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O-Zone: Do it again

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it … Andrew from Jacksonville:
They fined Barry Church...
John: My first thought when I heard they fined Jaguars safety Barry Church for his hit on Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship Game was it was ridiculous because there was no intent on Church’s part. When I heard the amount was $24,309, I laughed at the ludicrous nature of the fine – though I sincerely doubt Church is laughing. I thought the penalty under the letter of the NFL rules was necessary because Church’s helmet hit Gronkowski’s, but here’s the bottom line: if you’re going to throw that pass to tight ends and expect them not to get hit high by safeties, then you’re expecting the safety to either go at a tight end’s knees or allow the tight end to score. Which would you prefer the safety do? To fine a player for a play he couldn’t be expected to avoid … well, ridiculous is a nice way of putting it.
TC from Kingsland, GA:
If I am a referee working a Jaguars game, I will be watching the Jags and making sure that they don't get out of control. We have a young fiery team that likes to walk the line when it comes to the rules. We play fast, hit hard and talk loud. Would that not tend to let the benefit of the doubt go the other way? I know the coach does not want to take that fire away from them so we are going to not get the 50/50 calls go our way as often. It comes with that attitude we play with.
John: This was an issue a couple of times this past season, notably against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16. The Jaguars for the most part kept emotions under control in the postseason, and I expect they will continue to do so in the future. It’s tough to win with unnecessary penalties and this team wants to win.
Joe from Fleming Island, FL:
O-Zone: I know Marcell Dareus is under contract for next year. However, with the salary cap starting to be an issue, do you think he will be here for next year, the year after?
John: I think Dareus will be on the team next season. It’s best not to look beyond that for a lot of players on this roster.
Sid from Sidsonville:
The Jaguars players are brash, cocky and outspoken. I think overall it is good for the brand and reminiscent of the Miami Hurricanes of the 1980s and the Raiders when they were relevant. The swagger and the talent to back it up give this team a personality that allows the small-market team to gain attention and excitement in other parts of the country. Now, it just needs more playoff success to really take off.
John: There seems a good chance that your assessment is dead on – and there’s an equally good chance this past season is looked back upon as the season that the nation’s football consciousness became aware of the brash, confident Jaguars. I also think this past season will be one that a lot of people remember as the one that made them Jaguars fans. I said throughout the season that this was an easy team for people who were paying attention to like, and my guess is a lot of otherwise unattached football fans attached themselves to this team during the playoff run that just ended. Not only are they Jaguars’ players brash, cocky and outspoken, players such as Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Fournette, Myles Jack, A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, Tashaun Gipson, Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus are at once compelling and likeable – and kind of easy to hate if you’re not a fan. That’s star power. Yes, playoff success will add fuel to this fire, but my sense is the flame already is burning pretty hot for this franchise.
Saud from Jacksonville:
What offseason improvements will the Jaguars make? I honestly feel we need a running back who's more of a finesse back with speed to complement Leonard Fournette. Additionally, I feel our offensive line really needs some work in terms of being better at opening holes for our running backs. What changes do you see in the offseason for the Jags?
John: I agree that the Jaguars will address running back this offseason, likely with a mid-to-late-round selection in the draft as a replacement for likely-to-depart Chris Ivory – but where you’re particularly spot on is offensive line. The Jaguars’ running game wasn’t as strong at key times in the regular season or the postseason as their No. 1 ranking in the area indicated, and the guard position appeared to struggle mightily at times. The mobility of quarterback Blake Bortles also saved the Jaguars from a lot of sacks. The line was very good at times, particularly in big games such as Seattle and the two Pittsburgh victories, but overall there were enough issues that changes are possible at guard and potentially right tackle.
Limo Bob from Neptune Beach, FL:
Isn’t Aaron Colvin much more valuable to us than just a nickel as he is also our third corner if Jalen Ramsey or A.J. Bouye go down?
John: Yes, Colvin absolutely is valuable and the Jaguars like him very much, but you can’t re-sign every good player. Sometimes you must draft and develop or sign a lower-priced player – and either could be the Jaguars’ route at nickel corner this offseason.
Robert from Middleburg, FL:
I get that Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns likely will not return next season. But for the life of me, I don't know why you would go wide receiver in the first round. I'd be very confident starting next year with Allen Robinson, and a more experienced Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole as my one, two and three. In my opinion tight end or offensive line is a no-brainer.
John: That could be the Jaguars’ route the Jaguars take. The catch: While both played very well for third receivers this past season, but I don’t know that either was as reliable as what you want from a No. 2 guy. If the Jaguars believe either or both will take a Year 2 jump, then they could re-sign Robinson and go with Westbrook/Cole. I expect they will want to add a front-line guy to the mix. We’ll see.
Greg from Carlsbad, CA:
When the Jags selected future All-Pro linebacker Telvin Smith, his supposed lack of size was a concern about whether he'd be able to play the position at an NFL level. How has he, as one of the league's smallest linebackers, been able to be successful?
John: He has been able to make a lack of girth matter comparatively little because of tremendous speed, instincts, football intelligent and quickness. He’s special and special overcomes a lot.
Igor from Jacksonville:
Hey John, I keep hearing about making sure we have cap room in the future for Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue and what will happen this offseason with A-Rob, Aaron Colvin, etc. But nobody said anything about Dante Fowler Jr.'s future. I know he is kind of in the same boat as Blake Bortles after the 2018 season and the team can pick up his fifth year option, but is the feeling that they won't be able to keep him? Nobody mentions him for the long term future. Why? Fowler certainly has a very high ceiling if you ask me.
John: The Jaguars this offseason indeed will have the option of picking up Fowler’s fifth-year option similar to what they did with Blake Bortles last offseason. They might do this because it’s a comparatively low risk. Will Fowler be a part of the Jaguars’ long-term future? Perhaps, but my guess is he would have to develop into a more consistent pass-rushing threat next season.
Matt from Philadelphia, PA:
I'm already in offseason mode thinking about how the team can improve next year. One thought that comes to mind is putting Jalen Ramsey in more packages to utilize his elite speed and skillset, such as punt returner or gadget plays on offense. I know you don't want a player doing and/or thinking too much, but we really need some dynamic players to take the pressure off of Fournette. Any chance we see something along these lines?
John: I could see Ramsey returning punts in big moments or when the Jaguars need a spark. I have a harder time seeing him on offense. I think the Jaguars will try to acquire dynamic offensive players to play offense rather than putting their most dynamic defensive player there.
Jared from Banning, CA:
While there are quite a few teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens who have recovered from tough conference championship losses, there are also the 2014 Indianapolis Colts and 2010 New York Jets types, who completely bombed after. How do we avoid being a Jets/Colts and be more like the Ravens?
John: Stay strong. Stay healthy. Keep playing good defense. Get quality quarterback play. Run well. In other words, pretty much what the Jaguars did in 2017.

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