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O-Zone: Influencing the game

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Game-day O-Zone.

Let's get to it … Jerry from Ormond Beach, FL:
It seems the names of the Jaguars' 2015 free-agent signings come up very seldom, other than Julius Thomas. What is your take on how well each of the other players has done so far this year?
John: The reason the names of the Jaguars' 2015 free-agent signees come up seldom is for the most part the players play positions where their names aren't likely to come up. Also, with the exception of Thomas, it wasn't a class signed to be high-impact, skill-position players; the idea was that as a whole the class would improve the roster. In that respect, the class has played to expectations. The offensive line by any measure is improved from last season, and right tackle Jermey Parnell and center Stefen Wisniewski have solidified their positions. Thomas only has played about two-and-a-half games. Defensive end Jared Odrick and linebacker Dan Skuta were acquired mostly to solidify the strong side of the defense; thus far, the run defense has been good far more often than not. That leaves the secondary, where cornerback Davon House and safety Sergio Brown are no longer starting. I expect House will be back in the starting lineup at some point, and the Jaguars didn't sign Brown with the idea that he absolutely would be a starter, so I don't know that he's really below expectations.
Confused from Jacksonville:
Not sure what to make of your ranking each team left on our schedule – you are either really bored or turning into a terrorist. This team needs to focus on cleaning up its own issues and find a way to play a complete game. You are creating bulletin-board material as players already see us at the biggest laughingstock in the league. COME ON, MAN! Get these guys to look inward!!!
John: #DTWD
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
Why are people still so hung up on Marqise Lee? I know the record sucks and a seven-game sample doesn't a Pro Bowl player make, but in my opinion wide receiver is a position fans should be fairly content with given the Allens. If JT gets it going, that's THREE solid-if-not-better pass catchers.
John: Right you are, but I think people are hung up on Lee for a couple of reasons. Fans are hung up because they tire of reading and hearing about a player who is injured, and because many can't grasp how a hamstring can keep a player out so long. It becomes a source of frustration – and that frustration builds to a point where it's a little odd. From the team's perspective, Lee remains a priority because he has game-changing ability in a vein the Jaguars don't otherwise possess – and if you have four really good receivers it gives your offense options it doesn't otherwise possess, too.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
Fans don't understand the "secret plan." We're saving Lee for the playoffs! (wink, wink)
John: Shh.
James from Upper Marlboro, MD:
John, some people want to compare Blake Bortles to Derek Carr, but they don't want to think about the good we have with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns when they talk about Amari Cooper. Khalil Mack is good as well, but I really want to see what Dante Fowler Jr. brings to the table next year. Both teams needed the same things; we just went about it with different personnel. I like who we have.
John: Ah, more Raiders talk. This topic evidently will fascinate Jaguars fans for years, and what's cool is in two or three years we'll actually have an answer about which franchise drafted/built better in the last few offseasons.
Jon from Fort Stewart, GA:
You know, John: the last time I was in Iraq I tore all the ligaments in my left ankle! I didn't skip one mission. There I was in full kit (soldiers know this), weapon in hand, going out with my guys. I just wrapped it tight and put my boot on. Marqise Lee needs to suck it up … who am I kidding? I just wanted to brag to someone that I did that. Take your time, Lee.
John: How'd the Raiders do?
Todd from Section 437:
Do you believe a certain Cowboy should be banned from the league? If so, for "games" or for "seasons" or for Life???
John: No, I do not think Greg Hardy should be banned from the NFL – and yes, I've seen the photos. I just don't believe any player should be "banned" for off-field reasons. In recent years the NFL has taken on an expanding role of moral judge and jury, and I've never been comfortable with it. This country has a legal system for a reason, and if that system allows a person to be free and able to seek employment then I believe that person/player should have a right to work in the NFL. Now, I don't believe these players have a "right" to play in the league, and I have no problem for example with no team wanting to sign Ray Rice. If the Cowboys released Hardy, I'd have no problem with it, either. But if a player is good enough that teams want to take the public-relations hit to have them on their roster, so be it.
Gary from Wesley Chapel, FL:
Hey John, I liked your comments on Jags of the Round Table about the rest of this season being almost like a fourth season for the Jaguars under Gus Bradley. With a fresh start coming off the bye, a healthy roster for the first time all season, turmoil among all of the other AFC South teams leaving the Jags as the 'most stable franchise in the division,' I think this week is the week Jags fans have been waiting for since Shad Khan took ownership of the franchise. All of the groundwork has been set and now the ascension of the Jaguars really begins! It's a good time to be a Jags fan again!
John: Stay tuned.
Andy from Saint Johns, FL:
I think we compete hard and lose on Sunday and everyone will be angry/frustrated/fire everyone, but I am not expecting to win. I think we will be 2-6 and then the streak starts and the story will begin to be told: 6-10/7-9, 2015 AFC South Division Champions!!!
John: I tend to agree – not necessarily that the Jaguars will win the division, but that Sunday will be a tough game that could be followed by a more successful stretch. Sunday is a tough "get" … not only are the Jets pretty good, the game is very important to their playoff positioning and they're playing at home. I believe the Jaguars will play well and compete, but it would be hard to call them favorites. After that …
Adrian from Inglewood, CA:
Fans like to look at past drafts and wonder why the GM didn't choose this player or that player, but they hardly ever point to a player and say "Man, I'm glad the GM didn't get that guy."
John: Analyzing past drafts selection by selection and playing "What if?" is a fun game. It's also an impossible test for general managers to pass. The draft is a percentage game and most general managers have plenty of misses to go along with the hits. Hit on a quarterback and it makes it a lot easier to have the rest of the percentages fall in your favor.
Brian from Charlottesville, VA:
Regarding Marqise Lee: 69 receptions for 749 yards and a couple of touchdowns over a 16-game season is what ANY starting WR in a semi-productive offense should produce. Nate Washington will likely end up with better numbers this year and he was pretty much available for anyone in the league to sign in the offseason. I do hope that Lee turns into the stretch-the-field, open-the-offense receiver we thought he'd be, but the figures above don't exactly indicate he'll be anything special. I know, I know, "he is allowed to develop and get better." Isn't that typically done via practicing?
John: A couple of things. First, the Jaguars weren't a semi-productive offense last season. The second point is that what I was saying in Friday's O-Zone is that those numbers for Marqise Lee would have been pretty much what Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson did in the same offense last season. Rookie receivers often take time to develop. Lee's statistics as a rookie didn't indicate he would be special. The plays he made when healthy in the final six games absolutely did.
Chris from San Marco, FL:
If Julius Thomas does not have a big game, the Jaguars will not beat the Jets. He seems to be the key matchup in this game. Would you agree?
John: I agree he is key. I don't know that Thomas necessarily has to have a huge day statistically, but he has to influence the game in some way. That could be done by drawing coverage – say, Darrelle Revis – away from the Jaguars' receivers. The Jaguars signed Julius Thomas because he's an impact player capable of big production and making defenses account for him. Now that he's healthy, it's time to see that happen more.

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