JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Ray from Jacksonville
John: Well, it has not taken long for Urban Meyer's disregard for decency and what people think to surface. I would have hoped he would have learned his lesson and not hired a coordinator with such an embarrassing past. Yes, we have all made mistakes, but hopefully most would stop short of being naked in a drive-thru. Wow. Chalk it up to being professional football.
I'll address this once – and just once – in the O-Zone because it's well-documented public knowledge that former Jaguars defensive line coach Joe Cullen had a couple of high-profile off-field incidents about a decade and a half ago. This story outlines them pretty well, and also outlines extraordinarily well the steps Cullen took to rebuild his career and life in the wake of those incidents. I will say this: I was ecstatic when I learned Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer was trying to hire Cullen, who for more than a decade has been one of the NFL's most-respected defensive line coaches. And anyone who has spent any time around Cullen is ecstatic as well. He spent three seasons as the Jaguars' defensive line coach, from 2010-2012. I was around for the last two of those seasons. I can tell you I have been around few coaches – people, actually – I respect and like personally as much as Cullen. He is a remarkably good person with high integrity, in addition to being one of the best pass-rush coaches alive. He absolutely is ready to be a defensive coordinator. You say you would have hoped Meyer wouldn't have hired a coordinator with such an embarrassing past? You also say we all have made mistakes? Well, I say I would hope that it's OK to hire someone whose mistake is 14 years in the past and who has spent 14 years since doing what was necessary to move past that mistake. Pass self-righteous judgement on Cullen somewhere else from here on out. It won't be done here.
Michael from St. Louis, MO
O, This is more just out of curiosity than anything. In a recent Zone, you said you "agreed to disagree" with the assessment that the college overtime setup is "awesome." I'm not writing to agree or disagree with you; I'm actually just curious as to your thoughts on the subject in general. Do you actively dislike the college rules? Was that comment in relativity to the NFL setup? And how do you feel about the NFL arrangement?
I'm old – and therefore old school. I always liked the original NFL overtime format, with the first score of any kind winning the game. I'm OK with the current rules, with the offense needing to score a touchdown to end the game on the first possession and the game playing out after that if there isn't a first-possession touchdown. I never have liked the college overtime where each team gets an equal number of possessions from the 20-yard line and you keep playing until a team has a lead after those equal possessions. Or whatever it is. It makes the overtime drag and makes the games last far too long. And you will never see the college rule in the NFL. The risk of injury and increased wear and tear on players is far too great.
Donny from Lake Mary, FL, Section 35, Day 2
I agree that defensive tackle is the most important need after quarterback for the Jags and your mock draft reflected that, which makes sense to me if they feel the player is worthy of their second first-round pick. I noticed however that Daviyon Nixon from Iowa was the only defensive tackle that you selected in the first round, along with three edge rushers. That's four defensive linemen in the first round, which seems low. Do you know if this is a weak or above average draft class for interior linemen this year?
The first mock draft was an early mock – and any mock is a guess and therefore comparatively meaningless. Much will change. But early indications are this isn't a great draft year for defensive linemen.
Matthew from Washington, DC
You constantly bring up the Jaguars having loads of young talent, so can you kindly point me in the right direction as to what you're looking at? While you can include Chark, Shenault, Robinson and Allen in that conversation, adding anyone else would be a stretch based on performance to date. And more importantly, every team has at least four young guys that appear to be talented. My guess is most teams have A LOT more than that.
When I say the Jaguars have young talent, I'm referring to them having capable players – and potentially very good ones – at multiple positions: cornerback CJ Henderson, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Josh Allen, wide receivers Laviska Shenault Jr. and DJ Chark Jr. and running back James Robinson. The offensive line also has solid pieces with which to work. I don't know that I've said "loads of young talent," but you have some star capability in the players mentioned above. There have been times in this franchise's history that the cupboard has been barer.
Steve from Nashville, TN
Is DJ Chark Jr. deserving of a new contract before the start of camp next year?
This is a major question for the new decision-makers. Chark will enter his fourth NFL season next season; as such, he and the Jaguars can renegotiate for a long-term contract as of this offseason. After playing in the Pro Bowl following the 2019 season, he caught just 53 passes for 706 yards and five touchdowns this past season. That's not bad considering the team's quarterback play last season – and considering Chark missed three games with injury. But the new decision-makers may want to see Chark in their system – and Chark may want to show he can be more productive within that new system – before either wants to negotiate a contract.
Jeff from Wake Forest, NC
One thing I've not heard talk about that I feel is important: With Jacksonville in sole possession of the worst record and not tied with the New York Jets, they get the first pick in each round instead of every other round. I would think that matters a lot in trade talks in later rounds.
It matters far more in Round 1 than any other round. It also matters quite a bit in Round 2 because there's still a lot of value there – pretty close to first-round value, actually. It matters a little in Round 4, because teams often make trades between Day 2 and Day 3 – and in that scenario, that first selection of the fourth round might have some added value. Beyond that, there's not a mammoth difference.
Josh from Atlanta, GA
I can't wait to see your inbox when the defense plays poorly or well next season. Cullen will undoubtedly be as bad or worse than Todd Wash, or the best defensive coordinator we have had in years.
I'm sure all coordinators and coaches will earn universal praise moving forward. History says it works out that way. Oh, wait. That's wrong.
Bryce from Waterloo, IA
The Browns have turned around their organization. It all starts up front. Their offensive line has three players who are Top 10 at their position. Jags need to solidify the line if they want to have long-term success.
A good offensive line is critical to any team. The Jaguars' offensive line for the most part wasn't bad this past season. I don't expect major turnover at the position next season, but how the new decision-makers plan to get a group that was decent-to-good this past season to a point of strength will be a major offseason storyline.
Sascha from Cologne, Germany
Hey John, do you think the possible draft of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will impact the decision of high-profile players in free agency to come to Jacksonville or is it only about the dollars?
I think Lawrence would help because with Lawrence there would be a perception that the team can improve quickly – and that the team can achieve sustained success. I think there's a good chance Meyer could have a similar effect. That said, free agency still is predominantly about dollars.
Zac from Austin, tejas
Why don't most teams utilize fullbacks anymore?
Because the position is used less often than years past, which means a lot of teams can use a tight end in the role on the occasions that call for fullbacks.
Paul from Jacksonville
I admit Urban Meyer wasn't my first choice as coach, but now it all comes down to what happens next. If he can adapt to the pro game and capitalize on the Jaguars' situation with the draft and cap space, I'm pretty sure that most of the people who are currently naysayers will develop a very specific amnesia and claim to have been on board the whole time. And I'll probably be one of them.