O-Zone: Grand illusion

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Dan from Rincon, GA:
I believe this team is ascending and is not a one-hit wonder. I have no idea how far this team may make it in the playoffs, but I do think they will have a better regular-season record than last year. What is your way-too-early prediction for this team?
John: I also believe this team is ascending and I believe it will have a good season next season – and I believe there's a very good chance it will be at or near the same level as last season. I imagine that answer will raise a chorus of, "What!!! How can you not say the Jaguars will be better next season?!!!" When I say the 2018 Jaguars could be at the same level as last season, I mean that they have a chance to win the AFC South and that they have a chance at home-field advantage in the postseason – which, remember, is where the Jaguars were in mid-December last season. This team was the AFC's No. 3 seed and was very close to being the AFC's No. 1 seed with a couple of weeks remaining in the 2017 regular season. It then lost two essentially meaningless games at the end of last regular season, then came within a play or two of playing in the Super Bowl. The Jaguars were as good as any team in the NFL much of last season. I believe they have a chance to be in the same 11-5, fighting-for-a-first-round-bye range in December. If that happens, then who knows?
Jeff from Wake Forest, NC:
I don't understand the fascination of trading up. I could see the Jaguars trading down as more of a possibility since they are at the back end of the round. What do you think? More of a chance they trade up or down?
John: Down.
Matthew from Fort Worth, TX:
Johnny O, Johnny O, it's off to work we go. Roll up our sleeves, and draft offensive line on April 27 at Jerry World. You gonna be there? Maybe we'll grab a beer and some brisket?
John: The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft is April 26 at the Cowboys' stadium. I won't be there. If all goes well and I make it to that date, I am scheduled to be at EverBank Field covering the event for jaguars.com.
Bob from the Conference Room:
We're drafting Will Hernandez in the first round. Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin believes in building a strong offensive line. And offensive linemen are easy to figure out: must be big enough and mobile enough (Bill Parcells' planet theory). And they need to be a gritty (dirty) guy with an attitude. Find that combination and you've found a guaranteed NFL starter. Will Hernandez is that guy. Will Hernandez will be the draft pick. Capiche?
John: What?
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, Calais Campbell is awesome, huh? Best free-agency signing ever for the Jaguars, maybe? If he plays a few more years at the level he played last season – and if he helps the Jaguars get to the promised land – does he have a shot at the Pride?
John: Campbell certainly is on track to be in the conversation for best Jaguars free-agency signing ever, although Leon Searcy, Keenan McCardell, Malik Jackson, Paul Posluszny and A.J. Bouye must be in the same conversation. And yes … I do believe Campbell has a chance to be the rarest of rarities in the NFL – a player who is a franchise-defining, all-time player for two franchises. He was that in Arizona and in a remarkably short time is on the verge of becoming that here. Would that be enough for him to be in the Pride of the Jaguars? Stay tuned.
Gamble from Jacksonville:
I have been poking around some other teams' websites to see what they think their team will do in the draft, and I have come to the conclusion that jaguars.com is hands down the best team website in the entire NFL. The amount of quality content produced for this site is outstanding. Thanks, guys! Keep it up!
John: Thanks … I do a great job.
Chris from Mandarin:
Assuming the Jaguars draft one wide receiver in the draft, who do you think takes the last spot out of Jaydon Mickens, Rashad Greene Sr. and Jaelen Strong?
John: Your question assumes Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and a rookie draft selection as the top five receivers. If the Jaguars keep a sixth receiver, I would predict Mickens because of punt returns.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
John: "You know why it's really a stretch to Bortles held the team back? Because they played in the AFC Championship Game and came within minutes of the Super Bowl." This was a foolish comment because a logical argument could be made that the Jags would have easily won the Super Bowl if they had a better quarterback than Blake Bortles.
John: You don't easily win Super Bowls, and a logical argument also could be made that had they had a worse quarterback they wouldn't have made the playoffs.
Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Ninety touchdowns, 15,000 yards passing, 1,410 yards rushing with seven touchdowns, 78 starting and still going, a division title, two playoff wins, a championship game. He is 25 years old. If he wins a Super Bowl you're talking about the Hall of Fame. Blake is still standing and that's the hardest of all skills. Deshaun Watson looked great for how many games? All the skills in the world can only help if you're on the field. Blake is a battleship. The Jaguars are lucky to have him. He is only 25 is what is so amazing. He has the skills that last and you have to be in it to win it.
John: Yeah, but try telling that to Kevin.
Mike from Eagle River, AK:
Doesn't pertain too much to the Jaguars (probably) but what is the deal with all the Josh Allen hype? I get that he's big and has a very strong arm, but hasn't the league had a pretty bad history with big-armed, inaccurate quarterbacks? Not to mention, he played in a comparatively weak conference and put up real average numbers and certainly wasn't a winner. Is this just another fine example of Mel Kiper being paid by an agent to put somebody at the top of his mock drafts? Or is there some real excitement in the league about him and I'm just totally wrong?
John: There's real excitement. He's a quarterback who looks the part and has rare arm talent. That tends to excite people even if they're not named Mel Kiper.
John from Jacksonville:
Unlike many who write in, I heard the Jags re-signed Bortles because they think he's pretty good. Imagine a team signing a player for a reason like that.
John: I'll Google this.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
I'm glad to hear that the Jaguars are thinking about sliding Lee into the slot in three-wide sets. I believe with his quickness, acceleration and ability to run after the catch, he will be in a great position to create a lot of explosive plays from the slot. I think it's a wise decision. The question is how confident are they on the outside? Cole and Westbrook have both shown flashes but their futures aren't certain.
John: Lee sliding inside certainly seems to be a possibility. Figuring what will happen when the Jaguars are in three-receiver sets will be one of the intriguing storylines of the offseason. Lee, Moncrief and Cole all have been effective on the outside, and Westbrook played exclusively outside as a rookie last season. Finding someone to play the slot effectively must be a priority. As far as the outside, I expect Moncrief and Lee to start there in base situations with Cole starting there in nickel situations.
Keith from Jacksonville and Section 436:
When will the preseason and regular-season schedules be announced?
John: Soon.
Kyan from Iowa:
You've talked about the Jaguars drafting a running back early in the draft. With Leonard Fournette showing how good he is when healthy, T.J. Yeldon showing he can be a very good backup, and Corey Grant having the ability to change the pace of the game, I ask why? Also, running back you can find in the late rounds and they can make an instant impact. To me, it just seems like a waste of a pick that early with other needs.
John: You may be right – and I'd say the odds are against the Jaguars going running back in the first two rounds of the draft. The reason it's an intriguing topic is Fournette showed last season he could be vulnerable to dealing with injuries and the Jaguars run enough that it would make sense to have a second "starting-level" running back.
Bruce from Jacksonville:
Happy, Happy, Happy, I'm happy all the time ... Happy, Happy, Happy, I'm happy all the time ... no wait ... I am not. Let's start an unhappy club.
John: No. A club would only create the illusion of hope.

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