JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Mike from Atlanta, GA
This approach of building a flexible roster that can play varied defensive alignments feels a bit like Moneyball. Is it kinda like the Oakland Athletics when they started that? They didn't go out and sign three guys who could crank out 60-plus home runs. They signed a guy who was good at getting on base, a guy with a high rate of contact to bat behind the guy who gets on base, etc. This feels like that and I'm excited to see it play out on the field. I think inflexibility with the roster, or the inability to adapt and change because of roster personnel, has killed many a playoff run. If the opposing team is killing you with one thing, you aren't stuck. You can adapt and change the personnel and alignment. Seems like a great approach.
While I don't hate the analogy, I don't know that I would go quite so deep as you did on this one. The Jaguars this offseason certainly are talking about flexibility on the defensive front, but that's fairly common in the NFL these days. Most teams play hybrid defensive fronts that vary based on game situations. The Jaguars' defense in the previous regime was a 4-3 base, but there were 3-4 principles in some situations. This scheme figures to be essentially a 3-4 base with a lot of 4-3 principles, so it's reversed in a sense – but not entirely different. Or something like that. Former defensive end Calais Campbell, remember, lined up at defensive end in base and at defensive tackle in nickel situations with the Jaguars from 2017-2019. He made Associated Press All-Pro at both spots in 2017. The Jaguars aren't trying to reinvent personnel acquisition this offseason. They're just trying to get better and find pieces that fit. And I do expect there will come a time when they want and pursue the 60-home-run player. They may even have a few on the roster waiting to show they're that.
Jason from North Pole, AK
All these flashy fast guys in the draft are making me forget that I have one priority as a fan and that's make sure Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry doesn't run the ball down our throats all over again. Do you think Doug Costin, Taven Bryan, Malcom Brown and DaVon Hamilton can get the job done? I would be prioritizing defensive linemen early in this draft. We can get the flashy guys in the middle rounds.
The Jaguars believe they're better-equipped on the defensive interior to stop the run than a year ago, though there's little question not signing defensive tackle Tyson Alualu – who returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers – hurt this area. The Jaguars in addition to the four players you mention believe players such as Roy Robertson-Harris and Daniel Ross to varying degrees can be a factor against the run. Here's the challenging part about prioritizing defensive linemen early in this draft. One is it's tricky in any draft to get immediate defensive help up front; if it's immediate impact you need, it's usually best to target veterans. The other issue is this isn't considered a great draft on the defensive interior. That doesn't mean you can't find good players, but it could limit the number of defensive linemen you want to take early.
Nick from Palatka, FL
Hey, Zone. I know the consensus No. 1 pick in three weeks is going to be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but I've been through a few draft-day disappointments and really don't want the Jags to screw this up. Is there a specific person in charge of writing our first pick down on that card? If so, are they training hard to get it right? Because if they approach the task with overconfidence, they might not get every letter right and end up with something like TRE ... LA...NCE!! Please tell me management is on top of this.
Fear not, Nick. The only person who might make this error is Tony Boselli. I'm told he will be in Jacksonville assisting with our draft coverage with his usual tried-and-true approach of "showing up when I feel like it and asking people, 'Do you know who I am?''' So, the No. 1 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft will be made accurately and without incident.
Charles from Riverside
Hello, John. The other day you mentioned the "Box" in one of your responses. The term has been around for years, but I realized I don't really know the exact confines of the box on defense. If in fact there is an exact field description? Back in the day, when bump-and-run was still in place, you might hear the announcer call out eight players in the box on defense during a play. How would you define the parameters of the Box in the Modern Era? Thanks.
The box in theory refers to the area just behind the line of scrimmage and between the tackles/tight ends – or anyone lined up "on the line." But you're right that it's more often described by announcers and analysts as anything at the line of scrimmage. It's a term given to inaccuracy, though admittedly in relatively harmless fashion.
Blake from Parts Unknown
JO: In the middle of the night when my wife was sound asleep, she starts cooing "Trevor, oh Trevor," so can you add her name to the 18 million draftniks who say the Jags will take TL first in the draft?
Sam from Frenetteville
Wrestlemania is fast approaching. Any truth to the rumors Gene Frenette will challenge Tom Brady and the incoming JU basketball coach to a steel cage match? Lest we all forget, I was there when Eugene "Daddy Cool" Frenette slammed Andre the Giant, with ease I might add.
Longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette fears no man – Hall-of-Fame quarterback, mid-major college basketball coach or otherwise. Insulted, Gene once challenged Poison lead singer Brett Michaels to a duel with epees and a small bag of stones. Michaels reportedly wanted no part of "our boy." Good decision, Brett. Gene takes on all challengers. In and out of the ring. He is at present "unbeaten."
Dave from Oviedo, FL
KOAF, true or false: In the entire existence of the Jacksonville Jaguars, we have had just one player on the roster who won the Heisman Trophy, Desmond Howard in 1995?
True, with the caveat that 1989 Heisman Trophy winning-quarterback Andre Ware of Houston was on the Jaguars' offseason and preseason roster in 1995 but did not make the regular-season roster.
Zac from Austin, Tejas
Perspective: What percentage of teams do you think they finally have the right pieces in place to make a run for the playoffs? I would say 100 percent of them. I'm still hesitant.
Zac is all in.
Steve from Sunroom Couch
Dear John. Does your wife know about Zac from Austin, Tejas?
She knows he asks good questions, and she knows I'm awesome at answering them. Beyond that, she knows to mind her business.
Andy from Lindale, TX
Any truth to the rumor that the Culligan Girl has challenged you to a game of Mattel Electronic Football?
Whoever you're talking about, she doesn't want any part of that.
Garrett from Edgetown
Zone, you recently referenced some called "The old Emory and Henry." As an alumnus, Jags fan, and brief collegiate athlete I have to know what that is. I do remember something about a ridiculous come-from-behind at Ferrum College, I think. Can you please clarify this one for me?
The Emory and Henry refers to a formation in which three offensive linemen line up in the middle of the field with a lineman split wide to each side and lined up next to a wide receiver. It has been used as a trick play formation on various occasions through the years, and Head Coach Steve Spurrier liked to talk about it when I was covering him at the University of Florida in the early 1990s. Go Wasps.
David from Orlando, FL
Of all the Covid-related rule changes, the one I hope they keep is the one allowing players to return from injured reserve. Do you appreciate any rule change more than that one?
I liked allowing players to return from injured reserve, too. The league gradually has bent on this rule over the last decade, creating a short-term injured reserve from which one player could return after eight weeks and later allowing two such players. The league allowed all players to return after three weeks last season because it wanted roster flexibility with COVID-19 creating such an unusual circumstance. I don't think we'll see the IR rules quite so flexible after life returns to "normal." But I do think the league will continue to get more flexible in this area.
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ
O-man, has Trevor reached out to you yet for advice on where he should settle down in Jax yet? What recommendation will you give him?
He has not. Springfield, baby.