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O-Zone: New hire

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Marc from Oceanway:
People are saying we could have just waited and used the franchise tag next offseason on Blake Bortles if he is deserving rather than exercise his fifth-year option. Why would we want to risk having to use the franchise tag on Bortles, when we may need to use it on Telvin Smith or Allen Robinson? There have been plenty of teams in the past who have lost a good player because they did not have enough tags. This was clearly a smart move. If he sucks, we can still cut him at the end of the year.
John: Sure, the Jaguars could have waited and used the franchise tag on Bortles, but as you said: why? The use of the fifth-year option is an almost all-upside, no-downside situation. If Bortles plays well enough in 2017 to show he should be the quarterback moving forward, the Jaguars have him under his rookie contract for another season. If he doesn't play well enough to show that, then the team can release him following the 2017 season. The only risk is if he is seriously injured. Is that a risk? Certainly, but every major roster decision involves a certain risk. The big picture on this issue remains the same: Bortles must play well this season to be the franchise quarterback moving forward. If he doesn't, he won't be the franchise quarterback moving forward.
Dave from Jacksonville:
To David from Puerto Rico's question about Dave Caldwell, if he's still a big part of what the Jaguars organization does, then I feel that the Jags will still be just the same old lonely Jaguars with zero prime-time games and zero Pro Bowlers.
John: OK.
Erick from Jacksonville:
On paper, this looks like an impressive UDFA list. How many has a legit shot of cracking the roster? Who do you think has the potential to make it?
John: The 16 players who signed with the Jaguars as undrafted free agents Monday indeed included some players who appear to have NFL potential. History indicates perhaps two or three could make the team. There's no cap, of course, but that's usually the number of UDFAs players who realistically could be on the final roster. A few names to watch? Illinois defensive end Carroll Phillips, Utah defensive end Hunter Dimrick, Syracuse wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo, Middle Tennessee State cornerback Jeremy Cutrer, Texas A&M guard Avery Gennessy, Middle Tennessee State running back I'Tavius Mathers, and Tennessee State cornerback Ezra Robinson. All players were projected as possible draft selections, so that's a place to start.
Bill from Melbourne, FL:
You always say that.
John: I know.
JV from Iowa:
Why Cam Robinson over Forrest Lamp? I am no expert, but it seemed like the overall feeling from scouting reports is that Cam never got better after his freshman year and has issues with "want-to," whereas Forrest seemed to grade out positively three years in a row. Does it have to do with the type of blocking scheme they came from in college? I just came away with the feeling that we "might" have gotten a good player in Robinson, when we could have drafted someone who maybe is a bit hungrier.
John: The Jaguars liked Lamp (see what I did there?), and I have an idea they might have taken him in Round 2 had Robinson not been available. The Jaguars haven't discussed the details of every player they didn't take, but Caldwell, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, Head Coach Doug Marrone and offensive line coach Pat Flaherty all did extensive research on Robinson. They all worked him out privately in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the week before the draft. Marrone also had close ties with not only Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban, but Alabama offensive line coach Brent Key. All in all, this feels like a decision far more about a major comfort level and belief in Robinson's versatility, potential and talent than about how much they liked Lamp.
Eddie from Jacksonville:
I am really starting to question the inner working of the Jaguars' HR Dept. With all these talented scouts available with nothing to do but write in to the O-Zone, why have none of them been hired by the organization? I mean seriously, what is going on over there?
John: Fair point.
Blues Man from St. Augustine, FL:
I may be one of the few pleased with the draft – though the Duwuane Smoot pick is surprising, at least to me. But I'm failing to understand how media people (you included) always say that for this team to go .500 would be miraculous. Other than the erratic quarterback we have, this team is and should be a .500 team. I just don't understand the pessimism. I get that we don't have Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, but come on ... this team can't win eight games? Are they that bad? I think NOT!
John: I don't think it would be miraculous for the Jaguars to finish .500, but it would mean a five-game improvement. That's a big jump in the NFL – and it's difficult to predict a five-game jump. The other issue is the one you note when you say "other than the erratic quarterback." When trying to assess this team, you can't overlook the importance of quarterback. If you take the "erratic" description away, then pushing for .500 indeed seems realistic. If you can continue describing him as erratic, then .500 becomes a lot more difficult to achieve. Bortles certainly could improve enough for this team to win, but it's difficult to project until it happens.
Geoff from Jacksonville:
I will not look at 2018 mock drafts yet. I will not look at 2018 mock drafts yet.
John: This is an important, even critical, time for you. Stay strong.
Preston from Oakville, CT:
O-Man, hypothetically, if Blake Bortles puts together an average-at-best season, but the defense and running game bring us to .500, what do you think the Jaguars would do next offseason at the quarterback position: draft a quarterback to compete with Blake on his contract year, cut Bortles, or stick with him? On the flip side, if he has a great year, would you expect them to renegotiate his contract to something long-term?
John: I don't know. Yes.
Paul from Southern California:
So many people are up in arms about the Dede Westbrook drafting and I just don't get it. Did the kid screw up? Absolutely. But just because someone screws up doesn't mean that they should never be allowed to ever work in their field ever again. It makes no sense, as we have all screwed up one way or another in life. Let the kid go out and compete. The only time a person should not be allowed a job is when their performance hurts the company somehow. If we quit allowing jobs to those who made mistakes in their lives ... let's just say the job market would open up quite significantly.
John: This seems certain to be a topic in the coming months, and it's likely to be a topic for many as long as Westbrook plays for the Jaguars. His background is well-documented and won't change. People aren't going to like it, and those who are dug in and passionate about the issue won't change their opinions on his signing. That's fine, understandable and it's simply the reality. Another reality is the one you cite – that just because someone screws up doesn't mean they should never be allowed to work in their field again. The biggest reality is that the NFL is going to field teams with players whose backgrounds make people angry and uncomfortable. I don't have an answer that will change that, and it's not going to change. But Westbrook is going to play for the Jaguars, and if he's good, he will help the franchise. Will fans who dislike the signing ever come to accept it? We'll see.
Glen from Orange Park:
Dede Westbrook won the Biletnikoff award, finished fourth in Heisman voting, 80 catches, 1,524 yards, 19.1 per catch, 18 touchdowns helping his Big 12 school to a 11-2 record. Why would he only be a second- or third-round pick if he did not have the off-field issues four years ago?
John: Who knows? He might well have been a first-round selection if not for the off-field issues. He's not quite as big as your prototypical first-round wide receiver and doesn't have quite the world-class speed of Washington wide receiver John Ross, so that may have kept him out of the first round. But whatever … he has NFL talent and should be able to make an impact.
Mike from Jacksonville:
John, I studied countless mock drafts for several months. I didn't actually travel and watch any prospects or even watch any film, but did I mention countless (seriously, I can count how many) mock drafts? I am a self-trained, self-proclaimed expert and I don't like the Jags' draft. OK, Cam was a good pick but those others? Pass along my contact info because they really need me if they're going to turn this around.
John: Will do.

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