JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Travis from St. Louis, MO:
I can't understand some of this pessimism I'm seeing. We were competitive in all but maybe three games last year with a weak defense. I for one am of the belief that with our free-agent acquisitions and the experience gained having another year under our veterans' belts – that will be great. We cannot mistake some progress with no progress. This team may not be complete, but I think it is ready to get over that wall that has been in front of us for too long. With all this, all I have to ask is why not us?
John: Why not the Jaguars in 2016? That's a fair question, and I basically agree with your outlook. I suppose the pessimism is lingering from free agency – and the lingering angst over pass rush. It would have been great for the Jaguars if they could have signed two elite edge rushers during that time; the reality was there weren't great edge rushers in free agency because it's … free agency. The return of Dante Fowler Jr. and Sen'Derrick Marks and the addition of Malik Jackson next season as ways to improve the defense shouldn't be overlooked; those additions should make the front better. And the offense should be markedly better as it grows together. There is no guarantee any of that will happen because there are no guarantees in the NFL, but it's reasonable to assume the team should be improved. I think that gives the Jaguars a chance to get to .500 and see how much better they can get after that. We'll see.
Jag 818 from Jacksonville:
I get real excited when the schedule comes out because football season is getting close. What's the deal with these whiny babies crying over the Jags having to play some key games??? If the Jaguars can't play with the "big boys," then why do we have a team?! There is not a team out there that I'm not excited about playing. And this year will be special for us ... players and fans ... I'm impressed with who the Jags already acquired in the free agency and can't wait to see who we get in the draft. Gus and Dave are doing things right with this team. The only issue that I have with the schedule is the early bye week. Twelve consecutive games … We WIN 10 or more this year. Go Jaguars!!!!
Brian from New Hampshire:
If Noah Spence falls to the second round does his potential outweigh his red flags? Sounds like he's going to fall because of the red flags. It could be a pretty big value pick in Round 2 or even 3 if he falls that much.
John: I'd be surprised if Noah Spence fell to the second round, but yes – if he does, I'd say his potential could outweigh the red flags.
Andrew from Atlanta, FL:
I know how bad our defense was last year. With that being said, if Jaylon Smith is there in the second round do you take him knowing that when healthy he could be one of the best players in the draft even though the reality is he probably won't play much if at all this year? Does your second-round pick have to contribute immediately or can you exercise patience with that pick?
John: If I know Jaylon Smith is going to be fully healthy in 2017 and beyond I absolutely take him in the second round. Do I know that? That will be the question every team after about No. 25 or so will probably be asking when it comes to Smith.
Daniel since Day One:
Here are still an awful lot of Jacksonville football fans who don't understand that the NFL isn't the same as college football...
John: You don't need the word "Jacksonville" in that sentence.
Mike from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Adam from Saint Johns says, "… someone better get fired THIS time." Gus needs the players to win. Look at the "Zen Master," Phil Jackson, and the players he had on those teams that gave him 11 championships. O-man could have won 11 championships with those players! Now look at what Phil Jackson is doing now with the Knicks = pitiful! Did he all of a sudden lose his Zen? It's the players, baby!!
John: It is far more often than it is not.
Kenny from Rochester, NY:
What do you think about an early bye week? I know more towards the middle of the schedule would be better, but between an early bye and a later one, which would you think the players would prefer? What about the coaches?
John: Most coaches and players prefer mid-to-late-season bye weeks. I do, too, but having done London three consecutive years it's really preferable to have the bye following that trip – whenever it happens to fall on the schedule.
Strnbker from Dothan, AL:
Say it ain't so, Zone. I do not see Whitney – aka, Culligan girl – on the ROAR roster. If this is correct, it is an international disaster. What gives?
John: I have no idea what you're talking about but my insides hurt more than I can remember in a long time.
Goose from Belden, OK:
Mr. O-Sir, you are probably at your ropes end about schedule questions. I do have one last bird-brained view to offer. To all those who now feel despair after the official schedule was released … did we not know who we were already playing? Did we not know which teams were going to be home and away already? The only thing we did not know was the order. This avian has not noticed anything in that to want to take flight. Some of it is actually ideal.
John: Yes, it is.
John from Jacksonville:
Wow - such angst about our 2016 schedule. How about a fired-up positive perspective that the Jags are going to prepare to set the tone for the season by getting an impressive opening day victory to start 1-0, redefine the fear factor for opponents at "The 'Bank," walk away beating a good "media-rich" team and having an excited fan base. These won't be the Jags of old and we won't worry about what was in the past. The players and fans will be courageous and bold. Are you pumped yet, John?
John: Well, I don't get too pumped, but it sounds as if you are – and that's good enough for me.
Cory from Madison, WI:
All this offseason excitement is great and everything, but these are the facts: the Jags have been picking high in the draft since 2008, and they don't have much to show for it. The free-agent additions? They're also promising. But a secondary is only as good as its pass rush allows it to be, and we still don't have a single proven pass rusher.
John: You're right, Cory – and if somewhere within the trio of Jackson, Fowler and Marks isn't a core that helps improve the pressure on the passer then the Jaguars are in trouble next season. I don't believe the Jaguars are magically going to have a pass rush next season that we're talking about on NFL Network in three decades. I do think the Jaguars can get back to the effectiveness of, say … two seasons ago – and perhaps a bit better than that. If they do that, this defense should improve enough to make this a competitive team.
Camron from Orlando, FL:
So, with Mathis retiring as the best defensive back in Jags history, it got me wondering: What players on the roster right now have a reasonable chance to go down as the best Jag at their respective position? Bortles and AR15 are the only two that come to mind, with Telvin also being a possibility. Thoughts, oh Johnny O?
John: I'd say players such as Brandon Linder and Dante Fowler Jr. certainly have the potential – note that word, "potential" – to be in that group, as does a player such as Julius Thomas. But yes, there's a long way to go for any of those players as well as Bortles and Allen Robinson.
Dave from Section 149:
I'm all in, again. Just bought back in for season tickets after eight-year absence. It's all on you now, Zone. Bring us home a winner! Let the fanning begin. Great schedule, developing team, fantastic venue. Freed up my weekend time, retired from Navy reserves, son's in college, work schedule favorable. The stars are aligning. It's up to the Wizard of O-zone now. #DTWD
John: The 2016 NFL Draft is in 10 days.
Gamble from Brasilia, Brazil:
Christmas Eve Titans game? Time to paint the Santa hat on the Jag at midfield. And if the league doesn't like it, Mr. Khan can write the check. These games don't come around often; think 1995 and the Brownies. Can you make this happen?
John: I got this one. My plan I to approach Shad in the rubber hallway, boldly walk up to him, remind him who I am and tell him I've got a plan that he's paying for and that I'm … I don't got this one.
O-Zone: One must be bold
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Travis from St. Louis, MO: