JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Steven from Duval:
I think the Jags are safe from the injury issues because they will draft for depth this year and there are some guys like Dawuane Smoot who will prove to be better-than-average backups. But my question/statement is about the Cardinals game last season. Maybe I'm an optimist, but I thought Blake Bortles played his butt off in that game and was the main reason we were even close. Too many fans are looking for the negative, but there were more dropped passes than normal – and he ran and put his whole heart into that game. One fer Blake … he's our quarterback and we're lucky to have him.
John: Beware the NFL team that believes itself "safe from injury issues …" the football gods often frown upon a team so confident, bawdy and bold. Still, you're right that the Jaguars' depth should allow them to withstand at least some level of the gods' wrath; that's what good teams do. As for your question, the back and forth about Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles undeniably seems poised to go on and on. And on. And on. Fans who don't like him likely won't ever like him at this point. Fans who are in his corner seem equally firmly entrenched in that corner. Here's what Bortles doesn't appear likely to be: a "conventional" quarterback in the sense that the ball comes out of his hand perfectly or beautifully. But he is tough. And resilient. And he definitely has the respect of teammates, management and coaches. He also showed more development last season than I expected, particularly in terms of making smart and savvy plays. Part of that was the ability to make plays with his legs, which he did against the Cardinals and against Buffalo in the Wild Card game. Bortles wasn't perfect last season and he had costly interceptions in a couple of games. But he wasn't the only NFL quarterback last season to throw a costly interception – and his overall body of work showed improvement, which was a major reason the Jaguars chose to move forward with him. So, one fer Blake? Sure, unless you're entrenched the other way. Then, of course … never.
Brandon from Asheville, NC:
Do you think Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook can have a similar impact the Allen Bros. did when they both had over 1,000 yards receiving in their sophomore year?
John: It will be difficult. One reason: whereas Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns started in 2015, Cole and Westbrook possibly could be the Jaguars' third and fourth receivers this season. Another reason: the Jaguars aren't likely to throw – or be behind late – as often next season as they were in 2015, and both factors could reduce the Jaguars' passing numbers. Cole and Westbrook absolutely could make an impact, but it likely won't be the same impact statistically as Robinson and Hurns in 2015.
Richard from Jacksonville:
I have read where some coaches prefer a two-tight end set. Would you please explain the advantages of this set besides the obvious of one catching and one blocking?
John: The main advantage to a two tight-end formation is balance. If your tight ends are versatile, a two-tight end set gives away the fewest pre-snap tendencies to a defense and most often forces a defense to stay in its base package. Many offensive coaches like the matchup advantage in that situation if you have the right two tight ends – i.e., players who can block offensively and win one on one matchups with linebackers and safeties.
Ross from Madison, WI:
O, got a quick question. As the new rule is written regarding leading with the helmet, do you think Barry Church would have been ejected for his hit on Gronk in the AFC Championship game?
John: This is a tricky question to answer because the league made clear at the recent NFL Annual Meeting that it was still working to define the leading-with-the-helmet rule it voted into place at those meetings. But yes … the concern over the rule is it appears it likely will give an official the leeway to eject a player who hits a player in the way that Church hit Patriots Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship Game. I didn't think it should have been a penalty at the time or that he should have been fined because I didn't think Church intended to hit Gronkowski in the head or to use his shoulder. That's the part of the rule that seems destined to anger fans, coaches and players. I'm not against the rule because I do believe the NFL needs to continue to do what it can to eliminate helmet-to-helmet contact. I don't know if this rule will have the desired effect, but they must keep trying to find a way to make an inherently violent game as safe as possible. There by definition must be some unhappy fans, coaches and players along the way to finding that formula because people don't like change – and because the process is a lot of trial and error. But that doesn't mean the league shouldn't try. It must.
Julio from O:
Why all the hype over Orlando Brown? How many second-generation players do you know have done well in the NFL? Do not draft this entitled kid.
John: I don't know how hyped Brown is or isn't. I do know he was rated in the first round by many draft analysts following his final collegiate season at the University of Oklahoma, and that his draft status has been questioned mainly because of a brutally bad NFL Scouting Combine. What I also don't know is whether or not Brown is entitled; I don't know him and I try not to be so arrogant to assume that I know such a thing about someone I don't know. As for second generational players, I've covered a few – and some have been better than others. One of them was someone named Peyton. He was all right.
Jim from Madison, WI:
O-no, O-Zone. Your Orlando Brown prediction is awfully uninformed. It is more likely that Orlando Brown will be available when the Jags pick at the end of the third round than Brown being picked anywhere in the second round. His combine measurements are historically bad even for a huge offensive lineman. Want to bet a ham sandwich on it?
John: I understand Brown had a bad combine. I also understand that I wrote the Jaguars would need to draft Brown at No. 29 rather than No. 61 if they want to be assured of drafting him. I also understand that while there is a chance Brown could slip to the third round that it's not incorrect to say the Jaguars need to draft him at No. 29 if they want to be assured of drafting him. As for betting on where Brown is selected, I can't say that my level of interest would merit that.
Marc from the Southside:
Thanks for the answer confirming the way many of us are viewing the early rounds for our Jags. Following up and addressing the potential of addressing right guard in the draft here, do they target a pure guard prospect, maybe a center/guard that may change positions or move Brandon Linder, or do they aim for Jermey Parnell's eventual RT replacement who could play guard in 2018? Or is it simply "any of those types that is the best value" at No. 29 or No. 61?
John: The advantage of having needs filled entering the draft is being able to address most of your issues with "any of those types that is the best value."
Terry from Jacksonville:
Did the Jaguars address their needs in free agency? If so, best available receiver or tight end should be the choice. Who would pick?
John: The best offensive lineman.
Connor from Jacksonville:
If Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley, Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and San Diego State tight end Dallas Goedert were still available at pick number No. 29, who do you think the Jaguars would pick?
John: The best offensive lineman.
Nick from Palatka, FL:
Mr. Zone. There has been a good bit written about how wonderful it is to have no major changes in the Jaguars' coaching staff for 2018. I think it's great, too, but now other teams have "film" on our offensive coordinator's, defensive coordinator's and special teams coordinator's systems. Since we have essentially the same players as 2017, will their increased familiarity with the systems and improvement in execution overcome any "predictability" that could hinder our Super Bowl run? Seems this could be especially troublesome for division rivals (who look to be greatly improved this year).
John: The benefits of continuity far outweigh the downside of teams having an idea of what the Jaguars will run. Teams can surprise other teams with plays and breaking tendencies on occasion, but teams generally speaking have enough film on other teams that there aren't that many surprises when it comes to scheme and system.
Susan from Duval:
Happy wife, happy life. Am I right?
John: I wouldn't know.
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Steven from Duval: