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O-Zone: Dealbreaker

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Tony from St. Louis, FL

We have seen a lot of talent leave or traded. We are told this is the plan, to give away all these talented players. Yet, you tell us – and they tell us – they are trying to win. Everyone watching outside the Jaguars' bubble sees actions that don't match the we-are-trying-to-win narrative. If the reports are true that they plan to ship Yan off for a second-round pick – and with the issues going on with the defensive line – why should we believe that they are trying to win and not tank?

First thought first: The Jaguars never said their plan was to "give away all these talented players." But it is true that when they signed unrestricted free agents such as defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye in 2016 and 2017, they structured the contracts in such a way that it was extremely likely the players would be released or traded for salary-cap reasons before their contracts expired. So yes … that part was pretty much the plan. And the 2020 offseason was therefore predestined to become what it became: a time for getting the salary-cap in order for future seasons and for replenishing the franchise's core with a large draft class. As for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue … the "reports" that led to your anger appear to have been incorrect; General Manager David Caldwell on Thursday called them erroneous – though it is, of course, possible Ngakoue could be traded if the Jaguars get a deal too good to forego. I would be surprised if a trade for Ngakoue involved interior defensive linemen because I doubt any team will give the Jaguars top-level young defensive tackles in the deal – and why should the Jaguars trade Ngakoue for average players? Still, the bottom line on the tanking discussion is this: Whatever the perception of "everyone who is watching outside of the Jaguars" bubble, the team wants to win. I don't know how successful it will be doing so, but that doesn't mean the desire isn't there. What should you believe? That's entirely up to you.

Terry from Cordele, GA

The losses on the defensive line seem to be concerning, but we have a "crafty" quarterback. In your time covering the NFL, who have you seen as an ultra-successful "crafty" quarterback?

I haven't seen many "ultra-successful" crafty quarterbacks. But to be fair, I haven't seen that many "ultra-successful" quarterbacks of any kind. They're comparatively rare. Peyton Manning. Tom Brady. Drew Brees. Aaron Rodgers. Dan Marino. Brett Favre. John Elway. Warren Moon. Steve Young. Troy Aikman. Patrick Mahomes is certainly getting there. Those are names that come to mind in the last 25 years, and I would consider all more prototypical than crafty. I do believe Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II can be "regular-successful," "happily successful," "moderately-successful" or even "pretty successful." Considering how long it has been since the franchise had any level of "successful" at the position, I suppose the team would like any of those versions.

Chris from Mandarin

Should the Jaguars consider bringing back tight end Nick O'Leary, or did he not really do enough last year to justify the move even with Josh Oliver being out?

O'Leary plays for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC

How much (or little) did former Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin have to do with Ngakoue demanding a trade? Seems that drafting running back Leonard Fournette as highly as the team did was mostly TC's call. I would assume the decision to extend quarterback Blake Bortles was also what he pushed for, though maybe it was General Manager David Caldwell or others who pushed for it and Coughlin just made the executive decision. If Yannick goes on to have a good-to-great career, without costing a team elite defensive money, then that's about as bad of an impact as an executive could have in a team in just a few years, right? Unless Coughlin's approach was not a significant factor in Ngakoue's dissatisfaction.

Responsibility for all that happened during his tenure ultimately falls to Coughlin; he had final say over all football decisions. At the same time, it's unrealistic to say Coughlin was solely to blame for all that ailed the Jaguars in recent seasons. It takes a village, as they say. Also: The Jaguars did go to the AFC Championship Game in his tenure. If you're going to assess blame for mistakes, he also must get some credit for that season. As for Ngakoue's specific and ultimate reasons for demanding a trade … considering the rhetoric, the tweets and the emotional nature of the issue, I can't say for certain we'll ever know. Maybe it will be in the book. I'd read it.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

From your observations thus far, do we have a serious connection with Minshew and DJ Chark Jr.? They look like a budding Peyton Manning/Reggie Wayne connection (jokes aside, I really love their chemistry ... it's exciting). Second, is there any way our newest giant receiver doesn't make the roster? I feel like there's no way you can keep six receivers or five and Collin Johnson not be on the list. He's going to be a red-zone monster.

Minshew and Chark showed good chemistry last season, and all indications early in training camp are that it's getting better. Chark had a remarkably good practice Thursday and appears to be poised to take a major step forward. He's making it very easy right now for a quarterback to have chemistry with him. As for rookie wide receiver Collin Johnson … yes, I expect him to be on the roster.

Mike from Rochester, NY

So, from all accounts, the offense has completely dominated the defense in the practices so far. What should we make of this? Is our offense that good? Is our defense that bad? Or is the offense showing up over the defense just a result of the way these practices are run?

The offense appears ahead of the defense. Chark look very good, and Minshew appears to have a good feel for the offense. The defense is in a major transition in terms of personnel. It's not particularly surprising that there would be some hiccups there early. What's impressive is that the offense appears in sync. Considering this is offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's first week of contact practice with the team, and his second week of any kind of real practice here, that's a good sign.

unhipcat from carlsbad, ca

Hi, John. Tough break for Josh Oliver. (No pun intended.) You wrote that since he went on injured reserve before September 6, he is ineligible to return this season. Can you shed any light on why the Jaguars made that decision made now and didn't delay it a couple weeks? Is the injury one it takes so long that the operation/recovery/rehab would take so long that he'd be unable to contribute this year? Just trying to understand. Anyway, I feel bad for the man. Thanks.

Yes, the injury is such that the team doesn't believe he will be able to contribute this season. That's the reason he was placed on injured reserve now and not after September 6.

Craig from Ponte Vedra, FL

Can't we just cut Yannick and not pay him? If his holdout continues into the season, it seems it could be a distraction. At the end of the day - is that worth it?

Yes, the Jaguars can release Ngakoue and not pay him. But he is very good pass rusher and therefore has value. Releasing him would be ridiculous and is not remotely a consideration.

Mark from Jacksonville, FL

John, I have a question for you. But let me preface it by saying I can't quit going back and looking at the Minshew highlights of 2019. So, my question is: if you had your choice would you rather have a 6-feet-5 quarterback with a cannon for an arm or would you rather have a winner?

The question is phrased as an either/or scenario. Ah … if only the NFL were so simple. I would in one sense rather have a "winner" at quarterback, because NFL history is littered with prototypical quarterbacks with cannons for arms who have failed because they didn't have the "intangibles" – leadership, feel, clutch gene, etc. – that ultimately allow a quarterback to succeed. But that same NFL history also is littered with quarterbacks rich in intangibles who failed because they don't have the measurables – arm strength, size, etc. – to succeed in the best football league in the world. If the answer were easy, it would be easy to find quarterbacks and every team would have one. The answer is incredibly difficult. Which is why every team doesn't have one.

Bob from Sumter, SC

My sources tell me the Jags were close to trading Ngakoue, but the other team insisted you were included as part of the package and the Jags refused to budge.

I am the king of all funk.