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O-Zone: No reservations

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Springfield, MA:
O, no question, but a comment since reading reports and mock drafts. It appears that some folks "in the know" are actually giving the Jags a lot of credit for their youth movement and building a solid foundation for the future. Three were very high on Bortles. Go figure!
John: That almost certainly made for good reading, but I don't get too much into national opinion on the Jaguars in either direction. I dismiss a lot of negative about the Jaguars from a national perspective, and I don't do cartwheels when someone nationally praises them. That's because with few exceptions national media have less of a grasp on a team than local media because they have to pay attention to 32 teams rather than one. That said, many people who know football like the approach being taken in Jacksonville. Most of those same people knew there was a long way to go when this regime took over – and when there's a long way to go it can take time to get there. Is the foundation being built solid? Yes, it appears that way. Are people nationally noticing? For the most part, yes. And if you like that sort of thing, yes – that's pretty cool.
Steve from Jacksonville:
John, have the Jaguars ever said, "We're going to be more active in free agency?" pffftt...
John: Not to my knowledge, no. But I'll check.
Shon from San Antonio, TX:
If there is an offer to trade down with Cleveland and Leonard Williams from Southern California is still available, do you make the trade for their two first-round picks? How far is the drop in talent from Williams and the next best defensive lineman? Not just a defensive tackle or defensive end, but someone else in the draft that can play all over the line like Williams? I think Alualu has that type of talent (hope we re-sign him) but you can't have too many of those types of player, your thoughts?
John: It's hard to say how big of a real drop-off there is between Williams and other linemen available, but the perception is the drop-off is significant – and there certainly aren't any linemen available in the draft who are perceived to be as versatile as Williams. I've said often that I'm not as big on the idea of trading down as many others. First, the trades rarely actually happen. Second, I believe the Jaguars are in need of difference-making, franchise-defining players. Your chances of finding those types of players go up the earlier you draft.
Mike from Des Moines,IA:
John: free agency rocks!!!
Tino from Sarasota, FL:
Why do cornerbacks have a hard time transitioning to free safety?
John: Some corners do transition to safety successfully, but as with any transition of position, the difficulty is in suddenly doing something that requires a different skill set. Safeties are often safeties because they have a different body type. They are often better in run support and have more range, often being asked to roam and cover larger areas of the field. Corners sometimes don't have those skills as naturally. So, when they're asked to do those things it's something difficult. When they're making the transition in the NFL, they're doing so at the highest level of football and the slightest drop-off in talent or technique can be exposed, so a move like that is, as expected, difficult.
Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
I'm probably late on this, but who's Jeff Fisch?
John: He's tennis player Mardy Fish's spelling-challenged cousin.
Tm from Jacksonville:
Hey John, where do you think Olson will start with improving Bortles this year? Everyone talks about his footwork being a major issue, but is that the most significant one? Thanks.
John: I'm sure new Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson will be aware of Blake Bortles' footwork and fundamentals, but a lot of that specific, fundamental, detail-oriented work should also fall under quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett. Bortles also needs to have worked on those fundamental-based areas – and committing better techniques to muscle memory – well before he begins to get a chance to work with Olson in late April. The majority of Olson's job will be about designing an offense that takes advantage of Bortles' strengths and ensuring that the offense is as player-friendly and talent-enhancing as possible. As far as specifics, I'd expect Olson to work extensively with Bortles on blitz and pass-rush recognition. Olson correctly noted recently that it's difficult for a quarterback to have success or even function if he's weak in these areas.
Trey from Jacksonville:
You do realize that if Alualu were a later-round pick, he would have been cut years ago and probably out of the league?
John: Incorrect.
Aaron from Chehalis, WA:
In your question about what Jaguars players you expect to take a step forward next year you left out Blake Bortles. I'm sure you realized you were doing this, so do you expect him to be about the same as last year? Worse? To be determined? What's up with that?
John: I didn't actually mean to leave him out. We discuss Bortles so much in the O-Zone that when I answered the question I was thinking of other players who I expected to improve, and who had shown the ability to do so. Bortles obviously is the key to everything. I expect him to improve. At what rate, and how much? I honestly don't know. He has shown enormous potential in flashes. He hasn't shown consistency. I don't know what to expect, because history of other players doesn't help much in this area. So, to answer your question … yeah, to be determined, but I do expect to see improvement.
Tommy from Jacksonville:
Zone, I'm super-pumped for the shipyard plans. They've been an eyesore for too long. Have you seen the plans for the shipyards? If so, are they cool? Do you like them?
John: I haven't seen them. I've heard whispers of the same reports that have been discussed publicly. But I do know this: in the past few years the Jaguars have rolled out a whole lot of plans and we've pretty much seen all of them come to fruition. They've been cool for the most part. I've liked them and so have a lot of people. I expect nothing less from whatever the plans are for the Shipyards.
Andrew from Toledo, OH:
What are the chances both Leonard Williams and Randy Gregory are gone by the time the Jags go on the clock? I say that is likely to happen. Winston could be good but he is questionable off of the field and Mariota is Sam Bradford all over again. Bust city, baby!
John: I'd be very, very, very surprised if Jameis Winston is on the board when the Jaguars select at No. 3 overall.
Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ:
The Jaguars have a lot of cap room. A LOT. Is there much movement they can legitimately make for improvement with that room or is this offseason going to end up feeling a bit like Brewster's Millions, where we over-pay players to make sure we get to the minimum quota? (I think teams have to spend like 90% of the cap?)
John: The answer depends on a couple of factors. One is who actually is available in free agency; the list on March 10 won't look as good as the list now, but it should still have enough quality players that a team can improve. The second factor is whether the Jaguars land the right players. They have the money to do so, and they must spend more than they have the last two offseasons. Now, that last line doesn't mean they have to spend over the cap. They do not. They must get to 90 percent of the cap over a four-year period. They can do that without overspending and without spending over the cap, but they can't do it without spending more than they have the past two offseasons. If they spend wisely, yes, there is legitimately a chance for improvement.
Ike from Screamville, FL:
John, sometimes I just read what other fans say and try to come up with their own analysis and can't help but SCREAM!!! AHHHHHH!!! Yes I feel a little better now, Carry On.
John: Scream all you like, Ike (see what I did there?) but fans gonna fan.
Joe from St. Augustine, FL:
I feel like one of the general predispositions for fans (of all franchises) is to complain for the sake of complaining. Do you think there are Patriots fans who complain that they only won because of an interception on a bad play call? I know one commenter in the O-Zone comments section who would complain if it had been the Jags who won this year...
John: I doubt there was much complaining in New England about how the Patriots won. It's my experience that fans of Super Bowl champions celebrate that victory wholeheartedly and without reservation. For a day or two, at least. And then they start fannin' again.

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