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O-Zone: Great expectations

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Logan from Wichita, KS:
O-man, what is going on?!?! I love and hate this trade for Marcell Dareus. He is a monster inside. He helps our run defense and our already solid pass rush. But he also brings a huge financial burden. Does this mean we will be cutting one of our beasts this upcoming offseason? Or are we doing a repeat of '98, '99 and '00 where we bite off more than we can chew and our elite team falls to shambles as our salary cap is decimated? This is for sure a win-now move but could it cost us long-term??? We have a week before the next game! So let's talk this to death, please!!!
John: Take a breath, Logan. And another … OK, good. Look, there's no question the Jaguars are spending more now than in the past three or four seasons. But that was bound to happen. The idea of "clearing the decks" in terms of cap space isn't to have a clear deck forever; it's to have money available when it's time to spend. Now is the time. To get into every last salary-cap possibility in one answer is impossible, but the Jaguars aren't close to repeating their cap misdeeds of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Their two biggest decisions this coming offseason seem to involve wide receiver – i.e., a long-term deal for Allen Robinson – and quarterback. Quarterback will be a cap-eating situation whether it's Blake Bortles' $19 million or whether the Jaguars draft a rookie/sign another veteran. Either way, it's likely a "known" player or two will be released or let go via free agency. The most likely high-profile players to be discussed in that capacity this offseason would be wide receiver Allen Hurns ($7 million saved if released), right tackle Jermey Parnell ($5 million), running back Chris Ivory ($3.75 million) and tight end Marcedes Lewis ($3.5 million). As for Dareus, he obviously adds to the long-term cap burden; he would cost the Jaguars about $13 million in dead money this year and about $7.3 million next season if released, so he figures to be here through 2018. The Jaguars can get out of the contract with no dead money after 2018, making it essentially a year-and-a-half commitment. He would make a little over $11 million in 2019, so if he plays to his potential and is a difference-maker he could be worth paying that season. Dareus essentially becomes another of a growing group of well-paid Jaguars players on two-year deals. You can't keep all those players forever, but if he plays well … well, those are the type of dilemmas teams with good players face.
Dick from Celina, OH:
O, I don't know how you do it every day. To post every single day without missing one … Have you ever thought of taking a day off? I have some writing experience and would love to fill in.
John: I've done what?
David from Grand Island:
What kind of impact should we expect from Marcell Dareus? Is he just going to be another rotational acquisition or could he push to be a starter next to Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell and really both Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue now?
John: It would be very, very surprising if Dareus doesn't start soon. I expect in the very short term it will be Campbell, Jackson, Dareus and Ngakoue starting in most base situations.
Cornelius from Jacksonville:
I remember when Gus was here people were talking about us being the Seahawks South. With the way we've been playing and the addition of Dareus, those statements finally make sense. Is it crazy to think our defense can get us a Super Bowl?
John: Not as crazy as it was Friday afternoon.
Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Fans are surprised that Blake Bortles has improved. I think the big improvement comes from the offensive line protecting him better. Don't care how strong you are, that confidence that you will not get sacked five times in a game is huge. Thank you.
John: The offensive line indeed is protecting Bortles well this season. That protection has been helped by the Jaguars' running effectively and passing less than in recent seasons. When defenses have fewer chances to sack you, and when they don't know when you're going to throw, you get sacked less. And yes, getting sacked and hit less is cool. Quarterbacks like it.
Bobby from Salt Lake City, UT:
Hey, O: Will DEDE be back next week? I can tell from his tweets that he's hinting at this idea. What say you? He is eligible, right?
John: Jaguars rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook indeed is eligible to come off injured reserve next week, meaning he can practice and play against the Cincinnati Bengals. I expect that to happen, though the Jaguars have not yet made anything official on this front. We should find out early next week.
Paul from Gainesville, FL:
Storm Surge Warning! Jim Cantore's hat just blew off! Can Darius help "fix" the run defense? This has the makings of a checkmate move.
John: Dareus certainly can help the Jaguars' defensive front as both a pass rusher and a run defender; he's that level of talent. But as you note, this move seems mostly about the run defense – and yes, a player of Dareus' talent indeed can make a difference. He was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, and he had his best seasons in 2013 and 2014 under then-Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone, who now of course is the Jaguars' head coach. I'm not big on calling acquisitions "checkmate" moves, but this should make an already good defense that much better.
Mike from Elberton, GA:
As far as Nathan's misplaced opinion on free agents and how they can be honored by multiple teams, Campbell's situation really reminds me of Reggie White. He had a great career in Philly, but when he came to Green Bay, he had a lot to do with the turnaround of that franchise. He wasn't the only reason, but he was a big reason considering his play and leadership. It's early, but if Campbell continues with his leadership and garners double-digit sack numbers for several seasons while the Jags stack up some wins. ... I'd say he is more than pride-worthy.
John: Outstanding comparison. If the Jaguars indeed are in the middle of a franchise-changing turnaround, Campbell could be remembered here in the same vein as White is remembered in Green Bay. No question.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
Are the Jaguars as good as we saw in Week 7? Or are the Colts just that bad? I'm hesitant O-Dawg, to give this team credit it may deserve. Us Jags fans have been let down one too many times from recent seasons.
John: The Jaguars have beaten four teams in totally one-sided fashion. At some point it's not a fluke.
Drew from Buford:
You have posted many comments from users about how they feel vindicated about Bortles and how they always knew or hoped he would finally play well. This was one game for crying out loud! He has had plenty of flashes of talent since he came into the league. People: please wait until he has performed 'well' for at least a few games in a row or a season before you start proclaiming at that all our quarterback problems are solved. Maybe he will get there, maybe not. It was one decent game. Anyone can have one decent game.
John: OK.
JD from Nashville, TN:
Hey, John. I'm stuck up here in Nashville, and sometimes it's miserable hearing about the Titans. I'm just glad we have something good going on. Even if we end up 8-8 I feel like this whole year is a positive step forward and the rebuilding is going the right direction. It would be nice for the boys to come up here New Year's Eve and take the division the last day of the year. It might take some sting out of 1999. What ya think?
John: I think the sting of '99 will last a while longer for most Jaguars fans – pretty much, forever, actually. But if the Jaguars are playing for the AFC South title in Week 17 … yeah, that darned sure would mean this thing is moving in the right direction.
Jeff from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Many fans are talking like Dede Westbrook is going to be the savior of our offense. While I hope that is true, what are realistic expectations for Westbrook?
John: I believe based on what I saw from Westbrook in the preseason he can help this offense immediately. He has big-time speed and playmaking ability, and this team needs that right now. He needs to continue learning the offense and adapting to the NFL; Westbrook, remember, worked exclusively with the second- and third-team during training camp and preseason – and he therefore had work to do at that time to get into the main receiving rotation.

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