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O-Zone: Merle on the headphones

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Trey from Lovely Fruit Cove:
Hi, John: This may seem childish, but I just wish the Jags – my favorite team -- were better. A lot of my friends are fans of the Packers, Steelers, Ravens and Patriots. They talk about playoffs and Super Bowls. We talk about improving and next year. Sigh, just wish we were better. Thanks for listening.
John: You're not childish – a little self-pitying maybe; but not childish. Seriously, what you are is a fan. It's easy to be a fan of the teams for which your friends root. It hasn't been easy to be a Jaguars fan lately. But know this: the Jaguars are getting better. I believe they'll be better again next year – better enough for a legitimate improvement in the record. I hadn't thought that about the last few seasons. I think it about next season. Take it for what it's worth.
David from Oviedo, FL:
O-Man, when we rush four, opposing quarterbacks have all day to throw. This would make sense if more bodies in the secondary led to turnovers, but it doesn't. Turnovers come from pressuring the quarterbacks; so, we need to blitz and blitz often. It's not like our cornerbacks are the weak link. I vote we err on the side of aggression. A wise man once said, "If you're gonna die, die with your boots on!"
John: The Jaguars are aware of the problems they have pressuring with four down linemen. This why they have blitzed more in the last month or so than they did previously. They blitzed quarterbacks such as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Philip Rivers a bit less because those quarterbacks are adept at getting rid of the ball quickly; when that's the case, the blitz can be rendered pretty ineffective even if it intrinsically seems like the only thing to do. As easy as it to say, "Blitz all the time," there are dangers in that, too. You can be aggressive, but you have to mix in at least a bit of balance.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
Big O, I'm confused … is the chocolate fountain for everyone or just Boselli?
John: It depends on your perspective. If you're everyone else in the world, you believe it's for everyone. If you're Boselli … well, you can only imagine.
Steve from Jacksonville:
Could A.J. Cann play any other position on the line? He seems to have made strides this year, but isn't up to Brandon Linder's standard, who (assuming he comes back fine from injury) would go back in at right guard. Could Cann play left guard?
John: It seems very safe to assume Cann and Linder will start at guard next season for the Jaguars. Which side each player plays is something I imagine will be decided in the offseason. I would think Linder is more than capable of making the switch to left guard and playing effectively. We'll see what happens.
Nicholas from Toronto, Canada:
Are you truly satisfied with the coaching staff's rationale for not trying other players more extensively at Leo? So, even though Branch and Clemons are not able to pressure the passer, they're still the best options? What will happen if they're benched - will we not be able to pressure the quarterback (oh no!)? So, even though they have no future with the team beyond 2015, and even though this season offers an opportunity to evaluate the future of the position, they're still taking up the vast majority of the snaps? It doesn't add up.
John: This is a topic that's just eating people up right now, which is understandable considering the lack of pass rush all season from the Leo position. And if there were better options on the roster, I would be all for making changes. I just don't know that that's the case. I've said all along that while Ryan Davis is a very good interior, situational rusher I don't know that he's the all-around player who should start at Leo. While the Leo is critical to the pass rush, you also don't want a Leo who is a liability against the run – not when stopping the run is so critical to your overall defense. As far as Chris Smith, he was briefly in the starting lineup at the Leo, but very quickly was not – and then was inactive. The feeling was that he was not playing well enough to be active. The reality is the entire Leo position is not good enough. It has hurt the Jaguars this season and has made what is overall a pretty good defensive line look deficient at times. As far as evaluating the position's future, I expect Dante Fowler Jr. to start at the Leo position next season for the Jaguars. I expect a lot of newness there beyond that.
Wade from Jacksonville:
I can't be the only one thinking David Caldwell was just getting his feet wet in the first draft. His second draft has proven so far to be fantastic. The third has yet to be determined. In his fourth season, do you expect him to hit on more players than previous seasons, or to level out? A coach is only as good as what he's given to work with.
John: Caldwell's 2015 draft gets criticized by some, but it's important to keep a couple of things in perspective. One is while Jonathan Cyprien and Luke Joeckel are not Pro Bowl-caliber players yet, they are much better than many observers believe. Also, it was widely considered one of the weaker drafts in recent memory. Cyprien and Joeckel at minimum look serviceable – and it appears you won't have to redraft their positons anytime soon. If they're better that that, that draft is OK. As far as his fourth season, I have no idea: I haven't seen who he has drafted yet. I do know the success the Jaguars appear to have had in the 2014 draft is rare. You don't often hit that consistently up and down the draft.
Royce from Jacksonville:
Mr. O, after hearing Coach Gus explain the lack of run plays, I got the impression that he is not involved with what's going on during the game -- or chooses not to change anything. Am I wrong?
John: He is aware of the plays, and he is very much involved in game-time decision-making. For instance, if the Jaguars get in the red zone or inside the 10, he will make the call if the Jaguars are going to go for it on fourth-and-1. He typically will let Olson know well before fourth down. But in terms of deciding on individual play calls, generally speaking that's going to be offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
Joe from Fleming Island, FL:
Recognizing that injuries are part of the NFL, I can't help think the red-zone issues and the running game would be a much different situation if Linder had not been injured. Thoughts?
John: There's no question Brandon Linder would help. He's a very good run blocker, and the blocking on the interior of the line has struggled over the last month. It's not right to pin all of the red-zone or running issues on his absence, but it's also not right to say he wouldn't have at least some impact.
Sam from Kelowna, Canada:
I don't want you to get me twisted when I say this, because I'm a fan of T.J. Yeldon, and I expect him to be a big part of this organization. I just find it hard to believe that the Jags staff won't look into Fred Taylor's son Kelvin Taylor. Not out of respect to a Jaguars great, but I honestly think that Kelvin has the potential to reach the level of greatness that his father had. And C'mon Zone – you gotta admit, imagining a one-two punch combo of Yeldon/Taylor makes you wanna lick your chops. (I know it makes me.) Go JAGS!!!!!
John: When did anyone say the Jaguars won't look into Kelvin Taylor? But don't hold your breath on Kelvin reaching his father's greatness. Not to say he can't, but you're talking a rarified level. Very, rarified. I'm saying it's rare is what I'm saying.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
I know the answer is likely a resounding "No" and I'll probably get made fun of, but since Peyton Manning is a free agent next season … is there any chance? The offense is enticing, the defense will have potential, the schedule won't have New England, the Jaguars have cap space, Chad Henne will be a free agent …
John: You kept going. No need. You answered your question with your first sentence.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
No way Gus makes it to next year: a defensive coach that doesn't make in-game adjustments … no thank you. As far as next year's coach, I've got three words for you … JIM BOB COOTER!!! No, let me add a fourth word: CHAMPIONSHIP!!!
John: I like saying "Jim Bob Cooter" as much as the next guy. Sometimes I'll just put a finger of sippin' whiskey in a small glass, sit on the back porch, put Merle on the headphones and just say, "Jim Bob Cooter" a few times to myself. I call that a pretty good Tuesday afternoon. Still, if you think there's no way Gus Bradley's the head coach of the Jaguars next season you're just not paying attention.

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