JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Aiden from Long Island, NY:
Do you think it's time to move on from Yeldon and draft Fournette?
John: This question is going to be at the heart of a lot of Jaguars-oriented speculation in the weeks leading to the 2017 NFL Draft, and that's how it should be because the answer will tell a lot about the franchise's direction moving forward. I agree with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock's thoughts during an appearance on Jaguars.com LIVE this week that taking a running back such as Leonard Fournette of LSU requires a major commitment from the organization because you're basically saying you're going to shape your entire approach around the player's skills. It's a commitment to the running game, and a commitment to playing good defense to support that running game, and a commitment to gearing your passing offense to take advantage of that running game. I'm not a huge fan philosophically of building an organization around the running game. It's more ideal to build around a franchise quarterback because that typically means giving yourself an extended opportunity to be a contending team. But the Jaguars' reality right now is it's uncertain if Blake Bortles is a franchise quarterback and there's no obvious franchise-type quarterback available in the draft, free agency or any other avenue. But there do appear to be offensive linemen available in free agency – and perhaps in Fournette or Dalvin Cook of Florida State there is an elite running back available. That gives the Jaguars an opportunity to reshape their team and perhaps find a way to be effective offensively. It may not be an avenue to get deep into the postseason immediately, but it absolutely could be an avenue toward real improvement. Right now, that's the Jaguars' first step: to improve and to get out of the abyss of double-digit loss seasons. Could reshaping the offense and building around the running game allow them to take that first step? Sure, so yes – drafting Fournette and taking that route makes a lot of sense.
Melinda from Mandarin, FL:
Zone, I get the whole Support-Your-Quarterback-Until-He's-No Longer-Your-Quarterback thing, but I'm hoping the next time you interview David Caldwell you'll ask him if he still believes Bortles is the best prospect from either the '14 or '15 draft classes. You know ... better than Carr, Winston, Mariota, Bridgewater, Garoppolo, or even Tom Savage based on our game against him in Houston? I'd say seventh best from those two classes, how 'bout you?
John: I wouldn't rank Bortles dead last among that group because Garoppolo and Savage haven't had enough time to show if they are better or worse than Bortles. There's no reason to ask Caldwell about this, though. He remains a believer that Bortles will be a franchise quarterback and that he can lead this team to a lot of success for a long time.
Dwayne from Jacksonville:
John, any chance Jerell is your wife's pen name?
John: No, my wife's pen name is "John, why did you ruin my life and sentence me to years of misery?" Wait, that's not a pen name.
Ralph from Jacksonville:
John, I too find it strange people are upset with the current regime and the direction of the franchise. While I think Caldwell did a decent job, he allowed players like Red Bryant and Chris Clemons to remain on the roster too long. Tom Coughlin has demonstrated he will identify and jettison players that haven't proved their worth or don't appear likely to fulfill expectations. Julius Thomas and Jared Odrick are prime examples. While it is too early to see how this will culminate, I am excited for the direction in which the leadership has the Jags headed. I need a question I guess. How about: Agreed?
John: I agree with part of your point, but not the whole thing. I agree that Coughlin has no problem moving on from players, but it's incorrect to say that Caldwell doesn't do the same thing – particularly when it comes to free agents. When the Jaguars signed free agents such as Bryant and Clemons – and even players such as Zane Beadles, Toby Gerhart, etc. – they did so knowing there was a very high probability that they were short-term fixes at best. That's why their contracts were structured to pay them in the first two seasons and allow them to be released after that. And while the perception may be that Caldwell allowed those players to stay too long, Bryant was with the Jaguars only one season and Clemons was on the roster for two seasons. In the case of Clemons, he was ineffective in 2015 but he actually had been very effective the season before, so it's difficult to blame the team for bringing back a player who to that point had been an effective pass rusher. I need an answer, I guess. How about: yes, Coughlin will move on from players, but when it comes to ineffective free agents, Caldwell will, too.
Troy from York, PA:
Hey, O: I'm disappointed in the front office re-signing Chad Henne back to the roster when there were way better options that would be out in free agency. They talk about quarterback competition but resigning Henne is more or less handing the job to Bortles. Why not go out and sign a guy like a Matt Moore or Nick Foles?
John: Troy, I understand disappointment. My life is full of it. But re-signing Henne does not hand the job to Bortles – and it does not in any way preclude the Jaguars from signing a veteran quarterback to compete with Bortles. I don't know yet whether the Jaguars will do that, but signing Henne doesn't prevent it.
Joe from Woodbridge:
John, don't get me wrong. I understand the importance of pass rush. But the No. 1 defensive team in the Houston Texans last season lost probably the most dominant defensive player in the NFL when healthy in J.J. Watt. Watt missed about 14 games and the Texans still remained the best defense in the league. Do you think the league has put too much stock into the importance of the position? Fans are clamoring for the likes of Jonathan Allen and Solomon Thomas after we just drafted Dante Fowler Jr. two years ago as a Top 5 pick. So, why use another Top 5 pick on the position when you drafted Yannick Ngakoue and he has so much promise? How many teams that were in the playoffs that had defenses that you actually feared, including the Texans who you see two times I feel the league is moving in a different direction what your thoughts?
John: Maybe I'm getting you wrong, but I'm not sure you really do understand the importance of a pass rush.
Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Mike Mayock liked the Gus and Dave setup when it came around, so what's different now??? I can tell you what's the same: Blake "Pick Magnet" Bortles and he is very skilled at getting coaches canned.
John: Ladies and gentleman … Jerell!!
Mark from College Park, MD:
Is Dave Caldwell a lame duck now?
John: No. Caldwell received an extension early this offseason to match the lengths of the contracts for Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and Head Coach Doug Marrone. A lame duck means someone in the final period of office after a successor has been determined. So, while Caldwell no longer has final say over football decisions – and while now he and Marrone both report to Coughlin – he is not a lame duck.
Paul from Temecula, CA:
Part of an article from Mike DiRocco regarding the release of Jared Odrick and trade of Julius Thomas really struck a chord with something I've been thinking lately: "The Jaguars haven't hit many home runs in free agency over the past four years, and two of their top signees in that period are gone -- with nearly $50 million in their pockets and the Jaguars no better than when they arrived." Dave Caldwell has swung and missed more than he has hit in free agency, although most agree the talent level is far better than it was when he was hired. I've always been a fan of Dave and what he could do for the franchise. But these free-agent signings are taking a toll. When Dave began, I realize the process began with mid-level ascending players to develop culture, but it's time to start hitting on free agents.
John: I'm not sure who in the heck Mike DiRocco is, but if you can't handle overspending and even missing on high-profile, expensive free agents then you better not sign high-profile, expensive free agents. You may hit some, and Malik Jackson for example certainly qualified as a hit last season, but generally speaking there are a lot of misses out there, too. And why wouldn't there be? If these players were can't miss their former teams in many cases would be re-signing them.
Dave from Atlantic Beach, FL:
John, "Y'all" is singular. The plural of y'all is "all y'all".
John: You're damned right it is.
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Aiden from Long Island, NY: