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O-Zone: Laugh out loud

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Aaron from Kenley, NC:
I know it's a message going around that Dante Fowler Jr. needs to learn to be a pro – and all indications are he is accepting/ progressing towards such … but if he was so dominant and nearly unblockable during the first few weeks of training camp, why the drop off? These other teams haven't seen him day in and day out like our linemen – maybe Tampa, a little, but come on. If he gets some pressure Sunday, I guess I'll just sit down and shut up. But as of now, I'm a little concerned.
John: Just as it was probably time early in training camp to pump the brakes on the Dante-Fowler-Jr.-Is-Going-Into-The-Hall-of-Fame-Before-He-Plays-A-Regular-Season-Game storyline, it's probably time to slow the What's-Wrong-With-Fowler angle. The current angst centers around his lack of pressure in a couple of practices and some limited preseason game action. It's not that Fowler's not showing the athleticism he showed early and it's not that he's not giving effort. It's also not that he's getting stonewalled for long stretches of the regular season. He's a young pass rusher who has been neutralized a couple of times in the preseason by experienced veterans. That happens in the NFL. Many, many young pass rushers have had low sack numbers in their first season before they figure out the nuances/details needed to be big-time pass rushers. There's no reason to think Fowler won't figure out the NFL, and there's no reason to panic if there are stretches this season where he's not making SportsCenter every week. What Fowler is going through right now is normal. The surprise would be if it was playing out any other way.
Mark from Green Bay, WI:
I'm still nervous (anxious?) about the season.
John: OK (all right).
Jaginator from Section 124:
I know better than to make too much of preseason depth charts, but I just noticed that Luke Bowanko is now buried as the third-string center. Always kinda liked him, but we haven't heard too many positive things about him in the last month. Do you think he makes the final 53?
John: Bowanko has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list throughout training camp and preseason with a hip injury. That's why he's listed as the third-team center. I expect Bowanko to remain on PUP into the regular season. There will be a window toward the middle of the season when Bowanko can be moved to the active roster.
David from Orlando, FL:
Big-O, what I would most like to see from the third preseason game is it ending without any injuries and going into the season with a healthy roster.
John: Yes.
Ethan from Jacksonville:
John, do you think Jalen Ramsey can excel in this league? And what will he bring to the secondary?
John: Yes. Size, speed, aggressiveness, tackling ability, confidence.
Colton from Jacksonville:
Is the league still looking to create a developmental league for players? If so, wouldn't it be possible by "partnering" with another league such as the AFL? I would think with the NFL's backing a league such as the AFL would flourish and provide the right situation for players to grow.
John: There often is discussion about such a league, but if the NFL truly wanted to create a developmental league it would … wait for it … create a developmental league. And while the NFL almost certainly could partner with another league, I'm not so sure about the flourishing part. The history of such minor leagues is that they don't flourish and I don't know that an NFL affiliation would boost interest in such a league enough to offset the costs, the latter of which remains the primary reason the NFL stays away from the concept.
Micah from Orlando, FL:
O-man, I know it's an oversimplification, but which do you value more? Pass rush off the edge or pressure up the middle?
John: If I absolutely had to get one or the other, I suppose I'd choose pressure off the edge, but realistically one is rarely effective without the other.
William from Jacksonville:
I know Tyson Alualu will make the team, but do you ever watch him on film? He's still not very good.
John: I suppose this depends on your definition of "very good." Is he a Pro Bowl-level, game-changing player? No. Is he a good NFL player? Yes. Is he a liability? Absolutely not. Is a reliable player who helps the team far more than he hurts it? Absolutely.
David from Oviedo, FL:
O-man, I was watching some games on the NFL Network and it struck me how much faster our defense is compared to some others. I know getting faster on defense was major priority this off-season. I'd say mission accomplished.
John: Indeed.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
Let's say the Jaguars sign a veteran player to a $1 million contract (not guaranteed) during OTAs. After the third preseason game the team decides that said player is not what they expected and he doesn't make the final 53-man roster. Does this player receive any portion of that $1 million for the time that he participated throughout training camp and the preseason?
John: No. He would only receive his signing bonus and pre-determined expenses.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brasil:
From watching practices, do you sense that Kelvin Beachum is rushing his recovery to get back to the field? My concern is if he is obviously better than Luke Joeckel – according to some sources – why not give him more recovery time and slide him into the lineup around the bye week?
John: There's no question Beachum was trying to return from his torn anterior cruciate ligament tear as quickly as possible. That's his job. The job of Jaguars doctors and trainers is to make sure he returns at the proper pace. Contact and teamwork is closed to the media after training camp, but while I haven't seen Beachum do enough in recent days to have a feel for his physical progress, all reports are he has looked good in practice this week. As for why and when to play him … if he's healthy and ready, play him. If not, don't. But the reason you want him on the field is the same reason you signed him. You want your best five linemen out there, and Beachum certainly is in that group.
Rob from Brunswick, GA:
I have never understood the obsession with sacks in this game. Yes, they are great when they happen and can blow up a drive, but the all-time NFL record for sacks by a player is held by Michael Strahan at 35. That means he got just shy of 1.5 a game. It seems to me that even if you were having a truly monster, record year as sacks go, you still could be terrible overall player who's just getting lucky but more than is typical. What are the things you SHOULD be focused on as a DE instead of sack total?
John: A terrible player isn't going to register 23 or more sacks in season, though your point at its core has a lot of truth to it. What you want from pass-rushing defensive ends is pressure enough to not only consistently disrupt an offense but to ensure that a quarterback and offensive coordinator become concerned with that player at all times. That sort of disruption is more important than a sacks total.
Sebastian from Austin, TX:
How good of a left tackle is Kelvin Beachum expected to be? He has been recovering all year and barely got first-team reps for the first time with this organization this week … the Steelers chose to not re-sign him, Joeckel according to all offseason reports has done everything asked of him, has been in this system for two years, has progressively gotten better and played at his best ever last week. So, why is it so expected that Beachum will have a realistic chance to win this competition with the regular season two weeks away? Why not give him a season as a backup (not starting at left guard, either) to come back full strength and have a real competition next offseason? Only answer I can think of is that the Jaguars are not planning on having Joeckel next year.
John: You're overthinking it. The reason the Jaguars want Kelvin Beachum to play this season is he's a very good player who has played at a high level in the NFL – and therefore having him in the lineup is better than not having him in the lineup. I believe at this point Beachum will start at tackle if for no other reason than Joeckel has worked enough at guard to be more comfortable there than Beachum. Whatever the reason, the combination of Joeckel and Beachum figures to make the Jaguars a lot better on the left side of the line than they were last year – which is of course, the idea from the beginning.
Eric from Somewhere:
Have you lobbied for an Oehser Appreciation Day?
John: I didn't, but some of my co-workers asked Mark Lamping about the possibility. They described his laugh as "joyful and reaffirming."

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