O-Zone: Gut reaction

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Dave from St. Augustine, FL:
Who are the Jaguars going to sign in free agency?
John: I expect the Jaguars' two biggest targets in unrestricted free agency this offseason to be wide receiver Allen Robinson and cornerback Aaron Colvin. That's probably not the answer you wanted, and it's certainly not the sexy answer, because Colvin and Robinson are "re-signings" rather than signings from other teams. But as your team matures and improves, those sorts of signings should be your major work in free agency. I don't expect the Jaguars to be major players for "name" free-agents from other teams on the offensive line – or at wide receiver or tight end – this offseason. The players available for the most part don't appear to warrant such an expenditure. The major unknown, of course, is whether or not they will be in play for a free-agent quarterback. I expect them to be ready to be involved in negotiating with Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins when the pre-free agency negotiating window opens March 12-14. How long they stay involved I have no idea.
Kent from the Westside, FL:
Even with Blake Bortles' amazing run of play in early December I couldn't help even then wondering if the Jags had gone as far as they could with him. I love his physical toughness, but after one mistake he falls apart. I feel like the coaching staff felt that way, too, in the second half of the AFC Championship Game. Furthermore, with both Cousins and A.J. McCarron in free agency and a decent-looking quarterback crop in the draft, they'd be folks not to explore upgrades to the quarterback position.
John: Well you know what they say: Folks is folks.
Taylor from Jacksonville:
What's your biggest position of concern for the Jaguars entering the offseason?
John: The easy answer would be quarterback – and that no doubt would be the answer for many people. Here's why that answer doesn't work for me: if the Jaguars do nothing between now and August, they will have a quarterback in Bortles who showed improvement this past season and got them to within a few plays of the Super Bowl. I'm more concerned about wide receiver, where decisions must be made about Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. If the Jaguars can't re-sign Robinson or Lee, they theoretically could enter next season with Hurns, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole at the position. That to me is more of a concern than entering the season with Bortles. I expect the Jaguars to figure out a way to retain Robinson because the prospect of entering next season without him is too worrisome, but until that gets done – or until something else happens to improve the position – it will be a concern.
Chris from Section 124:
Now that we have seen him for several seasons at both guard and center, which position do you feel Brandon Linder performs best at? Do you feel his grade is the same at each position or is it superior at one or the other?
John: I don't pretend to have studied all of Linder's games at guard or center enough to be the end-all expert on this subject. I thought he showed a lot of potential at guard as a rookie in 2014, but because he played just three games at guard the following season, we didn't really get a full look at him at the position before he moved to center in 2016. I haven't seen a major difference in his play from guard to center, but my eye is far less trained in the area of offensive line play than many. What I do know for sure is Linder clearly the Jaguars' best interior lineman. Because center is the most important interior-line position, it makes sense to have Linder play there unless someone else obviously is better at the spot.
Ricky from Waycross, GA:
I keep seeing Allen Hurns as likely to be cut. I don't understand. Explain.
John: Hurns, while a very reliable and very professional wide receiver for the Jaguars the past four seasons, has no guaranteed money left in his contract – a contract that calls for him to earn $7 million next season. And while Hurns indeed is reliable, he was not among the Jaguars' top two wide receivers coming out of training camp last season; it's also hard to project him ahead of Westbrook or Cole moving forward. Releasing Hurns wouldn't be an easy decision, but it probably will be the decision the Jaguars make.
Donald from Tampa, FL:
Most sacks on the Jaguars in 2018? Calais Campbell or Yannick Ngakoue?
John: I would guess Ngakoue. Until an injury in the second half of the AFC Championship Game, he was rushing the passer very consistently in the second half of the season – and he appeared to be improving pretty much by the week. I expect him to continue trending up. I expect Campbell to be a major contributor next season, but it's tough at this stage of his career to expect him to continue "trending up."
Charles from Kissimmee, FL:
Do you expect coaching changes this offseason? I thought the Jaguars' coaches were – OK, sort of. It not, why not?
John: I don't expect any significant coaching changes on the Jaguars' staff, meaning I expect no changes at the head-coaching position, or at the coordinator or assistant levels. Why not? For one, Head Coach Doug Marrone has won 13 of 21 games he has coached with this team; he has won two playoff games and an AFC South championship. It's hard to argue he hasn't done a good job. The offense and defense both finished in the Top 10. Were the Jaguars or their coordinators perfect throughout this past season? No. But it's hard to make the argument that the Jaguars didn't get pretty close to all they could from their talent this past season. Fans might protest, "But the second half of the AFC Championship Game … but … but!!!" Forget it. First, the coaching in the second half of that game has been criticized far more than merited. Second, some heavy lifting had to get done somewhere to get to that game. I'm assuming the Jaguars' coaches deserve at least some credit for that.
Kevin from Sacksonville:
The way you described the tarps/blackout numbers sounds real Negan-ish.
John: I'm assuming you're referring to "Negan," who I understand to be a somewhat rascally character from the Walking Dead. I Googled this and read where some people think Negan is an idiot. What are you saying, Kevin? Kevin?
Richard from Atlanta, GA:
Beatles or Stones?
John: Beatles.
David from Jacksonville:
Hi, John: Love your column. Do you know what the Jaguars might do with Rashad Greene next season? Could he be someone they try at receiver? He seemed to have a bright future before his injury. Since we are likely to lose Allen Hurns or Marqise Lee, or both.
John: Rashad Greene Sr. has a year remaining on the four-year rookie deal he signed in 2015. He costs comparatively little against the salary cap, so there's little risk in the Jaguars bringing him to training camp. At the same time, he has missed so much time – half of each of his first two seasons and all of last season – with injuries that it's easy to see why he's not discussed as part of the receiving corps moving forward. Verdict: he's a long shot at this point. Very long.
John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Now that is the offseason are you able to nap in the afternoon more often than the regular season?
John: What?
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
It sounds as if the two-tone helmets are all but gone. I never hated them like others, but always wished the fading from one color to the other was more gradual. Anyhow ... do you think there is any chance the helmet would be anything other than black? What would you think of a solid teal helmet, for example?
John: I've always liked the idea of a gold helmet. I would be surprised – nay, shocked – of the new helmet is anything but black.
Paul from Orange Park, FL:
Is it just me, or is this offseason slooooooower than usual?
John: It's not just you. It does seem this Jaguars offseason is a bit slower than usual. I have sensed a bit of a hangover following the AFC Championship Game, and here's the thing about the Jaguars' offseason that's a bit different: there are strikingly fewer areas of major need than past offseasons. The focus of observers is rightfully mostly upon offense, and the free-agency doesn't really look all that intriguing on that side of the ball outside quarterback. What's left is a slew of questions about Cousins or Bortles – and I expect that slew to continue for much of the next month. Does that mean it's slow? Maybe. Or maybe this is the new normal.
Phil from Daytona Beach, FL:
I hate you. From the first day I met you.
John: I get that a lot.

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