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O-Zone: Go big or go home

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
Your response that it will be difficult for the team to win seven or eight games is logical, but it's also a perfect example of where being a fan comes in, because to me they should have won seven LAST season. It bothers me that there's this unwritten rule that a team can't suddenly win four or five more games? Why? I'm pretty sure you've said you expect that for this to be a successful venture (the return of TC), they need to be in the playoffs in 2018, but you're saying they probably won't win more than six games this year. So either you believe there will be a massive jump between '17 and '18, going against the logic teams improve incrementally – or you don't believe the new structure is going to work?
John: I do believe it will be difficult for the team to win eight games this season, though that doesn't mean it can't happen. I think a reasonable expectation is a three-(maybe four-) game improvement and if you follow that with another three- (maybe four-) game improvement the following season, then you have a team that's in the nine- (maybe more) victory range. Could there be a bigger jump somewhere in there? Sure. Things happen. My point in saying I think a five-game jump would be a mammoth jump is to make the point that expecting nine or 10 victories from this team is a difficult ask. A four-game jump to 7-9? That would be real improvement and I don't think such a jump should be considered disappointing.
Dan from Jax:
Hey, John. No question here. I just want to say that the guys that engineered and are working on the amphitheater are doing a hell of a job and I want to shout out to them. I stopped by the construction site today on my way home just to check out the grounds and it's pretty impressive.
John: Hey, one fer the guys building Daily's Place!
Les from Jacksonville:
I'm sorry, John, but it seems like they called GENE SMITH for advice on this draft. The only pick that made any sense to me was Cam Robinson. I guess they're counting on the fullback to open holes and even if Branden Albert does play, he clearly doesn't want to be here. I think we all should start praying NOW …
John: Pray if you would like, but I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from the Branden Albert situation just yet. This is professional football, and contract issues arise during the offseason in professional football. April, May, June and even July are often times when players act on the advice of agents – and when agents speak to teams on a player's behalf. It's a time for business. The environment often changes in August and it becomes about football again. I don't know how the Albert situation will play out, but don't assume that he doesn't want to play for the Jaguars or that the Jaguars don't want him to play for them simply because of words or actions in May.
Michael from Jacksonville:
I just wanted to speak for most of us by saying: I'm having a very hard time stopping laughing about the Gene Fournette ...
John: I also have a tough time not laughing when I think of Gene Fren— Oh.
Jeremy from Wise, VA:
I know the Jags would love to sign Allen Robinson and Telvin Smith to extensions, but Marqise Lee is also in line for one, too. His injury history will not help him, but he showed last season exactly how electric his talent is. Do you think they will approach him about a one-year "prove-it deal?"
John: The contracts of all three players almost certainly soon will be an issue. Remember: while Jaguars fans have watched these three players, Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin just arrived in January, and a lot of the assistant coaches are new. It makes sense to wait before signing the players to long-term contracts. As far as Lee, I would expect the Jaguars to wait until the season to approach him. If he plays comparably to last season, then it makes sense to talk about a long-term extension. But the only way I see Lee signing a one-year "prove-it" deal is if he's injured this season. I otherwise expect him to be good enough this season to sign a long-term contract either in Jacksonville or somewhere else.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
I was surprised by the Dede Westbrook pick, but not because of the off-field issues. The description of him is that he is a young, talented slot receiver that can return punts but doesn't have 4.3 speed. Isn't that Rashad Greene? I just remember him taking one to the house at a critical moment this season so it seems weird that he may be replaced.
John: Westbrook reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.34-range at his Pro Day. I can't speak to the accuracy of the time, but Westbrook has real speed and quickness. As far as Greene, he did return a punt for a touchdown in 2015, but he struggled this past season. It's not surprising the Jaguars would try to upgrade the slot position. It was very upgrade-able.
David from Oviedo, FL:
O-Zone – just for conversations sake, how many running backs do we keep, who's in and who's fighting for a spot?
John: Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said during an appearance on LIVE Wednesday that he anticipates the team keeping four running backs in addition to a fullback. I expect that means the Jaguars will keep Leonard Fournette, Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant. I also would guess they keep rookie fullback Marquez Williams, though the team also signed veteran Tommy Bohanon this offseason.
Thrill from The 'Ville:
I just bought a really big, really shiny new TV. At no point during the process did I do a background check on the engineering team that designed it, the factory workers that built it, the truck driver that delivered it to the store or the retail clerk that sold it to me. Any one of them could have had a troubled past, but that was of no concern. The only concern was to get best possible product for what I was willing to pay. Why should football be any different?
John: I'm on record saying I have no problem with the Jaguars drafting or signing players with less-than-stellar backgrounds, but that doesn't mean I can agree with this analogy. Sports are by nature different than normal business, because part of the appeal of sports is an emotional attachment to the players and coaches involved. Look, there's nothing wrong with people on either side of this argument. Domestic violence is a serious, emotional issue and it's perfectly understandable if some fans decided they dislike a team acquiring a player with any such incident in his background. But the reality is that professional sports teams are not responsible for playing judge and jury, and professional sports teams therefore are going to acquire players whose backgrounds are not as pristine as most fans might like. If fans who realize this reality want to root for teams who choose to employ such players, there's nothing wrong with that, either.
Catherine from Jacksonville:
During the Dead Zone, do you ever send questions to yourself under pseudonyms? Just curious.
John: This is the first one.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
O-man, after drafting Leonard Fournette at No. 1, do you think there was any serious consideration to draft Dalvin Cook at No. 2…or is this notion, too far out of the box?
John: I do not think the Jaguars seriously considered selecting Dalvin Cook in the second round. I don't know that it was in or out of the box, but I do know there were a lot of other positions that needed to be addressed at that time.
Jim from Section 142 and Duuuuvall:
O-man, I am still greatly concerned with the O-line. Getting Cam is great and all, but what if the Albert situation doesn't work out? Then we are essentially left with the same line quality as last year with the exception of a ROOKIE starting at left tackle, which will likely be a downgrade. I just don't see how we are going to be able to make strides in the run game up front. I know you'll come back and say people don't pass up $8-9MM per year, but you never know. 904nette will make some difference, but I'm with you in the belief that the line is the key factor above everything else.
John: I understand your concern. Being concerned stinks. It can even be … concerning. But don't worry much about Albert not playing for the Jaguars next season. I guess it's possible, but it's not probable. Can I think of another reason? Not except for the $8 million, no.
Brian from New Hampshire:
I get 8-8 being reasonable expectations for the year. But if the defense improves like it should, and if Fournette and Robinson help the run game, and Blake looks like 2015 Blake with the early schedule a 10-11 win season seems very possible. This season feels like 8-8 is more likely but playoffs aren't out of the question if the improvements are real.
John: #DTWD

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