O-Zone: How sweat it is

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jeremy from Bossier City, LA:
So, we now need a starting-caliber left guard, right guard, right tackle, tight end, quarterback, defensive end and depth at several positions. We give up a draft pick to let a left tackle go while signing another, even though Kelvin Beachum is definitely an NFL starter and likely to be for a long time (and he's the type of guy you want on your team; #winner). We also let Julius Thomas go for a seventh-round draft pick when Nathaniel Hackett could find a way to properly use him. By not retaining Thomas and Beachum, we created two additional needs that weren't there two weeks ago. On top of that, the word on the street is we are going to let Johnathan Cyprien walk and have to draft or sign another safety when he's clearly a starting-caliber safety. Oh, and we only have $73 million in salary-cap space. Pure genius! Just pure genius! My only hope at this point is that somehow I can eat crow this coming season.
John: I can't speak to your future diet, but I do know when a 3-13 team changes head coaches and front-office leadership there are going to be changes. Those changes won't be cosmetic in nature and more likely might involve foundation-changing moves. Changing left tackles is a foundation-changing move. The Jaguars clearly didn't like Beachum enough at left tackle to move forward with him there, and they clearly didn't like Thomas enough at tight end to move forward with him there. Those changes mean dramatic change at those positions, and if they change from Cyprien to someone else, that would mean a dramatic shift at that position, too. The Jaguars have lost a lot of games for a lot of consecutive seasons. It's not so surprising that someone trying to change that trend might implement dramatic change.
Aaron from Chantilly:
Risk with Fournette compared to Cook in my mind is that Fournette will last four or five years with his running style whereas Cook's style could yield a 10-plus-year career.
John: While Dalvin Cook's style indeed might give him a year or two longer than Leonard Fournette, the risk with drafting any running back is longevity. You don't draft any running back thinking about a double-digit career. If you get more than six elite years, then you have to be ecstatic.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I understand the angst over personnel moves to a point. We like certain players and it's sometimes hard to see them go, even when the moves result in seeing even better players brought in. But it's too early to fret. The free-agency period doesn't even start until March 9, and then there is the draft. I am more concerned about another indicator: I don't see a Jaguars UFA that we would even consider for a franchise tag. Is that a legitimate concern?
John: Teams using or not using the franchise tag isn't necessarily a reflection of the quality of players on their rosters. Sometimes teams have already re-signed their good players, which would preclude the use of the franchise tag. Remember, too: teams only tag players when they're scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, which means you're only talking about a small percentage of team's players. This is not to say the Jaguars have a strong enough roster. They do not, and they certainly need more good players. But the lack of anyone in consideration right now for the franchise tag isn't what makes that the case.
Brandon from Atlanta, GA:
Word on the street is this year's draft class of tight ends is the best it has been in a while. Can that play into the Jaguars' decisions such as releasing a player or not pursuing a player in free agency? I remember a similar topic coming up last year relating to defensive linemen and how that pushed the free-agent market down. Here's hoping we find a tight-end gem in the mid- to-late rounds.
John: Strength of a draft class most certainly plays into a team's offseason decision-making. It's not the only factor, and it's best not to depend on rookies to play a role you consider critical to the team's success or failure. But if one position group is particularly strong, it's certainly more reasonable to release a player at that position and be confident you can address it with youth and potential at a cheaper price.
John from Jacksonville:
Last year I watched the games, and I felt this team had to get much more production from both left tackle as well as right tackle play. What do you think?
John: I think the Jaguars are seriously addressing the offensive line this offseason, so I sure don't think you're alone in your opinion.
Suni from Jacksonville:
I agree with you that a .500 record should be the higher end of the expectations for 2017. But don't you see that this is the problem? We are hoping for .500 football and will probably still not get it. We have NOT had a home playoff game in 17 (going on 18) years! We haven't even been close to making the playoffs in 10 years. So when the fans sound frustrated with everything this organization is doing to "try and produce a winner," it should be understandable. I haven't seen less excitement in this fan base in a long time. I just don't know how to feel about the Jags anymore ... deep sigh.
John: Suni, I can't control how the fan base feels, and I can't make people excited. Only winning can do that. Of course it's understandable that the fan base is frustrated. Of course offseason excitement is down a bit. That's logical. When the Jaguars start winning again, the excitement will return. That's the only answer. That's what it will take.
Ric from Jacksonville:
So with the change at left tackle, it got me thinking – which is always a little disconcerting in itself. … Kelvin Beachum wasn't a bad tackle. He will probably start somewhere next season. With him being released, it really wouldn't surprise me if we will have a completely new offensive line next year outside of the center. Would that surprise you or do you feel there is a good chance for more than just Linder as a hold over?
John: I wouldn't be surprised to see A.J. Cann start at guard. In fact, I'd be a little surprised if he doesn't start at guard next season. Beyond that, we'll see …
James from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Zone, do players typically say there is a greater jump in speed, strength, and overall competition from high school to college, or college to the NFL? There are about 1,088,000 high school players each year, roughly 11,000 Division I scholarships each season, and about 2,000 guys collecting NFL checks annually. Statistically, it would appear the jump from high school to D-I would be much more difficult. However, those that receive scholarships are typically already big and fast enough to play college ball. Thus, curious what NFL players say about the comparative difficulty transitioning from high school to college, versus college to the NFL?
John: The jump in speed, strength and overall competition is extreme anytime you ascend in levels in football because you're in situations where every player at your new level is as good as the best player at your former level. It's a bigger increase from college to the NFL because you're suddenly playing against the biggest, strongest fastest football players in the world – and you're suddenly playing against mature, grown 27-to-28-year-old men. That's different from playing against 21- and 22-year-olds at the collegiate level.
Thomas from Williamsburg, VA:
Do you think Dante Fowler Jr. can already be considered a bad pick? I don't think you can call someone a bust after just one year, but then again it seems like a given that the Jags will bring in someone to line up opposite Ngakuoe (JPP or Allen). If that's the case, Fowler becomes a rotational player and you don't spend the No. 3 overall selection on a rotational defensive lineman.
John: If Dante Fowler never plays better than he did last season he obviously was over-drafted at No. 3. If J.J. Watt never had played better than he did as a rookie he would have been over-drafted. If Khalil Mack never had played better than he did as a rookie he would have been over-drafted. I don't know how Fowler's career will play out. He has to mature on the field as a pass rusher, and he has to make better on-field decisions. A lot of his play didn't inspire confidence last season. And I do think the Jaguars need a veteran pass rusher. But that need doesn't have as much to do with Fowler as it has to do with the fact that having three players who can pressure the passer is better than having two players. Having four would be awesome, too. You can never have enough.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
Mr. O … Why do you always joke about your life being a disappointment? Sure, you weren't blessed with good looks and much of a personality, but hey, being the senior writer to an NFL team is a pretty sweat gig. Am I wrong?
John: #sweatgig … I can't make things like this up. I'm not that good.

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