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O-Zone: Confidence in sunshine

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Al from Orange Park, FL:
For a while after '99, the Titans were our bitter rivals. For a long time while we were struggling and the Colts were winning the division every year, maybe they were. Do we have a bitter rival now? None come to mind. Something about kicking the stuffing out of the potential candidates somehow makes them feel less like bitter rivals ....
John: Long answer: Rivalries often are in the eye of the beholder, but they're typically built when teams play in games with high stakes – and when both teams have won a game or two that leave the fans of the other team frustrated, angry and staying off Twitter for the week or so following the game. Shorter answer: Rivalries grow in importance when one team causes one another pain. That's why it feels as if the Jaguars don't have bitter rivals right now. They weren't good for a long time, so individual games weren't all that big and individual losses didn't hurt all that much; players typically don't postgame Twitter taunt an opposing player from an 2-9 team. If the Jaguars stay good for a while – and if other teams in the division or conference remain good enough to play the Jaguars in big games for a few years in succession – you will feel the rivalries grow. As for candidates, Tennessee feels like it's getting there. The Titans did beat the Jaguars twice last season, but the fact that the Jaguars won the AFC South and made the AFC Championship Game whereas the Titans did not do either made those losses feel less devastating for the Jaguars. The Texans also could grow into a rivalry. Or the Steelers. Or even the Patriots. The potential is there.
Dave from DUUUUVAL:
Dear Mr. O: I refuse to watch the NFL Draft because of the "Hat"!
John: Thanks for sharing, Dave.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
How are they going to fill the gap Poz left? Will they aim to find a starting-level linebacker? Will it be a middle linebacker or strong-side linebacker? Would they draft for this or try to fill with a free agent after the draft or after the training-camp cuts?
John: The plan for now is to start Myles Jack in the middle and have Jack and Telvin Smith play linebacker in nickel packages, which likely will be about 65-to-70 percent of the plays. If the Jaguars don't add another starting-level linebacker, second-year veteran Blair Brown likely will play the strongside position in base situations – and that's a legitimate possibility. The Jaguars could draft either a strong-side or middle linebacker; Jack probably would play the other linebacker position in that scenario. This is one of the more fascinating questions entering the draft and I would be surprised if the Jaguars don't address the position later this month in some capacity.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
You are right on with the Dez Bryant. His skills are a good fit for this team provided he is a good shipmate. He would score a lot of touchdowns with the Jaguars. Very good in the red zone if he is healthy! He has nice size, but will he block? If he was all in, how do you not go after him?
John: There are many factors to consider when pursuing any free agent, Bryant included. Money. Fit. The player's desire to play for your franchise. Whether the player is indeed worth what the player wants. Whether the player is still the same player he was when he was younger. I'm sure the Jaguars have discussed Bryant. Whether the factors will come into play to sign Bryant is anyone's guess at this point. I think it's a possibility. I don't know yet if it's a probability.
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ:
O-man, have you ever wondered why people put ketchup on their hot dogs?
John: I put ketchup on hot dogs.
Jason from St. Augustine, FL:
Colin Kaepernick would make a great backup: speed, arm, playoff experience, he is rested, his price would be pretty low. Shad Khan is a man who stood up to Donald Trump and other haters in an article and on the field in a symbolic gesture with kneeling players. Other teams either keep or have kept actual violent criminals on their rosters. This one kneels for justice for a minority group with a long history of oppression in the US. This is a no-brainer.
John: An NFL team's decision on whether to sign Kaepernick is in no way a "no-brainer." If that were the case, he either would be signed by a team or have retired. Khan has been on record as saying he wouldn't have a problem with the Jaguars signing Kaepernick in terms of the off-field issues. That apparently makes this a football issue – though there's no question Kaepernick brings with him extenuating, tricky off-field issues that most teams must seriously consider before signing him. The Jaguars showed no interest in signing Kaepernick last season, and I don't anticipate them changing their course this season.
Steven from Duval:
I'm sure you are getting tons of Dez Bryant questions, but I have to ask: IF the front office wanted to free up some money to sign him, would it be possible to release Marqise Lee from his new contract? How much money would that free up? More curious than anything; I know it is very doubtful. Thanks O.
John: Releasing Lee not only wouldn't save the Jaguars any money against cap, it would cost them nearly $12 million in 2018 and $3 million in 2019 against the cap. Besides … not only couldn't the Jaguars release Lee to make room for Bryant, I doubt very seriously they would want to do it if they could. The Jaguars like Lee and believe he's a good fit for what they want to do offensively. There are other moves the Jaguars could make to sign Bryant – you usually can free up space in the short term if you so desire. I would consider it a long shot at this point.
Gary from Palatka, FL:
How could you say no to tight end in the first round? Given the quality of players at the position in this year's draft, that's exactly the position the Jaguars should be targeting early.
John: You may be right – and the Jaguars indeed may draft a tight end in the first round. If they do, it appears they could have their choice of highly-rated players at the position at No.29 overall including Hayden Hurst of South Carolina, Mike Gesicki of Penn State, Mark Andrews of Oklahoma and/or Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State. But while all of those players at some point have been projected in the first round, all just as often have been projected in Round 2 or later; there are also many analysts who believe while this is a good tight-end class, it's perhaps not a great one. That raises the very real possibility that at least one of the aforementioned group could be available late in Round 2. If the Jaguars really love a tight end, then it makes sense to take one at the end of Round 1. If they consider all of them relatively equal, then drafting another position in Round 1 and circling back to tight end in Round 2 might make more sense.
Emil from Tallahassee, FL:
Is there a Go Fund Me to send the Zone on vacation? If not, I think it's long time we start one. You've been at this a while, you deserve a white, sandy beach with no internet connection for a while.
John: If I'm starting a Go Fund Me account, I'm damned sure casting a wider net with a loftier goal than a vacation. #BuyZoneACar #ormaybeacoolscooter #oratleastaniceshirstfromthemenscasualssectionatSteinMart
Paul from Gainesville, FL:
John, Dez Bryant is available!!!! I'm pretty sure J.J. Stokes is too.
John: J.J. Stokes? He's 45 years old and last played in the NFL 15 years ago. I doubt the Jaguars would sign … oh. That's what you meant.
Bluto from Jacksonville:
I remember a couple years back when you were asked, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" And, Zone you were right, it wasn't over for the Jags then, we did come back, Thanks John, Thanks Zone, it's good to be back.
John: The Germans didn't bomb Pearl Harbor. The Japanese did. Anyone who went to high school and took a basic United States history course should … oh. I get it.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I do not really know what is going on with your life right now. I know whatever it is it do not give up your confidence. There are only 32 of you guys in the NFL. No matter what happens you are a very important person in this world and I know you did not get there by accident. Happy day are coming but it's OK if that takes time.
John: I'm happier than I've ever been. It's a low bar.

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