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O-Zone: Confidentially speaking

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Travis from Boynton Beach, FL:
Does the potential of a new starting left tackle indicate our beloved Jags may actually draft running back at No. 4 overall in the upcoming draft? If so, which running back best fits our team?
John: The potential acquisition of Branden Albert as the Jaguars' starting left tackle represents what the team clearly believes is an upgrade to the left side of the offensive line. I don't know that it's as much an indication about what the Jaguars will do at No. 4 as it is an indication that the Jaguars want to improve the offensive line. Still, though I wouldn't call running back at No. 4 a probability, I do think circumstances entering the draft could make it a distinct possibility. Either Dalvin Cook of Florida State or Leonard Fournette of Louisiana State make sense if you're taking a running back that early, because both have game-changing, No. 1-running back ability. The guess here is that Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin will favor Fournette's size, power and speed.
Mark from Orange Park, FL:
O-Man, in a perfect world you want a line that can pass block and run block equally well. If a line can run block well, does it normally mean they should and can pass block well? This past season has indicated that a team can give good pass protection but not run well. Final question … which do you think should be the higher priority: a good run-blocking or pass-blocking line?
John: I wouldn't say the Jaguars run-blocked or pass-blocked at anything close to a championship level last season, though they pass-blocked well enough to give quarterback Blake Bortles time to be effective. The priority depends on what style you want to play, but teams can get by these days passing and not being able to run well. Few teams can succeed even a little if they're getting their quarterback hit on every play.
Jeremy from Bossier City, LA:
I'm a huge Coughlin fan, but the initial offseason moves have not made this team better. So far, football operations are the still weakest part of the Jags' organization. That's not a good thing!
John: It doesn't sound as if your premise is correct.
Jeremy from Bossier City, LA:
Albert is five years older and not an upgrade over Kelvin Beachum. Beachum is a solid guy on and off the field. What exactly are we doing here?
John: This has not been discussed publicly by the team, but it's safe to interpret from the Jaguars' actions that they do not agree with the second part of your premise.
Jonathan from Wherever the Army Needs Me:
I always agree with every opinion you have, and have never questioned at times the VERACITY of your statements. With that said, I would like to say that if Julius Thomas, Odrick, and Beachum were worth keeping, then we probably would not have gone 3-13. We will get better with change. As long as the 2014 and 2016 classes are here, I'm good. We have to keep throwing money at free agents until we find the right ones. It's the nature of FA. Ol' Tom is gonna fix the O Line, Blake is gonna be his old 2015 self minus the turnovers, and we will take the best available players in the draft. We will be better! In the words of the late great Wham frontman, "You gotta have faith a faith a faith..... BABY!!!!! Schmidty out.
John: #DTWD
Glenn from Orange Park, FL:
Josh Wells has the measurables. What would you consider his ceiling to be. Are he and Tyler Shatley still growing and getting better or they are what they're going to be?
John: I consider both Wells and Shatley backups who are capable of starting in a pinch. That's what they have been thus far in their NFL careers, and that's what they are until they prove differently.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, I have been watching the NFL for 40-plus years. My opinion of what's a team's long-term outlook has been shrunk to one-to-two years. In this age of free agency it's difficult to keep a unit together. I really think an organization needs to concentrate on a year-to-year basis. To a certain extent "the future is now." Deal with what is rather than what the "plan" is, in theory. Without too much analysis of age, we need players that can help us now. The 2017 season is the most important in Jaguar history. Then the 2018 season will be the most important and so on. Look at the Patriots. They seem to overhaul their team almost every year.
John: The Patriots indeed have a tendency to churn a lot of their roster on an annual basis, and they have been known for a couple of decades for being able to release perceived front-line players while staying among the NFL elite. One thing they haven't churned in the last decade and a half is their elite quarterback, Tom Brady. Not churning that guy allows a lot of churning elsewhere.
Sam from Ponte Vedra, FL:
John, do you remember the statements you posted on here five years ago? For example (paraphrasing), "Rebuilding from the ground up by drafting and developing is the ONLY way to truly build a sustainable winning franchise." And, "We HAVE to ignore free-agency in 2013 in order to establish a culture," allowing for zero Zone-speak or debate of acquiring Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Cliff Avril, Sean Smith, Greg Jennings, Wes Welker or any of the players that could have really helped us. But, we're not the experts here, so assessing hindsight as it relates to our unquenched thirst for "sustainable winning," please tell us again why you think we're better off today for Dave having used the 2013 free-agency period to decorate his new office as opposed to actually bringing in players that could make the team better?
John: I trimmed a lot of your email because it went on and on for a long, long (long, long) time about the details of what I did and didn't say regarding the 2013 free-agency class. I honestly don't know if I said drafting and developing is the ONLY way to build a sustainable winning franchise, though I almost certainly said it's the best way to build a sustainable franchise. That's because drafting and developing is the best way to build a sustainable franchise. I also don't know that I said the Jaguars "HAVE" to ignore free agency to build a sustainable culture, though I'm sure I did say that that was the right approach at the time. That's because it was the best approach at the time. The Jaguars at the time had lost so much and were at such a low point that it was going to be difficult to make any discernable improvement through free agency partly because it would have been difficult to lure free agents to Jacksonville. That has become less of an issue in recent seasons. Now, it's true that the free agents that have been lured have yet to produce winning, but the team certainly has been able to lure better free agents than was the case if 2012 or that likely would have been the case in 2013. I remain unconvinced that free agency philosophically is a great way to build a team and the results of the more ballyhooed 2015 free agency class are examples of why I believe that. I honestly don't know if the Jaguars are better off today than they would have been in the unlikely event that they had been able to sign Cliff Avril or Wes Welker in 2013, but I do believe the Jaguars have a better foundation and therefore a better opportunity to improve quickly than they did four years ago. We'll see if I'm right. If not, I'm sure I'll get a really long email again in 2021.
Wayne from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Johnny O, you wrote recently, "The reason the Jaguars took the approach they did on the offensive line was they wanted the center position to be as strong as possible because it's the most important interior-line position..." My question is two-fold: Has that always been your position on the most important position on the line and if so, why? What about the left tackle, which has historically been one of the highest-paid positions in the NFL second to quarterback? I'm not saying you are wrong (yet); however, I am interested to hear your analysis to support this contention. Finally - I read your articles every day and I know I speak for a lot of fans when I say we really appreciate what you do despite whatever Jerell or your wife think.
John: My offensive-line analysis is at least partly based on left tackle not being an interior-line positon. As far as Jerell goes, I consider him a close friend – nay, a confidant – and I assume he feels the same. As for my wife …

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