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O-Zone: Easy there, fella

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jared from O-Town:
I get that depending on rookies is dangerous. I even understand that most rookies won't hit their stride until Year 2 or 3. Heck, I just watched NFL Network's Top 10 draft classes in NFL history; even those took three or four years before the team clicked. But six of the Jaguars' 11 losses were by a touchdown or less with one in overtime. That's a big swing in overall record if just a few plays go their way. Is this a rare situation when a draft class can push a team over the cusp?
John: I doubt it. I don't mean the Jaguars can't improve next season, but I don't expect this year's draft class necessarily to be what pushes them over the top. I do expect Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey – and Yannick Ngakoue to a degree – to have an impact next season; marginal at first perhaps, but bigger as they get deeper into the season. With or without Jack and Ramsey, I do believe this defense will improve next season with a chance to be really good the following season. Improving to just average next season – and specifically, improving to that level on third downs – should get the Jaguars to a point where they can get teams off the field consistently. That should give the offense more opportunities to be in games, to play with leads and to win games. That's why I still believe the Jaguars' 2016 season will rise and fall with the offense. If that group becomes an efficient, winning unit – which it was not last season, but which it absolutely can be next season – then, yeah … the team has a chance to get over the cusp.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
O-Man, how would you compare the talent level of Dante Fowler Jr. coming out of the draft versus that of Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey? Would you say he should be as good or better than they are?
John: Yes.
Dane from Jacksonville:
What's the difference between the role Ryan Davis plays ("inside" Leo) versus a three-technique guy like Sen'Derrick Marks? Does Davis typically line up at a different technique?
John: The difference is pretty much all the difference. Marks' three-technique role means he lines up at defensive tackle with run responsibilities on early downs and pass-rush responsibilities in passing situations. It's far more of an every-down, all-around position than Davis' interior Leo role, where he essentially lines up over an interior lineman in passing situations and focuses on rushing the passer. And yes … Davis at times does line up at outside Leo.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
I am upset. I moved here from Jax two years ago. I was a season-ticket holder from '10 to '14 … you know, the really good years. Now, the stadium has pools, terraces and big glass windows in the club seats. An amphitheater is coming. The offense can be downright exciting at times. Blake Bortles and the receivers look explosive and could reach the scary good level in the next two years. David Caldwell just hauled in too much defensive talent to not improve to at least a serviceable level. My friends from college, who made fun of me for years for being a Jags fan, are texting that they seriously think the Jags will win the AFC South this year. The national media is talking about the Jags. This feels like it's too many positives to not signal the shift in this team's fortunes is imminent. I have trained myself to not get my preseason hopes up after years and years of gut punches. However, this offseason is making it harder and harder to not drink the Kool-Aid just one more time. Help!
John: That's not the only reason your friends made fun of you, I bet.
Nigel from Toronto, Canada:
Hey, O man. I was happy to hear about Telvin Smith taking an even more active leadership role by calling the players-only meeting before the draft. Does something like that really have an effect with professional players? At the same time, there has been a lot of talk about the atmosphere around the Jags, and this might help to feed and sustain that. What do you think?
John: Sure, it can have an effect – and sure, it's a good thing. Smith is a good, young player on this team and it's good when your good, young players start maturing into young leaders. That appears to be happening, and Smith appears to have a chance to be leader and focal point of the organization. It takes more than an offseason meeting to achieve the goals this team wants to achieve, but it doesn't hurt to have core players setting a positive tone this time of year.
Geoff from Jacksonville:
All I want for Christmas is a 10-6 record. Is that too much to ask for?
John: It's not too much to ask at all. It's not too much to hope for. It is too much for me to predict, but it's sure not out of the realm of possibility.
Will from Jacksonville:
If all our defensive line currently on the roster stays healthy, who do you see lining up in these three scenarios: first-and-10 (base package), second-and-2 (run defense) and third-and-10?
John: There's a lot to shake out here, obviously. It likely won't be the same package every time the Jaguars are in first-and-10 and it sure won't be the same package every time the Jaguars are in third-and-10, but you'll probably see a lot of the following: Jared Odrick, Roy Miller, Malik Jackson and Dante Fowler Jr. (base); Odrick, Miller, Abry Jones and Tyson Alualu (short yardage, which these days is mostly goal-line); and Jackson, Sen'Derrick Marks, Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue in pass rush with some Odrick, Dan Skuta and Sheldon Day mixed in, too.
Paul from Gainesville, FL:
Until this week, I was unaware that assigned jersey numbers were a life-and-death matter. #learningnewstuff
John: Jersey numbers are cool. A lot of people like them. And a lot of people get very emotional about them, too.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
I'm excited about the offseason moves and the draft. Two things that concern me. One is that we have not really changed any coaching staff defensively. Was the issue last year really injuries and lack of talent more than coaching? Also, given the changes we have seen, what is a fan's REASONABLE expectation for this year? 8-8? I guess I don't want to get too hyped only to be disappointed by another really subpar season again.
John: So, one of your major concerns is that the Jaguars acquired a whole bunch of talent but didn't overhaul the coaching staff – and your other concern is you don't want to be so excited about all of the cool stuff the Jaguars got that you're disappointed if the Jaguars don't make the playoffs? All I can tell you, Greg, is that defensive coordinator Todd Wash and the rest of this staff are more than capable of putting this roster in position to succeed and that it's OK to get excited when you're a sports fan.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
So now the best thing we can hope for is no big injuries for the next four months or so and see what happens when the lights go on?
John: That would be a positive.
John from Jacksonville:
On paper, we have a version of a potential dream team. However, the paper will get coffee stains, torn, scribbles, and look somewhat different on opening day. The law of averages comes into play with factoring in some injuries (short term and season ending), a suspension or two, and some unexpected cuts during preseason. Hoping we escape the law of averages and avoid those injuries and suspensions.
John: Life happens to all NFL teams; it will happen to the Jaguars, too – and please, let's not call this a Dream Team until it wins a game or two.
Robert from the duuu:
O Man, is micro-fracture surgery really such a career-ender? People talk about it like it's the coming apocalypse for Myles Jack's career. Is it really that big of a deal? Could he play for three years, get the surgery, and continue to play at a high level a year later and enjoy a long career? People return from knee surgery all of the time; I just don't see how this could be so much worse or so permanent of a disability afterwards.
John: Yes, it is that big of a deal. Micro-fracture surgery is generally considered more career-debilitating and it is a significantly longer rehabilitation process than returning from, say, a torn anterior cruciate ligament. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but it does mean the concern is greater if a player needs micro-fracture surgery than if he sustains a "clean" torn ACL, for example.
Duval Doom from Section 217:
This team ignored quarterback for damn near 15 years. People are stupid.
John: Take it outside, Doom.

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