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O-Zone: Burning the oil

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Job from Trinidad and Tobago:
With the staff basically complete, what's your impression?
John: The Jaguars' coaching staff is a mix of experience levels, with coordinators Nathaniel Hackett and Todd Wash relatively young in NFL years and but two key position coaches – Perry Fewell in the secondary and Pat Flaherty on the offensive line – having extensive experience. And Joe DeCamillis is one of the NFL's more experienced, respected special teams coordinators. Those last three have a Tom Coughlin Feel, as does Keenan McCardell as wide receivers coach. McCardell and running backs Tyrone Wheatley are both ex-players with 10 or more years NFL experience – and having coaches with NFL playing experience is a positive. The most intriguing hire is quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich, who spent the past five seasons as a CFL head coach. That hire raised eyebrows because he never has coached in the NFL, but good coaches come from a myriad of backgrounds. Overall, it looks like a fine, professional NFL staff. The keys to me are obviously the coordinators and Flaherty. How different will Hackett's offense look this season than last, when he essentially ran former coordinator Greg Olson's offense for the final nine games? The guess here is there's a heavier emphasis on creative run looks and more emphasis on the run game overall this season compared to last. How extensively will Wash change the hybrid, 4-3/3-4 "Leo" based scheme he ran under then-Head Coach Gus Bradley last season? And then, there's the offensive line: The group improved as a pass-blocking unit under Doug Marrone the last two seasons. Now that Marrone is head coach, can Flaherty extend that improvement and give the Jaguars the run threat that quarterback Blake Bortles and the offense dearly need? The answers to those last three questions will be key for this staff.
Tom from Orlando, FL:
Given his age and injury history, do you think Cutler will be affordable in free agency? I would love to see him throwing bombs to A-Rob.
John: I like Jay Cutler more than many observers do, because I like strong-armed quarterbacks who can make every throw. Still, Cutler's situation entering the offseason is a bit murky. He remains under contract with the Chicago Bears next season and there's no guarantee the Bears will trade or release him. My guess is they eventually release him this offseason because they do seem to have moved on from Cutler. Still, a trade seems unlikely because it seems unlikely any team would give up draft selections and the money it will take to pay Cutler because of his age and injury history. As far as his affordability should he become a free agent, Cutler would command starter-level money, but you're going to pay big for any starting quarterback. The objective would be to sign him to a short-term contract that you could get out of after a year or two – and that seems a realistic goal. The issue with Cutler? If you bring him in even at a short-term deal would that mean he is competing with Bortles or starting? And if you're bringing him into compete, is what he would cost too much to be reasonable – even if that's a short-term cost?
Bill from my work computer:
Who wins the Super Bowl and why?
John: The Patriots because life isn't fair.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
I've been hearing that one of the major reasons Aaron Rodgers fell in the draft is because his mechanics were all out of whack. He had the drive and mental fortitude to commit to improving himself and now he's one of the best in the business. Not only do I believe Bortles is fixable, but if Rodgers had started immediately instead of waiting Packers fans might have been riding him off as a lost cause too.
John: Rodgers' mechanics indeed were an issue when he was coming out of Cal in 2005. He held the ball higher than usual, something some at the time attributed to his college coach – Jeff Tedford. For his part, Tedford said Rodgers entered Cal throwing that way and that Rodgers played so well he didn't want to change it. But yes, Rodgers' mechanics have been a topic at times during his career – and they were a topic when he "struggled" early in 2016. Considering he played the last part of the season at a higher level than most quarterbacks can even imagine, his mechanical issues were indeed fixable. One difference in Rodgers and Bortles is that Tedford said Rodgers was always a pretty natural thrower of the football, and Rodgers does a lot in his delivery that is mechanically pretty close to perfect. Bortles himself has said quite often that he is not a natural thrower of the football, and at this point in his career it would seem a stretch to think he will be "mechanically perfect." That doesn't mean Bortles can never be effective. Many quarterbacks have succeeded with less-than-perfect mechanics. Perhaps the big takeaway from the Rodgers "comparison" is that it's not uncommon for quarterbacks to have to focus on mechanics and fundamentals throughout their careers. Most quarterbacks need to constantly work on this area, though Bortles indeed seems to need to work on it more than most.
Bob from Sumter, SC:
If the defensive linemen the Jags like are gone at No. 4 … Leonard Fournette is really intriguing. Power and speed – potentially a big impact player from Day One. Think he is in play for the pick?
John: We're essentially three months from the 2017 NFL Draft, and Coughlin has been on staff less than three weeks … considering those two elements alone it's safe to say pretty much anything is "in play." But yes … I think the Jaguars will consider Fournette/running back at No. 4. Improving the running game is enough of a priority that any number of things will be considered in this area.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, I've read some things about moving Dante Fowler Jr. to the Sam linebacker position. He played most of his college career as a standup rusher. Dante himself says he's more comfortable standing. Any thoughts?
John: Having Fowler play standing up rather than playing down defensive end makes some sense, and I think it's something the Jaguars indeed should consider. With Wash remaining as defensive coordinator, the Jaguars seem likely to continue using a 4-3 scheme; that could mean Fowler playing strong-side linebacker – or it could mean him standing up in some pass-rushing situations. Remember: the Jaguars are just now finalizing the coaching staff; a lot of details about personnel and scheme remain to be determined.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Tom Coughlin went 14-2 in 1999. He sent Jimmy Johnson out of the NFL with a 62-7 victory over the Fins. The only team to beat the Jaguars that year was the Titans. That was his second division championship with the Jaguars. The first time was the Jaguars second year with a team he put together the year before. The other thing is he keeps it tight. Fans need to stop fighting him and hide and watch. He will get it done. Go Jaguars!
John: #TCTWD
Clyde from Sanford, FL:
John, have consultants Monte Kiffin and John Idzik been let go during the coaching staff releases?
John: Kiffin was an assistant coach last season and is no longer with the Jaguars. Idzik is the special assistant to the general manager and he is still with the Jaguars.
Ben from Memphis, TN:
Offseason plan... re-sign Prince, Alualu, Abry Jones. Pick up Beachum's option. Keep Julius Thomas. Let Cyp and Joeckel walk. In free agency, try to sign a G such as Kevin Zeitler, T.J. Lang, Larry Watford and a pass rushing D lineman such as JPP, Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, Kawaan Short, or Calais Campbell. In the draft take Garrett or Allen if available- can't have too many pass rushers or versatile stud D lineman. If neither are there take Fournette or Cook (whoever is ranked higher on your board). Second round pick up one OT that is still available like Cam Robinson, Garett Bolles, Ryan Ramcyzk, Forrest Lamp who could start at RT or at least provide competition at both LT and RT. Third round SS to challenge Sample/Wilson. Fourth-Seventh need a CB, TE, QB, G in some order. Realistically, no FA or drafted QB is going to start over Bortles next year. Give him every chance to succeed and if he doesn't the 2017 QB draft class looks like a potentially great one. Thoughts?
John: Can you repeat the question?
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
We know you slack off during the offseason. But I assume TC and the new coaching staff will be burning a lot of midnight oil prepping for the draft, free agency, game planning, etc., etc. etc.. between now and until the players report?
John: Midnight oil? No. Will they be rolling in a few hours before O-Zone each a.m.? Yeah, most likely.

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