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O-Zone: For simplicity's sake

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Keith from Jacksonville:
With Carolina just coming off Super Bowl 50 and the fact that the Panthers now have been to two Super Bowls while the Jags have yet to be in one, what kind of extra stress and sense of urgency is on [General Manager] David Caldwell to build a winner in 2016? What would go through his mind knowing that, injuries aside, he must hit on every single player acquisition or else he's out of work?
John: Believe it or not, I've received more than a few emails in recent days/week on this same subject – that of whether the Carolina Panthers' success this past season somehow affects the Jaguars' psyche or their approach this offseason. Um … no. Look, the expansion season was 1995, and the expansion-comparison story faded soon after that – pretty much around the time both teams made the conference championship games following the 1996 season, if I recall correctly. Whatever the specific time, the "rivalry" certainly doesn't have the faintest influence on Caldwell's nerves or his approach to the 2016 offseason. And I don't get the idea Caldwell is under pressure to hit on every decision in the coming weeks and months. He's under the same pressure a lot of people are under around the Jaguars – to continue showing the development shown last season and to win more. That doesn't mean hitting on every player acquisition, though it does mean being right this offseason on some big decisions.
Confused from Jacksonville:
Dear John, I keep hearing we need an upgrade at linebacker. We obviously aren't talking about Telvin. Poz is the quarterback of the defense. Dan Skuta was seen as a solid free-agent signing. Where is the upgrade needed? Are we talking about an upgrade needed on passing downs or every down?
John: Both. Skuta was solid this season and the Jaguars appear in no hurry to part ways. At the same time, Otto linebacker is a position where the Jaguars may be able to get faster and more athletic. The same is true at middle linebacker. Posluszny indeed is the defense's quarterback and he's very, very good on first and second downs in run situations. At the same time, middle linebacker is a position where the Jaguars may be able to get faster in passing situations.
Scott from Orlando, FL:
Do you see the NFL trying to put in more rules to help offenses because of people complaining how boring the Super Bowl was? I have felt that the rules keep trying to favor high-scoring affairs because of "excitement!" but I actually enjoyed the defensive game (even though I wish the Panthers would have won).
John: I doubt you'll see many rules changes to help offenses. The rules are already skewed pretty heavily toward offense and for the most part, teams pass more effectively than ever. One area you might see a rules change or "emphasis" is pass blocking. Offensive line play is struggling overall. Could something be done to allow offensive linemen more offseason practice time? More padded work? A rule to make pass protection more effective? I doubt it in the short term, but for the most part around the NFL this season pass rush seemed to beat pass protection. That was evident in the Super Bowl, but it was evident in a lot of places around the NFL all season.
Darren from St. Louis, MO:
John, is Robert Nkemdiche a guy the Jags may look at in the second round? I know he is a first-round –heck, even Top 10 – talent, but do you think the off-field issue could have him drop that far?
John: The off-field issue could drop him significantly, particularly when you combine it with Nkemdiche's production at Ole Miss not always matching his talent. That combination doesn't help draft stock, but could he be a second-round possibility? Yeah, maybe.
Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
John, If another team drafted a developmental quarterback – meaning everyone in the building believed he would be better off sitting for an entire year behind (what will essentially be) a career backup – and took him at No. 3 when there was still incredible Pro Bowl-type, pass-rush talent on the board; would that be reaching? I now realize the Jags are above reproach in this regard for the purposes of this column, but if another team did that, would it be reaching?
John: Not if the other team needed a quarterback. I understand some people believe the Jaguars erred drafting Blake Bortles over Khalil Mack, but if you don't have a franchise quarterback, that's the priority. Suppose the Jaguars had passed on Bortles for Mack and another team had drafted Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr before the Jaguars were back on the clock? Then, the Jaguars would have Mack – and yes, that would be awesome. But would they have had a quarterback? Look, I honestly don't yet know if Bortles is going to be a franchise guy. I think he must improve significantly in his accuracy and decision-making before he gets there. But to think the Jaguars made a mistake by taking him … no, I don't think that. They had the guy they liked and they took him. It was time.
Zain from Orlando, FL:
Do you see a quick negotiation happening between the Broncos and Brock Osweiler so they don't have to think twice about putting the franchise tag on someone other than Miller? Or do you think they let him dare to see what the market brings in?
John: I don't know Osweiler or the Broncos' people enough to have insight into what will happen, but if I'm Osweiler I'm thinking I want to play on a Super Bowl-contending team that wants me. And if I'm the Broncos, I'm thinking I've seen enough from this guy to make me want him. When sides are thinking that way, things have a tendency to get done quickly.
Jason from Falling Waters, VA:
Ryan Davis, Abry Jones and Andre Branch are all UFAs. My belief is none of them will be brought back, and that would be the best for the future of this team. DeForest Buckner can play three- and four-technique and would bolster the front seven tremendously. O knows best … thoughts?
John: Davis and Jones are actually restricted free agents, and I don't know that the Jaguars benefit from not bringing Jones back; he's quality depth. Either way, my thought on DeForest Buckner at No. 5 is that he wouldn't be a bad thought at all.
Benjamin from Jacksonville:
A lot of people say free agents don't want to come to Jacksonville because they are a perennial loser and have very little talent on defense. However, I believe people overlook the ego of free agents. Most of these guys have been told their whole life they are the best at their position. They don't look at a roster and say, "Is there anyone who will make me look better?" I think they look at a roster and say, "I can stand out. I can make this team get over the hump. I will be THE guy." Obviously it's deeper than that, but I would expect many players to have that I-can-be-the-difference-maker mindset. Am I way off?
John: Free agents look at a roster and say, "How much money is that team offering?" and then they say, "Is that enough more than what my former team is offering to make it a cool thing to sign there?" After that, they say, "What are my chances of going to the playoffs?" They say other things, but those are a couple of the most important things.
Matt from Section 138 and Jacksonville:
I heard a certain Pride Inductee discussing Reggie Nelson was going to be a free agent this year. He talked about how he still has a home in Jacksonville and he's heard rumors Nelson may want to return to JAX. What are your thoughts if we're unable to get Weddle? Could Reggie be an option? He appears to have matured since leaving JAX.
John: I can't speak to Nelson's maturity in Jacksonville when he was here because I wasn't here at the time. I do know he appears to be a good scheme fit in Jacksonville, and I think he would be a good scheme fit at free safety in this defense.
Michael from Jagsonville:
If Jalen Ramsey is available at No. 5, we take him. It's that simple. This is the player the Jaguars have been saying they need since Gus Bradley got here. Sure, we are going to address needs in free agency, but if you're drafting best player available or biggest need, Ramsey fits both scenarios at No. 5. If we pass on the next Ed Reed, I promise you Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens won't. I'm not in the giving mood. Draft Ramsey and let's lock down the 'Bank.
John: I think the Jaguars may very well take Ramsey No. 5 overall, but if there's an impact pass rusher there, the decision will not in any way be "simple."

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