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O-Zone: Beware the wrath

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Josh from Fernandina Beach and currently Fort Lauderdale, FL:
O, having seen our free-agent moves – and assuming for the purpose of the question that the Jags go defensive line with their first pick of the draft – can you provide some detail on how/where you expect Dante Fowler Jr. to be best used next year?
John: This is among the Jaguars' more intriguing offseason questions – and as of mid-March we have little hard information on the topic. As of now, I expect Fowler to be used next season as a defensive end. I don't know if that means he will start, because he must earn that by outperforming Yannick Ngakoue, something he didn't do enough last season. If Fowler doesn't start next season, I expect he will be used extensively on second-and-third downs and in passing situations. The draft has little bearing on the issue because Jonathan Allen of Alabama and Solomon Thomas of Stanford are different style defensive ends than Fowler. Either way, remember: defensive linemen rotate as much as any position in the NFL. I expect Fowler to play a lot and be productive next season whether or not he starts. The key remains how much he can improve as a pass rusher, an area where he needs to improve his technique and fundamentals. I'm not completely ruling out the idea that Fowler could be used standing up at times – either as a stand-up end of outside linebacker - but I've yet to see/hear anything remotely official to make me think that will happen.
Marc from Oceanway:
John, would you be bothered if we signed Colin Kaepernick? It seems your stance in the past has been as long as it makes the team better, you are game. I try to be open-minded, but I can't help but think it would bug me. What's weird is I would be more OK if he continued to kneel for the national anthem. It bothers me more that he would change his tune now that he needs a new job. Am I alone in thinking this?
John: I would have zero problem personally if the Jaguars signed Kaepernick because I fundamentally believe that professional sports are about winning – and if a player can help you win, then it's fine to sign them. I also tend to have a high tolerance for off-field actions or transgressions – probably from years of seeing things through a jaded-journalist's lens rather than the emotional lens of a fan. Also, I tend to get less offended by the actions of others than many people. Still, considering the strong military presence in Jacksonville – and considering how many in the military felt about Kaepernick not standing for the anthem – signing Kaepernick definitely would qualify as a tough sell. It perhaps would be too tough a sell to outweigh the potential reward.
Tommy from Jacksonville:
Johnny, you mentioned recently it would not surprise you if the Jags picked a quarterback in the bottom of the first round or second. Dude, let me say if this happens I will have faith in the teams' upper management and be extremely excited for the future!!! Don't let me down! I can't watch another season of Bortles, I just can't.
John: Dude, I don't know whether or not the Jaguars will select a quarterback late in the first round or early in the second. I do know that I doubt that quarterback would prevent Bortles from being the starting quarterback in 2017.
Brian from Charlottesville, VA:
I can shed some light on the "guard panic." A.J. Cann and Jermey Parnell didn't play well and left guard was an absolute mess last year. We're going into next season with that same predicament. The only player that was replaced was the decent left-tackle. The Raiders built one of the best lines in football through free agency. The fans' concern is the front office is being too conservative with how much to pay an elite guard while we have all the money in the world. This is the same team that drafted Luke Joeckel and A.J. Cann in the first three rounds, so give me the proven talent in free agency over their scouting any day. The "guard panic" is that the three positions on the offensive line last year that played the most poorly remain in the same state. Having pretty poor offensive line play (even if everything else is going well) is a recipe for us discussing why the team won five games this time next year.
John: I understand the fans' concern. I also understand that the Jaguars believe Branden Albert is a significant upgrade, and that while Kelvin Beachum played well as a pass blocker, he didn't play nearly as well as a run-blocker. I understand, too, that the team believes Cann and Parnell will play better, and that Cann can still be a very good guard in the NFL. What I mostly understand is that this is going to be an area of concern for many fans until next season because the Jaguars aren't going to replace 80 percent of the offensive line. Will the panic be legitimate concern or true panic? I guess we'll find out.
E Nuff from Banner Elk, NC:
Fournette? Really? I don't get it! The Crimson Tide completely shut him down EVERY time they played him!!!!! What do you think NFL defenses will do to him? Leonard Fournette will be a bust in the NFL! In the words of the infamous Jerell … book it!! Orenthal James Howard @4!!!
John: You don't draft a player based on college statistics. If you did, you almost certainly wouldn't select O'Terrius Jabari "O.J." Howard No. 4. I mean, he had only seven touchdowns!! For his entire career!!! In four seasons!!
Scott from Aurora, IL:
I just want to draft Solomon Thomas, because then we can do cool things with his name –like call the backfield "Solomon's Temple," or when he gets a particularly amazing sack, have some reference to the "Judgment of Solomon." It's about the little things, John.
John: Indeed.
Cliffah from Jags4life:
Do the successful teams tend to draft for need or the BAP?
John: The successful teams tend to draft franchise quarterbacks. Once they do that, they often are able to supplement that by a combination of drafting the best available player at times at positions where they have a need. Remember: few teams draft with a pure "BAP" approach, but the better your overall roster and quarterback, the easier it is to choose the best player regardless of position.
Joel from Jacksonville:
Do fans realize that while talking of trading back is great to do that there must be a coveted player available at No. 4 that we have a lot of like but not love and that the team at No. 5 has a lot of love for that player for anyway below 5 to trade with us? I don't really see that player in this draft class.
John: Perhaps the best way to think about this is like this: the Jaguars by any definition are not an incredibly talented roster. It is a young roster that is better than it was a few years ago, but there are few positions where you look and say, "Gee, the Jaguars really couldn't use a great player who might make a bunch of Pro Bowls and be elite for a long time at that spot." Those are the kinds of players that might draw interest in a draft-day trade. So, if the Jaguars don't like any player at No. 4 enough to take him there, it follows that there might not be another team that likes any player at No. 4 to give up a bunch of selections to move up.
Paul from Temecula, CA:
What incentive could the Browns possibly have (besides "because they have the cap space") to help the Texans on that level?
John: You're asking why the Browns would have taken on quarterback Brock Osweiler's contract in a recent trade with the Houston Texans. The Browns did it because the Texans gave the Browns a second-round selection in the draft.
Travis from Orange Park, FL:
The 2013 draft class ended up being a very poor class for the Jags. No one on the roster four years later, no one a threat to be a Pro Bowler, no one is a legitimate NFL starter, no one I'd re-take in a do-over. #CoughlinSavetheJags
John: Johnathan Cyprien is a legitimate NFL starter, and the team did sign re-sign Abry Jones after acquiring him as rookie free agent in 2013. The class as a whole was considered one of the weakest in recent memory, but no … the 2013 class by and large hasn't helped the Jaguars a great deal.
TJ from Orlando, FL:
If I may be so bold as to further your recent answer to Tim from South Carolina, I also lived in Jacksonville when Tom Coughlin was fired. I thought it was a terrible decision at the time and I think more fans have come to realize that as well. The football gods have punished us since and I think it's time we got back on their good side.
John: It's not nice to fool … Mother Nature.

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