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O-Zone: Head up

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it … Eder from Mexico City, Mexico:
I'm really happy with the season, and had a mixed sensation after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. I believe this team will be back to the AFC Championship Game soon. This team is full of young guys. I think they lose focus with all referee calls, which is a normal issue with young guys. No matter if the call was good or bad from referees, they need to be on the game and just focus on the next play. I hope next year, they are going to be more concentrated. What you think about this?
John: I think there is something to this, and I think players also know this. I believe the veteran leaders will concentrate on this area, and I believe that focus – along with the accompanying maturity of being collectively a year older – will make this less of an issue next season. This team rode on emotion a lot this past season, and that emotion served the team well for the most part. There were flare-ups that cost them in key situations – against, say, San Francisco – but the team handled itself well on that front in the postseason. I think you’ll see that trend continue; the more undisciplined a team is, the harder it is for that team to win. These players above all else want to win; as players mature, that desire should lead to be more discipline.
Jake from Cary, NC:
Jacksonville’s population is less than one million people. The Greater Boston population is almost five million. The NFL is a business, and the goal of any business is to maximize profit / keep investors happy. Few (no?) businesses would make a decision that sacrifices four million customers. Most investors (e.g., advertisers) wouldn’t stand for it. Look at the numbers: four million additional people with a vested interest in the game; one penalty for 10 yards. The business minds in the NFL are too smart to have allowed the Jags to win that game. We never stood a chance.
John: Nah. Sorry.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Is it fair to recognize that next year will almost certainly be a step backwards? We will lose a few key defensive players. We still won’t have a dominant offensive line. We still won’t have a superstar receiving corps. Plus, the rules make it hard for teams to repeat success: Lower draft pick, salary cap, tougher schedule, and a healthy Texans team and healthy Andrew Luck look to make for more dark days. What do you think O?
John: The Jaguars’ task indeed will be difficult next season, but it’s too strong to say next season “almost certainly” will be a step backward. While I don’t expect cornerback Aaron Colvin to be re-signed, I expect the defense to be very good, even improved, in its second season with most core players essentially playing together. I expect offensive line to be addressed in the offseason, as well as receiver and tight end. I can’t guarantee the Jaguars will make the AFC Championship Game again next season, but I do think exceeding 10 victories and winning the AFC South title again is very possible. At that point, you hope you’re healthy and you hope you get favorable matchups.
Bill from Folkston, GA:
Hey, John: Could you explain the compensatory drafts? Also, I was wondering what you think is the largest need for the Jags to address in the offseason, whether free agency or the draft. Personally I think the need is either tight end or wide receiver – something to help open up more options on offense.
John: Compensatory draft selections are awarded to “compensate” for free-agency losses in the previous offseason. In general terms, a team losing more high-profile, expensive unrestricted free agents than it signs will be awarded compensatory selections commiserate to how much it was hurt in free agency. I wouldn’t expect the Jaguars to receive compensatory selections this offseason, for instance, because they gained players such as defensive end Calais Campbell, safety Barry Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye in free agency while losing strong safety Johnathan Cyprien. As far as needs in the offseason: guard, perhaps right tackle, wide receiver, tight end.
Dane from Jacksonville:
One fer O-Zone. In the midst of a very bittersweet time to be a Jags fan, I really appreciate the humor you bring to my day in the O-Zone. This Jags organization is very special to me and many, many people in Jacksonville and across the world. The O-Zone plays no small part of it and I appreciate your efforts.
John: I can think of nothing more self-serving in this difficult time for Jaguars fans than to print an email praising one self. To do so would indicate insecurity on such a level that it would be comical and expose that person as pathetic, weak and sad.
Mike from Charleston, SC:
I think the fumble rule needs to be changed to allow advancing of a fumble to its conclusion and then change the ruling after the review. Your thoughts?
John: The spirit of your email is correct. Something must be done to address plays incorrectly called dead. But it’s not really about “changing” a rule. NFL rules state that once a play is called dead, it can’t be overturned – and that makes sense. The problem is that officials routinely blow plays dead when they are very much still alive. I don’t know that there’s an answer beyond training them not to do this, but I do believe there must be more if an emphasis on this. The inadvertent whistles often involve touchdowns and game-turning plays, and one such play darned sure hurt the Jaguars Sunday.
Paul from North Dakota:
Almighty O, what do you see in your crystal ball for the Jags’ future at wide receiver? With both Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee due to become unrestricted free agents, do the Jags sign them back? Do the Jaguars release Allen Hurns with his contract not guaranteed anymore to make room for one of these two players? Is this young new core enough to allow our veterans to test free agency waters and potentially find a new place to call home? Oh, please Almighty O: shed some light on this unforeseeable future of ours.
John: As your email indicated, anything along these lines right now is speculation. These are offseason questions, and the Jaguars’ process of formulating their offseason approach has just begun. The thought here is the Jaguars will re-sign Robinson and trust that he returns to his pre-injury form. I don’t believe Lee will be re-signed and I anticipate the Jaguars parting ways with Hurns. I foresee Robinson, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole being three of the Jaguars’ top wide receivers next season with either a Day 1-2 draft selection or free agent being the fourth. We’ll see if I’m right.
Jerell from Columbia SC:
Jags blew their best shot to make a Super Bowl. It will take another 10 years to get back. Sigh …
John: Sure. Or maybe it will take 20 years. Or maybe it will take one. We’ll see.
Dana from Sacksonville:
Myles Jack seems to have really improved over the second half of the season. How good can he be next season and beyond that? What improvements did you see from him and what makes him potentially special?
John: Jack improved as the season went on, appearing far more comfortable as the season continued. This made sense because he was in his second NFL season, his first calling the defense. As he got more comfortable mentally, he played freer and made more and more big plays. I think what we saw late in the season from Jack – particularly in the last two postseason games – were the early steps toward stardom and elite status. My guess is Jack will be one of the leading lights on this team next season.
Chris from Mandarin, FL:
Despite winning more games this season, the two-toned helmets are not cool. We do not like them.
John: Hmmmm…
Steve from Duval:
O-Zone, is it a good thing or bad thing that our offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator aren't being considered for jobs outside of the Jags’ organization?
John: It’s an expected thing. Todd Wash (defense) and Nathaniel Hackett (offense) have been coordinators with the Jaguars for two seasons and one, respectively. This was their first season working for a team that made the postseason. If the Jaguars are successful next season, I imagine you will see their profile rise. But for the Jaguars, it’s a good thing that they’re staying. The staff should have continuity in message and scheme. It’s not the end of the world if a team doesn’t have those things, but it’s better if it does.
Keith from Woonsocket, RI:
If you think Jags fans down there have it bad, try being a Jags fan in the New England area. I seriously don't think there is a more arrogant bunch of fans than Pats fans. You would think that they beat us by 40 the way they talk. I almost had to leave work early on Monday because it was too much for me to deal with. Jags fans: keep your head up. At least you have the support of other Jags fans down there.
John: Stay strong.

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