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O-Zone: Game-changer

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
John, if I were a betting man, I'd say a Kansas City-Arizona/Smith-Palmer Super Bowl could happen – and both quarterbacks were available in free agency when Dave Caldwell took the helm. If we were so void of talent elsewhere, why further compound positional deficiencies by using a No. 3 overall pick on a developmental quarterback when two more-than-competent former No. 1 overall picks that already had moved past their respective young-quarterback growing pains were available – and could also offer greater draft flexibility? I'm going to go with history often dictates that a rookie quarterback allows for another year of security for first-time general managers, but am interested in your opinion. Either way, I guess it's good he's interested in winning four years later, as the fans have waited long enough.
John: The decision to draft a franchise quarterback rather than sign one stemmed from the Jaguars' overall building plan under Caldwell, which was to draft and develop the core of the roster – as opposed to building through free agency. The idea was to build a team that could contend for the postseason for a long period. The No. 1 building block in such a plan would be a franchise quarterback, so to sign a veteran quarterback would have gone against that plan. As far as Caldwell's interest in winning, it has been high from the beginning, but his interest has been to build sustainable winning. From where the Jaguars began in 2013, that was going to take time.
Daniel from Windsor Heights, IA:
I also don't know what the number of games that Gus has to win next season is, but I'm pretty sure it's more than five.
John: Yes.
Craig from Auburn, IL:
I am curious why the Jaguars don't use a "true" fullback? Wouldn't a fullback help with pass blocking, giving Bortles more time to throw?
John: The Jaguars don't use a "true" fullback for much the same reason many NFL teams have gone away from the position; it is used so little it's not worth the roster spot to have a full-time player devoted solely to the position. Teams are more and more going the direction of having a defensive lineman or tight end play the role in short-yardage situations. Those situations are pretty much the only time most teams use a fullback these days. As far as Bortles getting more time to throw, fullbacks typically don't play much if at all in passing situations, so a fullback's impact on pass protection would be minimal.
Chad from Sinking Spring, MD:
With the No. 5 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select ... Jalen Ramsey, cornerback, Florida State University.
John: Yes, please.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
At the end of last season, Blake Bortles had a "dead arm." He took significant time off (compared to regular standards) in the offseason to rest it and then spent a lot of time tweaking mechanics to prevent it from happening again. That did not appear to a problem down the stretch this year, so is it safe to assume he will be able to grow more as a quarterback this offseason? Can we expect to see a smarter, more-poised player with a greater knowledge of the game and a greater ability to read defenses and get the offense in the right situations?
John: Bortles' mechanics-based work last offseason indeed appeared to have the desired benefits. Not only did his level of play stay relatively consistent, he said his arm felt fine throughout the season. So, yes: there is a great deal of evidence to suggest Bortles has the ability to improve in the offseason. Now, as far as the knowledge of the game, poise and ability to read defenses – those things will come with film study and experience. That's a different task than improving mechanics. I wouldn't expect a dramatic, immediate difference. Improvement in that area likely will come incrementally.
Aaron from Chantily:
Zone, one thing about Fred Taylor was even in his last years he still possessed top-end speed. How do guys like Fred keep their speed while others drop off?
John: By being the sort of athlete that comes along once or twice every 20 years – if that.
Jim from Jacksonville:
Apparently, it's very helpful to coach in the Senior Bowl. Why have the Jaguars been privileged to coach in it so often lately?
John: The Senior Bowl typically asks the two teams with the worst records with returning head coaches to coach the game. So, while coaching the game can be helpful, doing so on multiple successive occasions is rare – and not exactly the "ideal scenario."
Brandon from Athens, GA:
Would you rather the Jags be in the playoffs but lose with an awful kick (e.g. Walsh) in the wild-card game, or not make the playoffs at all?
John: You always, always, always, always, always prefer to make the playoffs.
Josh from South, TX:
If we could pound the rock like in the old days, how beautiful our passing game would become with rollouts and play-action passes. What do you think, O?
John: I think the Jaguars without question need to at least establish the threat of the run better than they did this season. The Jaguars' offense, while infinitely more explosive this season than it has been in a long, long time, lacked efficiency; establishing the run would improve that.
Mark from Basildon, England:
John, on the subject of Tony Boselli and the Hall of Fame: how do you feel he would cope in today's league? Am I right in presuming players are fitter, faster and – in some instances – bigger? The flip side of this question is how would Luke Joeckel have coped in the same era as Boselli? Would he have been more effective than now?
John: I don't think either player would fare significantly differently if they had played in the other eras. Boselli played in the late 1990s, and the players aren't all too much different physically now than they were then.
Jonathan from Fort Stewart, GA:
So, when Boselli does finally make it into the Hall, I'm guessing he will most likely want the Wizard of O-Zone to induct, right? You two being so chummy and all?
John: I'm certain Boselli has a better option for the Hall induction speech, which I do believe he will make eventually. But if you're asking if I have a thing or two I'd like to say about Boselli given that sort of forum … yeah, I've got some thoughts.
Dalton from UCF:
In your opinion, who has a better chance of being on the roster next season: Sergio Brown or Josh Evans? For some reason, I'm leaning more toward Josh Evans...
John: Sergio Brown is a very good special teams player, so that will always factor into whether he makes a roster, but as far as the free safety position … yeah, I guess I'd lean toward Evans, too.
J.J. Watt from Houston:
Using a high draft pick on a left tackle – or signing a high-cost free agent there – would be a SIGNIFICANT improvement.
John: If he indeed is better than Luke Joeckel, sure it would be. Whether or not the player drafted or signed would be such a player is a different question.
Tom from St. Augustine, FL:
As a fan, it seems we have a lot of good guys. Many teams have that Alpha Dog who the guys on his own team – and of course opposing teams – fear and take the opposite sidewalk ... do we have that guy who strikes fear in everyone?
John: There are times Shadrick scares the heck out of me. Does that count?
Mike from London, ON:
Assuming the list I just looked at is accurate, who'd you prefer to go after in free agency? Eric Berry or Eric Weddle? There were also some interesting guys listed as three-four outside linebackers such as Tamba Hali and Von Miller. Would those types of guys be suitable as LEOs?
John: The first thing to remember about free-agent lists is they almost always look a lot different – and a lot less attractive – when free agency begins. That's because teams typically re-sign or franchise/transition their best players to get them off the market. That makes Weddle intriguing because he appears very likely to hit the market. I like the idea of Berry, and I also like the idea of either Hali or Miller, though I can't imagine the Broncos not re-signing Miller. Hali is interesting because he turns 33 in November, and even though General Manager David Caldwell said he would go after older players than he has in previous offseasons … well, 33 would mean a big decision and big risk, to say the least.
David from Durban, South Africa:
Even though Boselli did not make the final round, do you think there is a silver lining if Terrell Davis is voted in as he similarly had an injury-shortened career? Do you think it opens the door for the argument in favor of Boselli's ascension to the Hall of Fame?
John: Yes.

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