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O-Zone: Rare talent

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … T.J. From Loretto, KY:
Johnny O, do you think moving Brandon Linder to left guard would help out Luke Joeckel? Would A.J. Cann be good enough on the right? Do you believe Luke Bowanko starts at center next year?
John: Wow: many, many questions … and they're big questions in terms of the Jaguars' offensive line. Brandon Linder, who missed most of 2015 with a shoulder injury after starting at right guard as a rookie in 2014, without question will start at one guard position next season. While I anticipate Cann – who started in place of Linder this past season -- starting at the other guard, it wouldn't be surprising to see him compete with Zane Beadles to earn it. I like the idea of moving Linder to the left side because I think he's good enough to play either side at a high level – and no, solidifying that position couldn't hurt Joeckel. As far as Bowanko's role: we'll see. The Jaguars like him and they believe he's an asset. Whether he starts or not probably depends on what's available in free agency – and that question won't be answered until March.
Phoenix from Grand Coulee, WA:
I believed in Blake, too, ya know!! In fantasy I drafted him with my No. 2 (Jamaal Charles was sadly my No. 1). I rode the Blake Fantasy train all the way to the championship and won!
John: How awesome for you.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
I just don't get Tom Coughlin in the Ring of Honor, and I doubt I ever will. I ESPECIALLY don't get it if he takes ANOTHER coaching job and has success there as well. Hopefully, as the team returns to being a competitive, playoff-appearing team, the desire to see the first head coach in our HOF will go away. Either way, I better see Jimmy in there WELL before him.
John: I fear you're doomed (see what I did there?) for disappointment on this front. I don't think there's any question Coughlin will be in the Pride of the Jaguars at some point, though I doubt it will happen until it's clear he doesn't plan to coach in the NFL any longer. And, really: why wouldn't he be so honored? Coughlin built the franchise and defined it in the 1990s – and that was a darned good era. Two AFC Championship Game appearances. Three double-digit-victory seasons. Two division titles. I don't know if he'll get in before Smith or not, but I think at some point both will get in.
Scott from Aurora, IL:
Eric Berry would be an AMAZING signing. Especially since there's no way he'll make it to free agency.
John: Sure, there's that.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
I saw a report the 49ers asked permission from the Giants to interview Tom Coughlin. I assumed since he was let go that he was free to interview wherever, but apparently that isn't the case. Is this simply because he is still technically under contract with the Giants, even though they have chosen to not retain him as their head coach? Do they retain his rights even though he's been fired?
John: Coughlin officially resigned – and was not fired. Because of that, teams must request permission to interview him. However, because of the circumstances under which he resigned – with the team reportedly "encouraging" the move – there seems no way the Giants would deny such a request.
Maurice from North Potomac, MD:
With free agency looming, who would you prefer: Bruce Irvin/Olivier Vernon at Leo? And at cornerback: Janoris Jenkins or Trumaine Johnson? It's clear the Jags need to add another cornerback to move Colvin back to his natural nickel cornerback spot, so Jenkins or Johnson would make sense if the Rams can't re-sign both of them. It seems Jenkins is slightly more consistent and not as injury-prone as Johnson. However, Johnson had a breakout season and has the size/length that Bradley loves – plus, he's a year younger. Which one would you prefer and why?
John: I love Jenkins because he makes plays and plays with no fear – and regarding Irvin/Vernon, can I have both? But I wouldn't give up on Colvin playing the role he played this season. He didn't have the season he expected, but it's awfully hard to play secondary at a high level with no pass rush.
Garrett from Jacksonville:
Hey O, what are the expectations of Dante Fowler Jr. coming back from the injury? Do you think he will have a decent impact on the team, and do you expect the Jags to go get another pass rusher in free agency or the draft?
John: The expectations for Fowler should be kept realistic – and that's absolutely the case when it comes to how the team is thinking about Fowler. Is Fowler going to come back and immediately be a J.J. Watt-level, impact player? Likely not. He almost certainly will have an adjustment period, not to mention a period when he is trying to return to full strength from after rehabilitating his torn anterior cruciate ligament. The good news for the Jaguars is even with him adjusting and returning to full strength he should be able to improve the pass rush. The better news is he should become more and more effective the more he plays. And yes, I would be surprised if the Jaguars don't sign and/or draft multiple pass rushers this offseason.
Josiah from Jacksonville:
Do you think Houston makes a run for RG3? If they do, I think the AFC South as a whole will be complete as the most dangerous division in the NFL next year since every team has a quarterback and good team.
John: I don't pretend to know the inner workings of Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien's mind, but it doesn't strike me that RGIII fits the style he seeks in a quarterback. I also don't know after the past three seasons in Washington if we know for sure that RGIII qualifies as a good quarterback. He's a dynamic player whose flair for the dramatic is entertaining to watch, but his future as a franchise quarterback is far from certain.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
Thanks for another great season giving us the scoop on our Jags. Is there any word on the future of Toby Gerhart? Obviously, T.J. Yeldon is the top back at this point, but do you feel Jonas Gray could help on short-yardage situations where Gerhart has seemed to struggle in his seasons with the Jaguars – or does the team have other plans for utilization of Gerhart and Gray?
John: The future of Gerhart – like the future of several non-starters under contract – will be determined in the coming months. While it has been vogue to assume that Gerhart will not return – and while it does seem a long shot – he remains under contract. That contract calls for a $3 million base salary and a $500,000 bonus, so he "only" costs $500,000 to bring to camp. If you believe injuries have caused his ineffectiveness, then perhaps you bring him back. A more likely scenario at running back is Yeldon starting with Gray competing with Robinson and perhaps a late-drafted player/free-agent signing to provide depth at the position.
Brian from Ponte Vedra, FL:
What is the assessment on Nick Marshall? Did he play well enough that we can expect him to be a starter next season? Did we see enough?
John: We saw enough to know Marshall has talent, but he certainly didn't play well enough to be assured of a starting job. I expect him to compete for a role in the secondary, but it seems likely at this point that in the short term that role would be as a nickel back.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
So, in this new era of offenses not using fullbacks, do you think Greg Jones (in his prime) would have been talented enough to make a team reconsider the fullback position? Do you think Greg Jones would be on Greg Olson's roster?
John: We're pretty deep into hypotheticals here, but hey: it's the offseason, so why not? Jones in his absolute prime may have been an exception because of his ability on special teams and because he was a talented enough runner to be effective as a backup running back if necessary. Had Jones "just" been a blocker it would have been a difficult decision because of the amount of snaps blocking fullbacks typically play these days.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
I thought the premium positions were supposed to be quarterback, left tackle, cornerback and defensive end. Does free safety need to be added to that list? Does left tackle need to be removed?
John: We're getting there – and we're sure a lot close than I ever imagined we'd be two decades ago.
Dane from Jacksonville:
One of the highest praises I have heard for a football player is that he could have played in any era with the same success. I think that is true of Tony Boselli. He would've been elite in any era.
John: No doubt, and you should see what the guy can do to a piece of cheesecake. If it wasn't so frightening, I'd think of it as art.

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