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O-Zone: Don't ask, don't tell

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mark from Archer, FL:
John, my one hope for the growth of the Jaguars' coaching staff is that they stay aggressive. It felt like in a few games this season, once we had a tiny lead, they changed their game plan and played to just protect that small lead instead of trying to really add to it. The AFC Championship game to me felt that way also. Did you get this feeling in some games or is it just me?
John: I got the feeling Jaguars coaches this past season tailored game plans to what they believed were the strengths of their team, and I also have gotten the feeling many people have missed some key elements when discussing how the Jaguars approached games. And I indeed have heard this criticism a lot – that the coaches too often got "too conservative." Perhaps there were times that happened, but think about it: the strength of this team last season was the defense – and the offense had a young receiver corps with a running game that struggled at times to run when it needed to run, a quarterback who was inconsistent at times and a line that often struggled to protect in obvious passing situations. Is it silly to think that the approach that's going to give you the best chance to win most often is one in which you minimize turnovers and let your defense win games? Specific to the AFC Championship Game, remember: while the criticism is that the Jaguars "got conservative" in the second half, the Jaguars were for the most part backed up against their goal line throughout much of that time. They also during that time were struggling to run effectively and struggling to pass protect. Could the Jaguars during that stretch have passed once or twice more? Perhaps. But throwing while deep in your own territory while protecting a lead is great if it works; if it doesn't, it extends the game significantly – and reduces your chance to win – by giving the opponent extra possessions in really good field position. Far bigger issues than "aggressiveness" of the coaching staff are the ability of the offensive line to create holes for running back Leonard Fournette and to protect Bortles – and the ability of receivers to get open more consistently. If the Jaguars improve in the aforementioned areas, I think you'll see the game plans get more aggressive accordingly. It's tough to be aggressive in negative down-and-distance situations backed up against your own goal line.
Dave from Los Angeles, CA:
Now that I'm mostly over the AFC Championship Game loss, I find myself appreciating what a special season it was. I was a young kid when the Jags lost to the Titans in the '99 AFC Championship Game. I cried. But I was calmed by the naive assumption they would be back the next year. Instead, two decades of my life passed. After so much losing, seeing them finally make another championship game was absolutely surreal. It was a really long wait, and it underscores how special this team is from a historical perspective. Here's hoping these guys get another chance next year.
John: #DTWD
Dave from Orlando, FL:
Sir, O: To make the AFC Championship game, the Jags played two tough games – physically and emotionally – against Buffalo at home and Pittsburgh on the road. In the same time span, the Patriots had a week to rest and physically recover, then play what amounted to a scrimmage game against the Titans. I think we went into the AFC Championship physically and emotionally spent and running on fumes, while the Patriots were running on a full tank. In retrospect, resting players on the last meaningless game against Tennessee could've made a difference against New England. Do you think there's any truth to this?
John: I don't wear a uniform or a helmet, so this is speculation. But I didn't see the Jaguars as being spent emotionally or physically against New England. They certainly had some injuries to players such as ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue that didn't help, but it's hard to say those issues could have been prevented by resting in the regular-season finale.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brasil:
Does the Jaguars' brass believe that Bortles carried the 2017 to the postseason? It seems clear that a historically-great defense carried that team. Since it's unlikely that the defense will markedly improve, or stay that healthy, don't they need more at quarterback in 2018 and beyond?
John: No, no one around the Jaguars believes Bortles "carried" the team this past season – and there's little question that the franchise would love to have more at quarterback. It's one thing to "want more" at the quarterback position; attaining it can be tricky and you want to make sure you allot appropriate resources – and that the resources you use bring the desired results. You must be sure a quarterback you pursue is worth the investment and that he is a tangible upgrade. In the case of Kirk Cousins, perhaps he is such an upgrade. Perhaps the Jaguars will pursue him. Perhaps they will attain him. With five weeks remaining before free agency, that seems a real possibility – though I doubt we have a real feel for the Jaguars' direction in this area for some time.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, we all agree the Jaguars need to keep strengthening the offensive line. Can you imagine how great this team would play if we had an elite offensive line to block for Leonard Fournette? What are we talking about? 1,500 yards rushing? 2,000?!?! It seems clear that Andrew Norwell will be the best guard available in free agency. Any chance we take a swing at him? What about Nate Solder? Can he play right tackle?
John: Norwell and Solder are the consensus top guard and tackle, respectively, available in free agency this offseason, and it seems Norwell in particular would be an upgrade. I would be a little surprised if the Jaguars pursue either, though. I expect the Jaguars to address offensive line at least once and perhaps twice in the draft, but I don't expect a huge free-agency splash there. They didn't go that route last offseason when cap space wasn't as much of an issue. Now that the Jaguars are getting tighter against the cap, I doubt you will see them break the bank on a free-agent offensive lineman.
Thomas from Middleburg, FL:
Sure, what Josh McDaniels did was messed up, but isn't it the Colts' fault for announcing and promoting the hire before he signed on the dotted line?
John: I'm not inside the Colts' building, so I can't speak to the details of what was communicated between the organization and McDaniels. From an outsider's perspective, it seems both parties perhaps made mistakes. The mistake of announcing a hire before it is official is one scale – if indeed that is a mistake at all. The mistake of changing your mind about a job after assistant coaches have left other jobs to join your staff is on a different scale – and few would debate whether or not it was indeed a mistake.
Dominic from Quincy, FL:
Why do you still have Chad Henne?
John: Oh my God? I do?
Richard from Jacksonville:
Would you please explain what a reserve-futures contract means ... for the player and the team?
John: A player signed to a reserves-futures contract is on the team's offseason roster, but he doesn't count toward that league year's salary cap. They are typically players who weren't on active rosters at the end of the previous regular season, but who teams believe might have a chance to make the roster the next season.
Carlos from Mexico City, Mexico:
So, if a team was planning to announce a change in its uniform color - say, their gloves, socks or maybe even their helmet - and you asked the editor of the team's website as to when they could announce such a change – would the editor's answer be perhaps the owners meeting, the combine, the draft? On second thought, he may not know anything about it, I guess ...
John: If such a thing were to happen, and the team's senior writer were to receive a question about it, he might say maybe there would be an announcement coming soon. Like within a few days – that is, if he knew anything about it. If he were allowed to say anything. If he wasn't worried about the guys in the black sunglasses and suits behind the door grabbing him from behind. But why would he be worried about that? He is after all, a well-known, well-respected part of the team. He indeed might be thought of as part of the very fabric of his community – a pillar if you will. Or even if you won't. If a man so beloved were to disappear without a trace it would be a big deal – a crisis if you will. Or even if you won't. His fans would clamor for news of his whereabouts. There would be a hue and cry for his triumphant return. A collective sadness would settle over the community, rendering all unable to function until the mystery was solved. So, no way would anything untoward happe

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