen Bros. are capable of and now it's time to gash the middle of the field with our talented tight end. Bortles making reference to Philip Rivers having command at the line and his connections with Antonio Gates made me think he wants to exploit the matchups Julius gets in the future. Your thoughts?
John: Julius Thomas without question is key to next season. He indeed finished the season well, and was a reason the Jaguars' offense improved so significantly from last season. He perhaps didn't have the statistics he or many fans might have hoped, but his presence – particularly during a five- or six-game stretch November and early December – gave Bortles options and made the offense as a whole stronger. As far as Bortles' comments about Rivers, those were more about taking the next step as a quarterback than about utilizing any particular player. Bortles' performance this season was good, but it needs to be better for him to be elite and for the offense to reach a championship level. Elite-level quarterbacks such as Rivers have command at the line of scrimmage, and getting more control of the game in that situation is Bortles' next task.
Brian from Jackson, MS:
You deserve one of those sammiches, O-Man.
John: Nothing like a good sammich.
Jordan from Little Valley, NY:
What are the downfalls of having your head coach calling the defensive plays?
John: It's time-consuming, for one; there is more hard-core game-planning involved with being a coordinator than being a head coach. And in theory, it takes away from the head coach having his eye on the big picture of the organization. But realistically I don't know that it's as much of a burden as many might think, particularly if the coach already has been heavily involved in game-planning that side of the ball.
Herbert from MidState Office Supply Accountz Receevablez:
I have offered my services to the Jaguars as an outside consultant. I am still waiting to hear back from them. Isn't it about time they swallow their pride?
John: I'll check on this.
Josh from South Texas:
I noticed that the Jaguars' offensive linemen don't look that big and nasty. Is it because of the scheme we run? A force like the Cowboys had in the 90s is what we need. (Allen, etc.)
John: The Jaguars' offensive line as a whole is a bit leaner and more athletic than it is big, nasty and unkempt. Some of that perhaps is left over from the emphasis on zone-blocking under former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and former offensive line coach George Yarno, but yeah … it would be great to be as big and nasty as the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. That was one of the great lines of all-time … so sure, mimic that.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
You've recently talked about the offense needing a third receiver to emerge. Living up to the accomplishments of Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig (who both accomplished 1,000/1,000 single-season yardages) is unlikely but, can T.J. Yeldon become a receiving threat in his own right … maybe be a 1,000-yard rusher and 500-yardish yard receiver? Would that be enough help in the passing game as the "third" receiving target?
John: Yeldon without question can help the passing offense, though it's a reach to expect him to be Craig or Faulk. That's particularly true of Faulk, who was as close to a wide receiver in terms of skill and how he was used at times as any elite-level running back in recent memory. When I talk about needing a third receiver, I'm talking about needing a third and fourth player in the passing game who can beat one-on-one coverage consistently and therefore force defenses to take them away. Yeldon can provide an element of that, but the best options would be Thomas, Marqise Lee and/or Rashad Greene.
William from Jacksonville:
John, you said, "Because while Joeckel was better than many fans believe this season, he still could improve. A lot." Indicates to me he wasn't playing much better than fans believe.
John: Don't wear yourself out interpreting that sentence. Two sentences. Joeckel did play a lot better than many fans believe, because many fans believe he was terrible all season. He wasn't terrible all season. He played OK in a lot of games, and improved from his second season. Now, could improve a lot? Absolutely.
Aaron from Chantilly:
Vernon Hargreaves III converted to free safety at No. 5?
John: I doubt it.
David from Durban, South Africa:
Listening to Gus describe the requirements for the free safety that would fit the Jags' scheme made me realize that Jalen Ramsey of Florida State is exactly that kind of player. Then, I listened to Dave Caldwell say it is in his opinion even harder to find such a player. Shouldn't the Jags do whatever it takes to draft Ramsey, even if it means trading up a few spots (I am worried about Dallas)?
John: I don't doubt this nearly as much.
Rob from Jacksonville:
What makes a golden era of any position come and go? When mentioning Boselli, you speak of the golden era of left tackles which I believe to be true. But why then? Why not now? Difference in importance of the position? Difference in athletes? How the position is coached? Just curious. Thanks.
John: It's really hard to tell – and when you talk to football people about this topic, they don't have any clear answers, either. There are a lot of people who think the growth of spread offenses in college has caused more and more top prospects to enter the NFL less prepared to play in Pro Style offenses than in past eras. There also happened to be a tremendous run in the mid-1990s and 2000s at the position that included Walter Jones, Boselli, Orlando Pace, Willie Roaf and Jonathan Ogden. That's a lot of greatness in one era, and it's a difficult lot to match.
Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Without Bortles this franchise would really hurt! Improving the left-tackle position by bringing in competition would seem a good way of protecting Bortles from 51 sacks next year and possible injury. Why aren't we talking of drafting or bringing a free agent in at tackle?
John: The question that must be asked is how much better you can get by drafting or signing a player – and at what price. It's possible the Jaguars could improve by using the No. 5 overall selection on the position, or by trading for a player, or by signing a player for cap-unfriendly money. But will it make them markedly better? Will it be a significant improvement?
The Lonely Jaguar Fan from Winston-Salem, NC:
I love Gus' involvement with the Senior Bowl. I think it's good public relations and a good scouting opportunity. Do you think Gus' participation in this event has helped in our last two drafts? Is Dave Caldwell around for a lot of it too? I must say despite the fact that they still have a lot of panning out to do our last two drafts appear to be pretty stellar.
John: Most of the Jaguars' coaching staff has coached the last two Senior Bowls, and the consensus around the building was it helped with the 2014 NFL Draft a great deal. That was the year they selected linebacker Telvin Smith, cornerback Aaron Colvin, defensive end Chris Smith and guard Brandon Linder after being around them at the Senior Bowl. The Jaguars didn't draft anyone from the Senior Bowl last season, but they signed Nick Marshall as a rookie free agent after coaching him in the Senior Bowl. As for David Caldwell, he and the Jaguars' personnel department will scout the game whether or not the Jaguars' coaches work the game. Still, Caldwell said the knowledge gained from the Senior Bowl without question helped the team's comfort level selecting the aforementioned players.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, good article on Tony Boselli deserving to be in Hall of Fame. I understand the Dwight Stephenson comparison. He played 114 games versus 91 for Tony – eight seasons versus six for TB. I think once Pace is in, Tony will get his due. With Pete Prisco, Anthony Munoz, Willie Roaf and Gil Brandt banging the drum, he should be in soon.
John: Boselli making the semifinalist list this year was a huge step. And although he did not make the finalist list, he received votes to make that list. Receiving those votes is important because it means voters are considering him; the more that happens, the more Boselli will be discussed among voters and the better his chances at making the Hall become. The people you mentioned will keep banging the drum, and I expect that noise to get louder and louder.

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