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O-Zone: Change is evil

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Chris from Mandarin:
I think what people fail to think about when saying that the Jaguars had an "easy schedule" in 2017 is that they defeated three teams – the Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle Seahawks – that would have been in the playoffs if not for a Jaguars win. The Jaguars made a couple of impressive runs of wins during the year.
John: You couldn't be more right – and this is something people often miss when examining "strength of schedule" in the NFL. Had the Jaguars lost those three games, those teams would indeed have been in the playoffs – and the Jaguars might have missed the playoffs with observers discussing the impressive difficulty of their schedule. As it was, they made the playoffs against what was perceived to be an "easy schedule." The latter is the better of the two scenarios. Also, what those people criticizing the schedule also miss is the Jaguars beat two playoff teams this past season when it mattered most – in the, you know, playoffs.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Why do so many people seem to think it is a given that Kirk Cousins is better than Bortles? I'm not so sure. I believe if Allen Robinson was running the route instead of Dede Westbrook on that fourth-and-14 play at the end of the AFC title game, there is a good chance the Jaguars would have played in the Super Bowl. Bortles needs to improve a bit more, but the Jaguars currently have a quarterback capable of getting them to the AFC title game and I say he can get them to the Super Bowl.
John: Hey … one fer Blake!
Keith from Forest Hill:
Can you please explain to me why the San Francisco 49ers didn't just franchise tag Jimmy Garoppolo? I know he played great in the five games he started but you don't pay someone $135 million based on a month of work. It just seems like a blatantly stupid mistake unless I'm missing something.
John: The 49ers theoretically could have franchised Garoppolo. But had they done so, and had he played well next season, he theoretically could have opted for free agency after next season. If he had done that, franchising him a second time next offseason would have been far more expensive for the 49ers – if not impossible. Also, remember: The 49ers believed Garoppolo was their franchise quarterback when they traded for him last season, and they believed that more strongly after seeing him start five games. They're building the team around him. He's their guy and now they're paying him as such.
Josh from Fort Lauderdale, FL:
Does the Jags' brass ultimately conclude that Jimmy Graham is too expensive given the tight ends in the draft and the team's other areas of need? Keep up the good work, O-Man!
John: That's my thought, yes. The Jaguars, remember, have spent huge in unrestricted free agency the last two offseasons – and many of those players such as defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Calais Campbell, safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson and cornerback A.J. Bouye remain on the roster/cap. So does defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and a few other cap-eating players. The Jaguars could conceivably make one "splash" this offseason, but the guess here is their free-agency approach will lean more toward a few second-wave free agents with the idea of upgrading competition on the offensive line with perhaps a lower-priced veteran receiver. Unless, of course, the Jaguars decide to pursue a quarterback such as Kirk Cousins. Then it's … well, it's chaos, I tell ya … chaos.
Travis from High Springs, FL:
If a team is not under the salary cap at the start of the new league year what penalty would they receive? Also how much cap room are the Jaguars expected to have this year? And are there any second-tier, "cheaper" free agents that you expect them to try and acquire?
John: A team not under the salary cap at the start of the new league year risks loss of draft selections, fines in the millions of dollars and potential cancellation of contracts of players on the roster. The Jaguars right now are projected to be about $20 million under the cap at the start of the 2018 NFL League Year, but they can clear more room by releasing or restructuring the contracts of players such as running back Chris Ivory, offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, punter Brad Nortman and wide receiver Allen Hurns. I expect the Jaguars to pursue second-tier free agents along the offensive line and I also expect them to explore this market for special-teams help.
Robert from Manassas, VA:
Why do some many people talk about how much harder a first-place schedule is versus a last-place schedule? Last I checked, that only affects two games.
John: True, but when you're talking about playing the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs instead of the New York Jets and Denver Broncos this past season it's a significant difference.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I think Bortles has improved in so many areas (mechanics, decisions, consistency, etc.) that it will be tough to find an upgrade through free agency. If the front office decides otherwise, however, where would we NOT want to see Blake go? (I'm thinking that BB in Texas could be a nightmare scenario for the Jaguars.)
John: I doubt in your scenario Bortles would sign elsewhere in the AFC South; the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans all appear to feel good about their starting quarterbacks. The Arizona Cardinals always have been reported to like Bortles, and that would make sense following the retirement of Carson Palmer.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brasil:
John: while you're being held in an unknown location by the Men in Black, Jerrell arranged to send you a flip phone to write the O-Zone by text. Can you tell us that the new home jersey will be teal? Here they come — make it quick!
John: No problem. If the new home uniforms are changing, which I can't really say will or won't happen, the new color – of there will be a new home uniform – will be
Nathan from Provo, UT:
John, may I tell the fans that it's not about whether or not your quarterback is "the man?" It's whether or not the opposing team has to game plan for your quarterback? With no "deep threat," opposing defensive coordinators plan to stop the run on the early downs, then rush the quarterback and hope its players get off the field after the third. Now, fellow Jags fans: until we get a quarterback that defensive coordinators have to game plan for, "the best man" for the job is a healthy, available stud. And in Bortles I trust. Accept it, own it, and be grateful. #DTWD
John: #DTWD
Wayne from Brunswick, GA:
Why do we have to Mic'd Up a player every game? This only puts players on the team to stay away from him and keeps everyone from being 100 percent on football. I do not like this.
John: Wayne's passion on this subject is inspiring. (You'll see.)
Wayne from Brunswick, GA:
I think you are doing a disservice and interfering with team football when you just have to have somebody with a microphone. Please STOP and let them have 100 percent focus on football instead of who can be the next actor.
John: You go, girl.
Scott from Rehoboth Beach, DE:
Oh, great wizard of O-Z. What grade would you give the 2017 rookie class? Is it fair to say the team got more production from the rookies than expected? At least three-to-four rookies seemed to be standouts in various games to help them get all the way to the AFC title game? How about the undrafted Cole? Could he be a threat like AR15 with more experience in the NFL?
John: It's hard to not give the Jaguars' rookie class at least "B." Running back Leonard Fournette was the identity of the offense much of the season, and left tackle Cam Robinson helped solidify the offensive line and looks like he will be a good player for a long time. Defensive end Dawuane Smoot played 16 games and was a solid reserve behind Calais Campbell; the Jaguars feel good about his fiture. Considering that wide receivers Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole were both critical to the offense in the second half of the season, this was a front-line class with potential to be key to the offense for a while. I don't know that Cole is going to be "like" Robinson because they're different players. Cole must develop and improve as a route runner, but his speed gives him a chance to be a big-time player.
Logan from Wichita, KS:
I don't know why, but I'm gonna miss the two-tone helmet. I have not liked it until recently though, so maybe I'm just fanning against change? Meh. Here is to the new look GO JAGS!
John: Change is evil. Anyone with a one eye and half sense knows that.

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