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O-Zone: No room for slackers

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Russell from Callahan, FL:
I can't help but feel our front office is pulling a "Gene" all over again. It looks bad when we sign a "high-profile" free agent in the offseason and a guy comes in off the street and takes his starting job. It doesn't look good at all. It's a waste of money and a waste of time. I still feel like some players come here thinking it's a vacation like Aaron Ross did a few years ago. What do you think?
John: This is one where perspective is necessary, and for perspective, it's necessary to understand just how much importance the Jaguars actually put on the signing of Dekoda Watson. This is not to discount him as a player and he may go on to find a good fit in Dallas, where he signed after being released by the Jaguars last week. But the reality is while Watson may or may not have been "high-profile" (that depends on your definition of such things, I suppose), he certainly was not a player in whom the team invested a great deal. Watson started six games in four seasons for Tampa Bay, and signed a three-year deal with the Jaguars last offseason worth $6.25 million with $1.5 million guaranteed. I'd love that kind of money guaranteed, but within the context of free agency those aren't franchise-player dollars. It's obvious Watson was a miss. The Jaguars hoped he could play the Otto linebacker position, and shaped the position with him in mind. At the same time, it was hardly a miss of historic proportions and considering the approach the team has taken in free agency the last two off-seasons – i.e., signing lower-priced players as temporary fits more than long-term solutions – a miss or two was inevitable. As far as your last concern, I never got the impression Watson treated being here like a vacation. I just got the impression he was a guy who missed the offseason program because of an injury, and then just wasn't as good when he got healthy as the team had hoped.
James from Yulee, FL:
How about inserting a real round table, not rectangle. Shad can afford it. Thank you.
John: How about, "Stay in Your Lane?" You're welcome.
Benjamin from Jacksonville:
Let me start by saying I would like to see the plan of Dave and Gus through at least five years because of just how talent deficient this team was when they arrived. What I'd like to know is how long will Mr. Khan allow this process to run its course before pulling the plug? There are very few fans patient enough to watch two or three losing seasons without demanding a change and Khan is without question the most heavily invested fan. The savvy business man that Khan is surely is willing to look toward the long-term goals, but then I remember Mike Mularkey and have doubts.
John: I can't see any scenario in which David Caldwell and Gus Bradley are not the general manager and head coach here, respectively, in 2015. After that, it's difficult to know. Khan hasn't set a hard, fast timeframe on making the playoffs, and I get the idea what he wants more than anything from the head coach, general manager and team on the field is continuous progress. That means the Jaguars will have to win more games next season. What that number is remains to be seen, but I do believe progress is the operative word. As long as the Jaguars are making it – and thus far, they have – then you don't want to make seismic changes. That would only set the process back. Again.
Dude from Jacksonville:
Whatever happened to the Orlando Jaguars talk? Bigger fan base in Orlando.
John: There was Orlando Jaguars talk?
Brian from Greenwood, IN:
Amazing what a good coach can do for an organization. Are you seeing what is happening in St. Louis? That seems so far away from happening with this team...
John: Does it seem so far away? I mean, really? I get that it seemed that way after the Dallas game, but did it seem that way at halftime against Miami? After the Cleveland game? In the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh? In the fourth quarter against Philadelphia? I'm not throwing those games out as examples of football excellence at the highest level, and I'm not saying 1-9 is good – or acceptable. But I don't know … when I look at the Rams, I see a 4-6 team with a lot of talent that seems to be growing in the right direction. I don't see the Jaguars being there yet, but could I see them being there next year? Absolutely.
Bill from Hammock:
O-Man, thanks for your reasonable insight into a lot of our emotionally driven questions. There is one issue I can't quite get my arms around. It seems Bortles started at an incredible level of play despite a non-factor running game and porous offensive line. It seems his play has fallen off as our running game and offensive line play have improved. Any thoughts?
John: My first thought is your memory may be fuzzy. Bortles started out showing promise, but I wouldn't call it incredible. Remember, he threw two interceptions in each of his first three games, so that issue was present from the beginning. Remember, Bortles started out against defenses that had no regular-season video of him to study. As he has put more on tape, teams have been able to game plan against his strengths and force him into his weaknesses. In the NFL, players are good enough to exploit those weaknesses and that can counteract the benefits he may be feeling from having an effective running game and an improved offensive line. What Bortles is going through now is something many young quarterbacks experience. He must learn to play against defenses playing against his strengths, improve his weaknesses and add elements to his game. If he does this, he'll be fine. If he doesn't, he'll never get much better. Plenty of quarterbacks have adapted, grown and improved through this stage. They're called long-term NFL starters.
Andrew from Toledo, OH:
Do you think Shad understands the ramifications of a non-competitive team next year? If the Jags lose a lot next year it is seriously going to decrease ticket sales and belief in the coaching staff and management. Do you think this off-season we will see Caldwell be aggressive in free agency? Possibly trade future picks away to bring in players to help next year's squad?
John: Sure, Shad understands it. Everyone understands it. Losing hurts ticket sales and enthusiasm and all of those very important things. At the same time, let's once again emphasize the great, overlooked, critically important truth of free agency. IT IS NOT A CURE ALL. IT IS NOT THE WAY TO BUILD A ROSTER. The Jaguars haven't stayed out of high-profile veteran free agency because they don't want to win. They have stayed away from it because it's not a reliable way to build a roster. I think the Jaguars will be more active in free agency this offseason, but I don't think it will completely overhaul all that has come before. And as for trading future picks away to help bring in players … no, No, NO! Did I mention, "No?"
Ray from Alexandria, VA:
When you talk about young receivers maturing or learning, could you describe exactly what aspects of the game you're referring to? Is it just knowledge of the playbook? Trouble getting off jams? Telegraphing the route? And how much of it is just being on the same page as the quarterback, as in seeing a certain defensive formation and the QB knowing that you might break the route off faster to get open?
John: To answer your first three questions … yes, yes and yes. To answer your fourth question, that's a lot of it, too.
Kent from Jacksonville:
I wanted to add my opinion to Hunter's question about whether Boselli was that good. I always thought he was an excellent pass blocker, but just an average run blocker. His height, which made him such an impressive physical specimen, made it easier for guys like Mike McCrary get underneath his pad level and stand him up. Just my opinion.
John: You're entitled to your opinion, incorrect or not. Boselli was good. He was a good run-blocker. He was a good pass blocker. There are those who believe he was as good as any left tackle in the Golden Age of left tackles. I kid Boselli a lot, and I joke about him a lot here in the O-Zone, but I count myself among that group.
Don from Macclenny, FL:
So, with the bye week I was still watching football and in one game I saw a quarterback throw two interceptions in a game for the second game in a row. In another game I saw the quarterback throw five interceptions. Both guys are long-tenured starters in the NFL and both guys have taken teams to the Super Bowl. Do you think our fans can maybe cut our rookie quarterback, who is playing on an offense that has over 50 percent rookies as starters, a little slack?
John: Nah.

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