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O-Zone: 'IT' factor

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Matt from Vegas:
While many seem to be forcing themselves to not be as excited this year for fear of another letdown, I'm as optimistic as I've ever been for these Jags. They lost eight games by a touchdown or less, added quality veterans, and get a high draft pick in one of the deepest drafts. The best team on paper is a solid training camp away from being a team we can be proud of. On a scale of one to 10, what's your confidence in this team's likelihood of being very competitive and able to knock off the elites this year?
John: If 10 is "very confident" and one is "not confident at all," I'm a four. That's not because I don't think the Jaguars will improve; rather, it's because after you asked about the Jaguars "being very competitive" next season, you added "knock off the elites." I think there is a good chance the Jaguars can be competitive and improve by maybe four-to-six games. That's a sizeable improvement. But there is a huge gap between competitive and "beating the elites." I also remain concerned about quarterback play; until we see the position become more dependable, it's difficult to predict the team playing at an elite level. I'm not saying it absolutely can't happen, but it's difficult to predict something until you see at least the first evidence it exists.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Wow, what an interview with Poz. He's such an open and honest guy that his body language clearly showed his discomfort with the idea of a new position. But his words and attitude showed nothing but professionalism. I don't know how he'll do with the adjustment. But I know he'll be the best he can be. And having watched Poz, that could be pretty darn good.
John: Paul Posluszny indeed remained remarkably poised Tuesday, speaking publicly as he did shortly after learning that he will be playing strong-side linebacker as opposed to middle linebacker next season. But I interpreted Posluszny during the interview more as being upset and maintaining his composure. Is he a bit uncomfortable? Yes, but that's because he's accustomed to being fully prepared and fully knowledgeable with his position. But Posluszny clearly was disappointed with the move, and understandably so: he has played middle linebacker in the NFL for a decade, and played as well as anyone on the Jaguars' defense last season outside perhaps Jalen Ramsey – and despite all that he's being moved. Is it part of the NFL? Yes. Is it the right move? Perhaps. But whatever the answers to those questions, Posluszny would have been almost inhuman had he not been upset. And he indeed handled the situation with professionalism – which is exactly how anyone who has been around him for nearly six seasons would have expected him to handle it.
Todd from Jacksonville:
Is it too early to start yelling #MOODACHAY!!!?
John: Why would it be?
Paul from Gainesville, FL:
Voluntary means voluntary, I am pretty sure.
John: As I have done before, I'll refer to former Colts/Cardinals/Seahawks running back Edgerrin James on this topic. Upon opting early in his career to not attend the Colts' voluntary offseason program, he said while he only attended the University of Miami for two years before opting for the NFL Draft, he indeed attended long enough to know what "voluntary" meant. I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.
John from Jacksonville:
Tommy Bohanon was the lead fullback blocker for Chris Ivory when he led the AFC in rushing in New York. Do you think the Jaguars are setting up Ivory for the lead role again?
John: I think the Jaguars signed Bohanon this week because they are considering having a fullback on the roster. If the Jaguars are going to carry a fullback, they want him to be good – and the Jets have been a good running team at times in recent seasons. That would undoubtedly benefit Ivory if he were in the lead running-back role next season, but it would benefit any other Jaguars runner, too.
Chris from Mandarin:
Repeat after Bill Belichick: "No days off." Branden Albert is a bum.
John: A player is in no way a "bum" for operating within NFL rules. There's no reason to think Albert is not working, and remaining in shape, just because he's not doing so at EverBank Field. NFL offseason workouts are called "voluntary" for a reason; it's because they're voluntary. This is professional football. Players are allowed to do things within the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement; it's why it's there.
Zach from Jacksonville:
Who would you say is the best player (or players) on the team right now? Who do you think the best player or players will be in two years?
John: You never know for sure what will happen from one season to the next, but based on past performance, I would say Calais Campbell and Jalen Ramsey would be the best players on the Jaguars right now – followed closely by Posluszny. That's based on the level at which Posluszny played last season, when I thought he and Ramsey by season's end were the Jaguars' best players. I can't put any offensive players in the group because Allen Robinson didn't perform last season as he did in 2015. I think Ramsey will be the Jaguars' best player in two seasons. He certainly seems headed in that direction.
Mike from Eagle River, AK:
I am the only Jags fan, outside of my family, I have ever known. Because of this, my brother and I make wild bets about how great the Jags are going to be every offseason to #represent. Normally I throw in some meaningless facts to get people to think that maybe we actually will be good. That being said, I've drawn a fat blank on what to be hopeful about this year. Advice for a frozen Jags fan??
John: I get this line of questioning a lot, but I actually feel more strongly than I did this time last offseason that the team will move toward .500 – perhaps very close to .500. I thought entering last offseason the defense had a good chance to go from being a liability in 2015 to at least an average defense in 2016 – with a chance because of the young talent to be really, really good in 2017. The unit seems on course for that, with the main question entering the offseason program being whether the pass rush can generate effective, consistent pressure in meaningful situations. If it can, then this defense can become really good by the end of the season – perhaps good enough to carry the team at times. I thought entering last season the offense needed to make dramatic strides, and I wasn't real confident it was going to be the team strength many observers assumed. The offense indeed struggled. I have an idea the Jaguars can make at least some marginal strides offensively this season. If the defense is as good as its potential, then the combination of those marginal offensive strides and more disciplined special teams play could mean some significant improvement. I don't know that the Jaguars yet have the quarterback play or offensive efficiency to contend for the postseason, but can this team improve next season? Sure.
Al from Orange Park, FL:
I thought Poz played at a very high level last year. I'm nervous about replacing him with an unproven player. I hope if that decision turns out to be a mistake, it gets quickly corrected. Your thoughts?
John: The time is now to play Myles Jack at middle linebacker. He's a young, mega-talented player who the team wants on the field in all situations and the best way to do that is to play him at middle linebacker. I wrote a few weeks ago that I thought there was a chance that Posluszny could move to strong-side – and that if that happened there was a chance that he might be moved back to the middle at some point during the season if the move doesn't work out. I stand by that thought because Posluszny played at a high level last season – and because he's a smart player who's very dependable on the inside. Jack could well be just as dependable, but he hasn't shown that yet. His transition and the transition of Posluszny to strong side will be fascinating. On the move's success could much of the team's defensive performance next season hinge.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
Even having the best players at every position doesn't guarantee wins? Imagine Tom Brady throwing passes to Julio Jones and Antonio Brown with the option of handing the ball off to Le'Veon Bell or David Johnson. And that's without even mentioning the players that would stack that defense. I'm pretty confident I could guide that team to at least a first-round bye, and I'm just a guy in IT.
John: Good players are cool. Guys in IT think they can coach them.

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