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O-Zone: Holiday greetings

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … John from Ponte Vedra, FL and Section 235:
John, it seems all draft-related questions this year focus on possible trade scenarios, need picks and/or BAP regardless of need. Assuming that is the case, what do you make of the fact that fan focus seems to be entirely on the Jags acquiring better talent potential and not on drafting a favorite Gator/Nole/Bulldog? After 21 years has the fan base evolved from the mythical Jagator of yore? Any significance here, or just another day in the office fielding arcane questions for the Senior Writer?
John: I suppose there's some significance, but I wouldn't carry it too far. First, it does seem some local bias may remain. I get a lot more Todd Gurley/Amari Cooper questions in the O-Zone than I do Melvin Gordon/Kevin White questions and I'm only guessing that some of that might be because Gurley/Cooper played in the Southeastern Conference. But that's understandable. Those players looked impressive in college and were on television a lot, and they are indeed in the local dialogue around here. Honestly, though, I can't say I've sensed a ridiculous amount of Gator/Nole/Bulldog leaning in my four-plus years as senior writer. It exists to a degree, but I've found this fan base – particularly the readers of this column – mostly want the Jaguars to pick the best player regardless of conference, school or affiliation. Go 'Noles.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
What is your beef with Boselli?
John: He knows what he did.
Roz from Orange Park, FL:
PFT reports (on Monday) Jags interested in trading Marcedes Lewis. Is this truly coming from Jags organization officially or from the "wishes" of the beat writer or what he "thinks" should occur?
John: This story is like many others in this day and age in the sense that it's sort of a story and sort of not. Pro Football Talk indeed posted an item Monday that the Jaguars are "looking" to trade tight end Marcedes Lewis. This makes sense because of his salary and the recent acquisition of Julius Thomas. The PFT post included links to Florida Times-Union posts that speculated about what the Jaguars might receive for Lewis in a trade and ways that the team might make a trade possible. There's a difference between speculating about those things and saying the team is "looking for a trade," and that difference often is lost in a media age where links and rewriting is the norm. I don't doubt that the Jaguars would trade Lewis if there was a reasonable offer. Have the Jaguars had such conversations? That's quite possible and even likely, too. But in this case, the reports thus far are speculation and assumption. It's speculation/assumption about something that might well happen, but assumption/speculation nonetheless.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
I noticed you said the Jaguars believe Blake Bortles can be an elite quarterback. While I agree with that statement, I'm curious if you know of any quarterbacks who were high picks and weren't wildly successful their first few years but still ended up being elite?
John: Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers.
Duval Doom from Section 217:
Just to be real clear to Brian from Gainesville, my loyalty to my college team (It's Georgia Southern, by the way, whom I love very much) doesn't come anywhere CLOSE to my loyalty to the Jaguars. I'm not alone in this, either. #DTWD
John: I know you're not.
Daniel since Day One:
The Jags have a lot of young talent with huge potential. I just don't see serious weaknesses at the skill positions or on defense. On the other hand, last year's offensive line was the worst in team history and perhaps the worst in the league. Granted, there are two or three young guys who might become much better, but this team will dramatically improve once the offensive line does. I hope the powers-that-be pass on all the skill players and go for the big men early and often. No wide receiver, running back or pass rusher will make the Jaguars successful until the O-line becomes a strength instead of a weakness. Caldwell seemed to know this in his first draft, then forgot it. I hope he remembers real soon, or it could be another long ugly season.
John: This question always baffles me, but because I'm easily baffled – and because it has been a while since I addressed it – I'll answer it again. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell absolutely understands the importance of quality offensive line play. It's why he spent a No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft on Luke Joeckel. It's why he spent two draft selections on the line in the 2014 NFL Draft on Brandon Linder and Luke Bowanko. It's why he has spent big money on Zane Beadles and Jermey Parnell in the last two offseasons. Since his 2013 arrival, Caldwell has rebuilt the entire offensive line and the team this offseason hired a former NFL head coach in Doug Marrone to coach the area. I just don't know how much more "remembering" the Jaguars can possibly do when it comes to the offensive line.
Michael from Jacksonville:
I know we have a good young wideout group, but we still need that veteran wideout. Where is Justin Blackmon?
John: Blackmon is suspended indefinitely by the NFL, but I'm going to assume you already knew this. I agree that the Jaguars could use a veteran in the receiver room, and I expect them to sign one at some point between now and the beginning of training camp. Even if Blackmon returns, I don't think veteran receiver/leader is going to be his role. He'll have to earn that.
Job from Trinidad and Tobago:
People soon forget how much talk there was about Tyron Smith being a bust as well. Just saying it's easy to jump to conclusions because the experts don't see the immediate impact they expected. Doesn't make them right or wrong but it's a process in which the time frame is different for everyone.
John: It is a process, and it indeed is far more common for a rookie to need time to develop than to make an impact or play close to a Pro Bowl level. Rookies are prone to a mistake or two – even a glaring mistake or two – each game. Multiply that by five or six and you've got a lot of mistakes per game, which was often the case for the Jaguars last season. Youth and inexperience playing alongside youth and inexperience can create a lot of plays where one mistake makes an entire unit look worse than might otherwise be the case. That was the Jaguars' reality last season. A lot of people called that an excuse. Whatever you call it, the expectation is that it will improve this season, and it's OK to have that expectation.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
I KNOW you didn't compare Terrell Davis to Fred Taylor. Are you joking? That six-season softie doesn't belong in the same paragraph as Fred Taylor. Terrell Davis doesn't even crack the top 20. Are you kidding, dude? Oh, and fun fact for all you uninformed types out there - Steady Freddy had a greater YPC than any of the other hopefuls in Zone's list; yes, that includes LT and Bettis. What blasphemy, Davis in the same sentence as Taylor. Let's start comparing Pintos to Ferraris while we're at it.
John: This is in reference to a recent email/answer in which I noted that one area that will hurt Fred Taylor's Hall of Fame chances is that his career overlapped with running backs such as Terrell Davis, Jerome Bettis, Curtis Martin and LaDainian Tomlinson. My point in mentioning Davis and the others wasn't to say they deserved to be in the Hall of Fame over Taylor, but rather to point out that one factor working against Taylor is that he rarely – if ever – during his career had the best year for a running back in a particular season. That kept him from making multiple Pro Bowl appearances, which in turn kept his profile low enough nationally that to many he isn't a no-brainer Hall candidate. That's not right and it doesn't mean Taylor isn't an all-time great, but it certainly makes his candidacy more of a long shot. One other thing, though: While I often have written that Taylor deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, that doesn't mean Davis doesn't deserve the same consideration. And to say Davis was "soft" because injuries ended his career is so silly as to not deserve comment.
Shawn from Jacksonville:
Now you did it JO: my niece was eating her Easter candy and reading the O-Zone Sunday. She completely flipped out when she read your reply to Charles: "There is no Easter Bunny". The hell that comment put me through. I'm dropping her off at your house for Christmas, I'm sure you'll enjoy devastating a child for the second time.
John: You should see what I have in store for Labor Day.

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