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O-Zone: Close to the vest

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Kevin from Jacksonville:
The Broncos just won a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning was a free agent. So were DeMarcus Ware and Aquib Talib. I could go on, but why bother? You cannot create a winning team through the draft alone. You can combine them.
John: You absolutely can create a winning team almost exclusively through the draft – and nearly every general manager will tell you that's the best way to sustain winning long-term. The current incarnation of the Packers and the Colts of the 2000s are merely two examples. Now, it is true that you often have to supplement through free agency to make up for draft mistakes, but to say it can't be done … no, incorrect. But I guess I'm not sure why this is such a topic lately: the Jaguars clearly have supplemented through free agency in a big way each of the last two offseasons. That was Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell's plan all along, and he has followed that plan. Would he eventually like to get away from free agency as much as possible and be a draft-oriented team? No doubt. But to say he hasn't used free agency … no, incorrect.
Mike from Jacksonville:
O, you've mentioned in a few recent posts you like to sit in Dave's chair while he's out. First, it was when he was out of the building, then it turned into when he was out of the room. It sounds like you're getting more courageous. Are you sitting in his chair as we speak now?
John: No, I'm in a car with Shadrick. It's far more dangerous.
Rick from Jacksonville:
If you were tasked with building the Ravens defense of old and hypothetically had to choose between Ray Lewis or Ed Reed, who would you take? I would take Lewis. Do you see a similar scenario possibly facing the Jaguars in the upcoming draft, and do Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack have the same sort of potential as those two?
John: This is a near-impossible question to answer because it involves elite, all-time players in Reed and Lewis. Elite players transcend position/draft status, and it's difficult to assume players who aren't yet rookies will reach an elite level. As for comparisons … Lewis was among the best four or five middle linebackers ever, and was a dominant, physical presence; Jack if he reaches his potential would compare more with Luke Kuechly because of speed and athleticism. I suppose Ramsey potentially would be more comparable to Reed than Jack would be to Lewis. But to answer your question, I would have taken Lewis over Reed. He was closer to the ball and the Ravens' defense was built above all else on his intimidating presence, but again: I wouldn't expect Jack to reach Lewis' level of dominance. That happens once or twice a generation.
Tom from Orlando, FL:
With the Chris Ivory signing, where does this leave Denard Robinson? Just RB3 and WR5? Core 4 on special teams? Does he have the straight-line speed for kick returner?
John: The Ivory signing leaves Robinson well down the running back depth chart, and it does put him in a situation where returning kicks could be a possibility. He has the speed to do it, though he hasn't excelled in the role yet. Robinson realistically will have to perform well in training camp and preseason to make the roster as a special teams player/backup running back. And he's not the fifth wide receiver nor is he a wide receiver, period.
Geoff from Orlando, FL:
Two quick things. First, can we stop calling our defense "Seattle's defense?" We are the Jags and should take pride in that name. Secondly, what about Dwight Freeney on a two-year veteran minimum contract? He is coming off an eight-sack season (close to the combined total of our top TWO guys). Since everyone is talking about us drafting young edge guys, why would you not bring in Dwight to mentor them? It isn't like we lack the cap room. Have him teach Dante a spin move or two.
John: First, I really haven't heard a lot of people call the Jaguars' defense "Seattle's defense;" I have heard people use the Seattle defense as a basis for discussing the Jaguars' defense, which makes sense because it's philosophically the same scheme. As far as signing Freeney to a two-year veteran minimum contract, remember: if a veteran such as Freeney is going to play on a short-term deal such as that, it's usually with the caveat that he wants a chance to reach the Super Bowl. While the Jaguars have a chance to make the Super Bowl, my guess is Freeney would probably hold out for a team that's perceived as being a bit closer to the Super Bowl than the Jaguars.
David from Durban, South Africa:
I am concerned about how often you mention DeForest Buckner as a first-pick possibility. He is a 3-4 defensive end who would be a duplicate of what we have in Jared Odrick and Tyson Alualu. Even though he may be talented (but slow), I hope the team does not select him in the draft. He represents a bad scheme fit and I am surprised an astute crusty observer of the game like you has not mentioned this ... wait, are you the Secretary of Disinformation?!!
John: I have mentioned that Buckner is not a Leo, pass-rushing defensive end. What he is is a very good player who almost certainly is worthy of the No. 5 selection in the draft. I don't think the Jaguars will take him, but I do know he's good enough to merit mention.
Ivan from Hollywood, FL:
Fowler, three free agents on defense, and presumably one or two defensive starters from the draft. So around 50 percent of the defensive starters are going to be new to the Jags. How much of a challenge is it to have all the players comfortable to the scheme by opening day or is it more realistic to expect gradual improvement?
John: It's a bit of a challenge to get so many new defensive players playing in synch, but it's not really as difficult as it is on offense.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, last year we didn't blitz a great deal. I do believe that greatly hampered our pass rush. Now with the additions of vets Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara in our coverage do you feel it will allow more occasions for our linebacker to be involved in the pass rush?
John: The issue with the Jaguars' blitz wasn't as much that they didn't do it but that they didn't do it well. For that reason, I don't think you'll see a major increase in how often the Jaguars blitz, but I do think they'll try to disguise what they do better to get their players in better position to be effective when blitzing is necessary.
Hobart from Trollville:
Hey John r u the Jaguars biggest fan? #Thx #Tmnhk
John: No.
Alex from Fairfax, VA:
Where does Roy Miller fit in the defensive line next year?
John: As the starting nose tackle.
Richard from Las Vegas, NV:
Say Kelvin Beachum beats out Luke Joeckel for the left-tackle position. Do you think Joeckel kicks over to start on the right side, plays backup swing tackle, or is released? With as much cap room as the Jags had and still have, I don't see any problems retaining him until his contract expires.
John: If Beachum beats out Joeckel – and I think that's a very big if and in no way a guarantee – I think the first thing the Jaguars would do is get Joeckel a serious look at left guard.
Faian from Dominican Republic:
Hey there, Johnny Boy, so I was watching some tape on Jonas Gray and think he could benefit the Jags. Do you still see the possibility of him being a third-option running back behind Yeldon and Ivory? I know he hasn't had much playing time throughout his career but he seems to be a hard-running running back who can definitely serve as a backup if either Yeldon or Ivory goes down.
John: I absolutely think Gray could be a third running back.
Steve from Jacksonville:
Is it mandated that the middle linebacker wears the "headset helmet" on defense or could that go to safety or, well, anyone on defense? I ask since it's possible that we could have a rookie inside linebacker and a free safety with some real smarts. Rock on, O-Man.
John: Any player can wear the headset device inside the helmet, though it's traditionally a middle linebacker or a linebacker who moves to the middle in the event of an injury to the middle linebacker.
Zac from Orange Park, FL:
My mind says Bosa ... My heart says Jack ... Dave always holds his cards close to his chest, what do you think his game plan is?
John: To keep holding his cards close to his chest, then to take the best available player, which I expect at that point to be Bosa.

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