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O-Zone: Quite an imposition

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Frankie from London, UK:
What are your thoughts on the AFC South this season? It's really becoming stacked with individual talent and I wonder whether the next 'dynasty' of the division is the team that puts it all together first.
John: My thoughts on the AFC South are similar to my thoughts on the Jaguars. Until the Jaguars show they are more than a team that may nor may not be "talented" – and until they actually turn that talent into victories – then they are simply a team that may or may not be "talented" that hasn't yet won. Until the AFC South produces a team or teams that win double-digit games and advance in the playoffs, then it is a division with some teams that may or may not be talented but aren't yet elite. As far as the next "dynasty" of the division, I don't know that there necessarily has to be a dynasty along the lines of the way the Colts dominated this division for so many years. If two or three teams package a talented roster with front-line quarterback play, then you can have a division that's brutally competitive for an extended period of time. There's no mechanism in the NFL that automatically keeps that from being the case. As far as the South this season, I see the Texans as the favorites. They have a big-time defense and have won the last two division championships. I figure they're the division's best team until they're not.
Cody from Boston, MA:
Victor Cruz!?! O ... did I hear a rumor correctly that Victor Cruz wants to visit Tom Coughlin? If he does join the team, do you rank this receiving corps Top 5? I would love to hear CRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUZZ on Sundays.
John: We may need to slow down a bit on this topic. While there are reports that Cruz could visit the Jaguars in the coming weeks, this feel very much in the preliminary stage – and there seems every chance Cruz could sign elsewhere before visiting Jacksonville. There's also the reality that Cruz would have to make the team and carve out his own role. Neither is a guarantee at this point in his career. If he indeed would sign, Cruz could give the Jaguars some depth and experience, but it's premature to think he would make a make a major impact.
Tom from Katy, TX:
John, do you feel there might be one more move that management may be considering regarding quarterback for the Jags? It's been written several times that a better option appears not to exist, but if it's possible, what would it be?
John: I don't feel there's another move the Jaguars are planning at quarterback this offseason. Maybe I'll be wrong. We'll see.
Jarret from Crosby, ND:
I really think Fred Taylor might be the most underrated player in NFL history. Where do you think he ranks among all-time running-backs? Although LaDainian Tomlinson has the fame, I actually think Taylor was better.
John: It's hard for me to say Taylor was better than Tomlinson because Tomlinson in his prime was a difference-making, game-breaking running back on a level very close to the best I've seen. I can say Taylor was in the same class, which means I consider Taylor Hall of Fame worthy.
Rob from Orange Park, FL:
Over the past few seasons, you have often said you didn't think 'yelling' and the like made much difference with professional athletes. It seems like more discipline and passion for winning likely involves some yelling and rear-end chewing when needed. With at least some of our players saying they appreciate the new regime's approach, and we will see if that translates to wins, have you changed your opinion of more yelling and behind-chewing versus less being a productive approach?
John: No. Yelling and behind-chewing do not equal discipline, just as speaking about winning does not equal a passion for it. Look, Doug Marrone certainly is taking a different, harder-edged approach than did Gus Bradley – and he's talking about winning more than Bradley. So is Tom Coughlin. That works for them. It's their way. And the approach of Bradley certainly can't be called successful because the Jaguars lost way too many games while he was head coach. It also makes sense that the team would go the opposite direction from Bradley and that players would like a change; when you lose a lot under one head coach you want a change in direction with the next head coach. But just because Bradley's approach didn't work here – and just because a change was needed – doesn't make it the wrong approach, and just because players are appreciating the new approach doesn't make it the right approach. This is Marrone's approach, and I believe he's a good coach. Because of that, I believe this has a chance to work here. But that doesn't mean as a general rule it's the right approach across an entire league or an entire sport. It means it's the one he believes works, and it means it's the one that's being taken here. Will it work? We'll see. But if it does, it won't be because Marrone yelled more.
Brandon from Washington, DC:
Will there be any competition for the strong-safety spot between Barry Church and James Sample? Is the spot open or do you think Barry Church has the position locked down?
John: The Jaguars signed Church as a high-profile unrestricted free agent this offseason. They didn't do that to have him be a backup. Sample needs to show he can stay healthy for an extended stretch, after which the Jaguars can consider his potential for a larger role for the long-term.
Joe from St. Augustine, FL:
Wouldn't Corey Grant be a better option at third-down back than would T.J. Yeldon? Seems that he has better hands, much quicker and is more elusive in space – and just generally more dangerous. Am I wrong in this thinking?
John: Grant is faster than Yeldon because he is faster than anyone else on the team, and he therefore is more dangerous than Yeldon once he's in the open field. As for having better hands, being quicker and more elusive, I don't know that I agree as a blanket statement. Yeldon has played well as a third-down back and in passing situations, and he has done a nice job for the most part in protection and as a receiver out of the backfield – all of which make you reasonably think he can be productive in the role the Jaguars envision for him this season.
Mike from Jacksonville:
Hey O, I know Jacksonville is a big military town, but politics aside ... why not take a chance on Colin Kaepernick? He is better than Chad Henne, we are still not sure about Bortles, and he likely wouldn't cost much. Kap is not going to carry a team, but did pretty well when he had a solid defense and some offensive talent around him. Your thoughts?
John: While I am not naïve enough to think there would be no negative fallout politically from signing Kaepernick, my strong sense is this is more a football issue than a national-anthem/political issue. Because of Kaepernick's playing style, there's a belief in league circles that you'll have to build your offense around him for him to be effective. Teams generally don't want to do that for players they perceive as likely backups, or for players who are essentially competing for a starting job. I don't doubt Kaepernick's actions off field last season are making it difficult for him to find a team, but I do doubt that's the issue keeping the Jaguars from signing him.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
How do we "impose our will" with the running game when other teams will sell out and stack the box against the run? If defenses stuff the run on first and second down, aren't we going to be in third-and-long and right back where we started, depending on Bortles to make a play? How do the coaches keep this scenario from playing out?
John: A strong running game has many benefits. One is that it can set up positive down-and-distance situations. Some others are that it can help control clock, take pressure off a quarterback and allow a team to control possession late in games. Just as important is the effect it can have on an opposing defense. This last benefit applies to your question, which implies that a powerful running offense has no choice but to run against box-stacked fronts. Nothing could be further from the truth, and in fact the advantages a quarterback can and should have against a defense stacked to stop the run is one of the biggest benefits of a strong running game. You know what the Jaguars will do if defenses sell out to stop the run? They'll throw, and they'll likely find it far easier to pass effectively in that situation. First things first, though: the Jaguars must run well enough to make that happen. They haven't done that yet.

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