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O-Zone: Losing isn't cool

MOBILE, Ala. – More Senior Bowl, baby.

Let's get to it … Kyle from Ohio:
You stated you have Olivier Vernon as the top guy you would want to see the Jags not allow to leave the facility without a deal. How would you see him fitting with the team? Based on my understanding of the defensive line, he could only play the one end spot that we are hoping to get Fowler back for. Obviously, you like depth at the pass-rushing end, but I don't see paying Vernon big money to be a backup pass rusher or only utilized in special packages where you use more pass rushers. How do you see his fit?
John: This is going to be an oft-discussed topic this offseason, I suppose. Here's the thing to remember as free agency and the draft approach: the Jaguars this offseason are almost certainly going to spend a decent amount of equity – either money or draft selection – to acquire a Leo pass rusher; maybe two. When that happens, there probably is going to be some early confusion over what it means for Dante Fowler Jr. Know this: it will simply mean that the Jaguars have two – or three – potential front-line Leo pass rushers as opposed to one. And that will be OK. In fact, it will be more than OK; it will be a necessity in this era of the NFL. Remember, the Jaguars' primary issue this was THIRD-DOWN defense and THIRD-DOWN pass rush. The Jaguars play multiple Leos – three – on third downs. They were actually pretty good defensively in base situations for the most part. It was in passing situations where they struggled. As far as Fowler, the Jaguars are planning to move him around. They may move the next front-line Leo around some, too. And if they get a third one – and that wouldn't be a bad thing, either – they may move them all around. Just because a player is a Leo in this system isn't going to make him an afterthought after Fowler. Not even close.
Josh Norman from Charlotte, NC:
Will I be a Carolina Panther next season?
John: Probably. You're pretty good.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
The pummeling Tom Brady took from the front seven of the Broncos Sunday – and his struggles as a result – goes to show the impact pressuring the quarterback can have. How much better do you think our line will be with the addition of Dante Fowler Jr. and Sen'Derrick Marks back in the line up? Do you think the Jags will come into the coming season more willing to blitz or just hope for better pressure this year?
John: If pass rush isn't everything when defending the pass in the NFL, it's really, really close. When you look at teams that made the playoffs this season – and particularly, teams that had playoff success – they all pressured the quarterback well. That was why Denver beat the Patriots during the regular season and it was why they won Sunday: they were able to pressure out of their base packages without a heavy emphasis on the blitz. As far as the Jaguars, there's no question the addition of Fowler and Marks will help the pass rush next season. Even if they don't put up monstrous sack numbers, their ability to penetrate and make plays – assuming Fowler plays to his draft status – can't help make a difference. Your final question, about blitzing … we'll see. Ideally, a 4-3 team can pressure the quarterback without an inordinate amount of blitzing. The Jaguars got some benefit from blitzing this past season and they were hurt by it, too. Finding a balance will be paramount.
Chris from Jacksonville:
When asked why teams were having success passing against Seattle's defense, Phil Simms says, "Because everybody is copying the Seattle defense and everybody knows what works against it now." Uh ... should we be worried???
John: The Seahawks ranked first in points allowed, second in total yards allowed, second in passing yards allowed and first in rushing yards allowed in 2015. We should all be so worried.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
Cam Newton could very well end up winning the NFL MVP, Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP this year. He has already won a junior college national championship, Heisman Trophy, BCS National Championship, and NFL Rookie of the Year award. At this point in his young career, does he rightfully deserve to be considered one of the best football players ever?
John: Sure. He obviously has to do it for an extended period, but he's off to a strikingly good start.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
The Jaguars being valued at half a billion dollars more than when Shad Khan bought them and Shad "making half a billion dollars" are not the same thing. Setting aside the fact Shad has reinvested an amount of money that – even for a billionaire – is impressive, let's acknowledge that buying an NFL team is an investment. It's supposed to make him money. If it didn't, billionaires wouldn't buy it and the product would be lesser for it. If you must find something about Shad to complain about (and I don't see why you would), pick something different.
John: Yeah, I don't know that I get why complaining about Shad Khan is a thing. Actually, with rare exceptions, I'm not sure it is.
Fuzzy from Woodland Park, CO:
If Denver had run back the intercepted two-point conversion and scored two points themselves, which team would have kicked off after the play? Both teams had scored.
John: You're asking about the two-point conversion following the Patriots' final touchdown in the AFC Championship Game Sunday. Had the Broncos run the interception for a touchdown, New England would still have kicked off.
Tom from Melbourne, FL:
Hey, O-Sir: is 'the streak' still going? What's it up to?
John: It's going.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
I hope Gus and Company watched the Denver defense "affect" Tom Brady. What do you think we need on defense?
John: I'm sure Gus and Co. watched, but I doubt they learned much. It's not news to anyone in the NFL that a dominant pass rush that can pressure the quarterback without blitzing is a "good thing." The Jaguars need pass rushers.
Adam from St. Johns, FL:
OK, so let me get this straight. This all players and not coaching correct? The coaches don't have any responsibility? Then why have coaches? It's all the players fault. hmmm I always heard the NFL was a coaches league. I guess I learned something.
John: You're right, Alan: I checked Wikipedia. Coaching is everything.
Kyle from Celina:
I see about a 10 percent chance Zane Beadles returns next year. He has been a little better, but is still a major weak point. Cann will usurp him full time and $5.5 million is too much for a backup.
John: A possible scenario for Beadles is to compete with A.J. Cann for a starting position in training camp. If he wins that job, or if an injury leads to being in the lineup, then he will start – and will probably do so at his salary. If not, perhaps he would take a pay cut and be a backup. We'll see.
Greg from St. Johns, FL:
After watching the AFC Championship Game, the recipe looks pretty simple: pass rush, pass rush, pass rush, pass rush, pass rush with front four. Beats maybe the best ever quarterback.
John: It also beat a pretty good coach.
Scott from Section 137:
It seems great defenses win down the stretch, especially in playoff situations, and teams that can run the ball dependably with a good defense fare better down the stretch and in the playoffs as well. That being said, how far off are we from being a Top 10 defense and what about our running game. Is T.J. Yeldon good enough down the stretch or is he too injury prone?
John: I prefer an effective defense that can get the opposing offense off the field on third down; the Jaguars weren't close to that this season. I doubt they'll be a Top 10 defense next season, but I do think they can get a whole lot closer to being a team that consistently gets enough pressure on the quarterback to start winning more on third down. That can turn a few games and get this team moving in the right direction next season. As far as Yeldon, I think he can be a really good feature back, but I do think the Jaguars need a back-up package with him. Not because he's injury-prone, which I don't think we can say yet, but because you often need two good backs to be productive these days.
Adrian from Inglewood, CA:
Why are we talking about firing Gus? We knew when he and Dave arrived the franchise was a mess. Then, Dave gutted the roster to its bare bones, so winning was going to be difficult. Add young players to the mix and winning seems almost impossible. We all knew wins were going to be difficult going into this, so what's the problem?
John: The problem is losing isn't cool. People don't like it.

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