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O-Zone: Pretty good hands

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Josh from Dayton, OH:
John, does the acquisition of Marcell Dareus indicate to you that management expects to be in the playoffs this season rather than next? In other words, does it indicate to you that the Jags are betting on doing better this season than we might have expected when the season began? Or do you think this move fits right in with expectations of winning only seven or eight?
John: Trading a 2018 sixth-round selection to the Buffalo Bills for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus – which the Jaguars did on Friday – absolutely indicates that Jaguars management expects to be in the playoffs following this season – and the move actually fits in perfectly with their preseason expectations. That's because the expectations of management, coaches and players from the start has been to make the postseason this season. Those expectations may not have jived with those of most fans. They may not have jived with those of most members of the media. Shoot, they didn't jive with my own expectations that the team could push for seven or eight victories – but perhaps realistically not much more. But the expectations of management, coaches and players aren't supposed to jive with the expectations of observers. The expectations of management, coaches and players are supposed to be high. In this case, they were. And in this case, they also might prove to have been correct.
Bo from Dresden, NC:
Do you see the team making any more moves before the deadline? Personnel-wise?
John: I doubt it, but that was my answer before the Jaguars traded for Dareus, too.
Scott from New York, NY:
Has there been any sort of statements around the terms of the trade and if we have to give up a fifth- or a sixth-round pick? Also, do we still owe Miami the seventh-round draft pick from last offseason's trade?
John: The Jaguars traded a 2018 sixth-round selection for Dareus; the team issued an official press release to that effect. The Jaguars will not send a draft selection to Miami for left tackle Branden Albert. The selection in that trade was a conditional seventh-round selection in the '18 draft, and the condition was that Albert needed to play three games for the Jaguars. He did not do that.
Shawn from the Mean Streets of Arlington:
I send emails like this sometimes.
John: No, you don't.
Blues Man from Georgetown:
I've noticed that the field seems to be higher in the middle, and it looks to slope slightly downward toward the sidelines. Is this an illusion or are football fields designed this way for drainage? Go Jags!
John: It's no illusion. Many outdoor football fields are designed to slope downward toward the sidelines. And yes – it's for drainage.
Dylan from Tulsa, OK:
So, are we still thinking about drafting a quarterback? Blake Bortles has shown improvement so I don't know anymore.
John: This question seems destined to remain a question the rest of the season. It also seems destined to inspire debate the rest of the season. That's because Bortles has played well at times this season – better than in past seasons – and he has struggled at other times. While he has been doing this, the Jaguars have been playing well enough around him to be 4-3 – and they could quite easily be a game or two better than that. The consensus among most observers still seems to be that the Jaguars indeed will draft or sign a quarterback in the offseason. And with nine games remaining in the season, Bortles realistically needs to show more improvement than he has so far to make that consensus incorrect. Still, there's enough time for that to happen. The story isn't written yet.
Jordan from Jacksonville:
Do you think the Jaguars will go get a free-agent quarterback and draft a quarterback in the offseason?
John: If I had to guess right now, I'd say yes. That decision doesn't have to be made until the offseason, so the nine remaining games – and perhaps the postseason – will go a long way to determining the answer.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
The more I see of Doug Marrone, the more I like him. Obviously, winning slants my perception. But beyond that, he seems to be that rare breed that is both a strict disciplinarian and a down-to-earth guy the players like and respect. Given the Jaguars record over the past few years, if they make the playoffs this year, could Marrone be a candidate for coach of the year?
John: Of course.
Jason from Salem, OR:
There is a lot of optimism in the air when speaking about the Jags' future. I really like how they have shaped their defense and done a lot in free agency and the always unpredictable draft picks. So with all the optimism aside, what else would you like to see from management and coaches to have this team continue on the up-trend?
John: Hit on their first- and second-round draft selections and find their long-term answer at quarterback. If that answer is Bortles – and there's no law that says it's not – then fine. But that remains the most important unanswered question.
Sean from Jacksonville:
I hate reading ESPN pundits already speculating that this trade for Dareus means the team will be getting rid of Malik Jackson after the season. What a buzz kill. I'm excited in spite of that and optimistic that they are wrong. Malik outplayed his contact last year and should be viewed as a cornerstone. Please tell me your thoughts on this. I'd like to know if there's even a shred of credibility to the idea of us actually cutting Malik in the offseason.
John: The nature of the Jaguars' acquisition of Dareus – and the cap-eating nature of his contract – means that people will speculate on who must be released long-term to make room for his cap number. Jackson is a logical choice by some because of he would be "just" $6 million in dead money next season. But there are a lot of moving parts to what will happen next offseason – and nine games remain in this season. How players play the rest of the season will have a lot to do with a lot of offseason decisions.
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
What transaction was made to make room for Dareus on the 53-man roster?
John: The Jaguars released linebacker Jonathan Freeny.
Dan from Jacksonville:
So, Dede Westbrook is set to make his debut after being on injured reserve, but what happened to Rashad Greene? Is there any chance for him to return this season? He was a good wide receiver at FSU, and I thought he excelled at special teams with the Jags. Am I wrong?
John: Greene is on injured reserve. Because he was placed there before the September 2 deadline to declare the regular-season 53-man roster he is ineligible to return this season.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, are players employees of the NFL or partners with the NFL? It seems as though the league feels they players are their employees, and the players believe they are partners. The disconnect right now between the league and players regarding the national anthem, safety, and marijuana seems to hinge on this very question, no? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: You're correct about how the parties see themselves, and about that being at the heart of a lot of issues. That difference in perception has been at the heart of a lot of issues for a long time. The league operates under collectively bargained rules, and sometimes there are disagreements over those rules even after they are collectively bargained.
Alex from Los Angeles, CA:
I'm as excited as anyone that the team is finally doing well enough where we can talk about them during the bye, but I have to ask Sir O-Zone, you excited for the return of the TEAL!?!?! (Also please all Matte Black helmets next season … would be the coolest helmets in the league)
John: We've actually talked about the Jaguars here in the O-Zone during bye weeks as long as there has been an O-Zone. As for the return of teal, fans seem excited. So I suppose I am, too.
Todd from Jacksonville:
Remember when we drafted Jalen Ramsey and people were knocking him for his lack of interceptions? I have not heard about that being an issue in a good while.
John: The lack of interceptions indeed was a "thing" about Ramsey leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft. It was silly for a couple of reasons. First, it implied that Ramsey had bad hands – which really doesn't seem to be the case at all. Second, good hands and a ton of interceptions are relatively low on the list when it comes to important attributes for a defensive back. If a corner takes away a side of the field and plays the run and make plays on the ball, he is a tremendous asset to the defense. Ramsey absolutely is that. Of course, he's pretty good at the interceptions thing, too.

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