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O-Zone: Ready for his closeup

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

_Luke from Brisbane, Australia   _

KOAGF, maybe my eyes deceive me, but the Jags didn't come across as your standard 1-15 team last season. Yes, there were some blowouts where they were simply overmatched, but also a lot of close games where a bit more experience/composure/execution at key periods could have seen them end up at least 6-10ish. With the cavalry arriving in the form of a top-shelf quarterback, a truckload of draft picks, cap space, coaching overhaul and a year's more experience for the young'uns, is it blind optimism that has me thinking they could go above .500 and possibly top two in the division this year?

I don't know if your optimism is blind, exactly – and the Jaguars indeed had some competitive losses last season. This was particularly true during a mid-to-late-season run when the effort at times exceeded what the team realistically was capable of achieving. At the same time, the Jaguars were essentially uncompetitive during huge stretches of the season – and there is work to be done well beyond quarterback. The Jaguars have significant work to do at defensive line and secondary – and building a defensive line take some time because you need a rotation rather than just an addition or two. Your question essentially asks if the Jaguars can go at least 9-7 after a 1-15 season. Doing so would rank among the biggest single-season turnarounds in NFL history and would mean a remarkable season from the rookie quarterback. So, no … you're not blind. But you are really, really optimistic.

CD from Fleming Island

Hey John: did you see anything out of the current tight ends this year that would give you optimism moving forward – i.e. is it accurate to say the group as is could be productive with better quarterback play? Do we just need more talent at the position? (I was thinking specifically of Tyler Eifert, who was a "why-not" kind of signing, but one of which I think a lot of us had some hope.)

The Jaguars' tight ends absolutely could have been more productive with better quarterback play, but the Jaguars just as absolutely must address the position significantly this offseason.

Mark from Archer, FL

John, I am not sure why so many people think the Jags need to upgrade the wide receiver position. Considering the dumpster fire that were the quarterbacks last season, our wide receivers did a decent job. To me they need to re-sign veteran wide receiver Keelan Cole. I think the Jags have enough quality and depth at the position they need to look at spending and filling other positions.


Josh from Atlanta, GA

Cut out Peyton, that's not fair. Who is the best offensive player (regardless of position) you have ever covered? Defensively, would a fully healthy Bob Sanders come close to Dwight Freeney for you? He was never on the field it seemed, but DAMN do I remember him being an all-world player when he was.

Aside from former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the best offensive player I ever covered was former Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli. I go with Boselli because I wanted to give an answer, but the reality is I put Boselli in a very rarified group that include former Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith, former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and former Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne. I leave Colts running back Edgerrin James off the list because I didn't cover James' best seasons – 1999 and 2000, when he led the NFL in rushing – and I only covered him six games in 2001 before he sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament. I didn't think he was quite in the aforementioned group after that, though he absolutely was worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As far as defense … yes, fully healthy, former Colts safety Bob Sanders was the best defensive player I ever covered. By a relatively wide margin, actually. He had an ability to affect the game from the safety position few players have possessed. Had he stayed healthy, I have zero doubt he would have been a Hall of Fame player.

Alan from Jacksonville

On the plus side, after looking at our list of 20 unrestricted free agents, the Jags won't be experiencing a major loss of talent this year. Who on that list would you least like to see be de-Duvaled?

Left tackle Cam Robinson.

Erich from Heaven

So, there are multiple teams that have Brigham Young quarterback Zach Wilson ranked higher than Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. With Wilson being compared to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and Lawrence to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, wouldn't you rather select Wilson?

Not if he's not as good as Lawrence – and remember: The Lawrence-Luck comparisons aren't about style of play as much as level of prospect. Lawrence doesn't particularly play like Luck. There are comparisons in style between Mahomes and Wilson, though I haven't heard many analysts seriously say the two are comparable in terms of level of prospect.

Tom from Jax

There is much talk about the offensive line being good, not good, questionable ... blah, blah, blah. Maybe football is a team sport. Quarterback play will affect the way the offensive line looks. Peyton Manning averaged about one sack per game through his career, which is one of the lowest numbers in the NFL. Does that mean he had the best offensive line in football throughout his career? Most other quarterbacks have a two-or-three sack average. No, he got the ball out quicker than most other quarterbacks. If I remember, there was a stat on several different games where they time his release at around 2.35 seconds. That could make most offensive lines look pretty good. Instead of the quarterback play we have had. And that is not to mention receivers getting open, running backs hitting their blocking assignments.

What you say is correct. The Colts teams I covered with Manning at quarterback from 2001-2010 had some good offensive lines and some really good offensive lines. But all those offensive lines were unquestionably helped by not only Manning's ability to get the ball out quickly, but by his ability to sense pressure and throw incomplete rather than take a sack. They were also helped immeasurably by Manning's ability to get in and out of good and bad plays at the line of scrimmage, and to audible to pass and run plays at the line of scrimmage based on pre-snap defensive looks. Quarterback play and ensuring the offense is in the right play indeed play a mammoth role in how an offensive line plays – and in how an offensive line is graded and perceived.

Michael from Fruit Cove, FL

I, for one, would prefer to keep the early season "heat games." Dealing with that heat for one or two games is one of the few things we can do as fans to truly give our team an on-field advantage. The players practice in the heat during training camp and are much more accustomed to it than the visiting teams. We have seen the Jags benefit from this during early season homes games through the years. We fans are sitting in a chair for a couple hours, something we should be able to handle after also dealing with the summer heat for the previous few months. I hope a new stadium or any renovations keeps the heat on the field and doesn't give the visiting team a reprieve. Just my two cents ...

Let the record show that Michael has weighed in.

Kieran from Plymouth, England

Hi O, I am not naive enough to assume that Madden is equal to real life. However, I do wonder why teams don't copy my Madden tactics: Why won't a team with a high pick but a promising young quarterback (Philadelphia Bengals, Cincinnati Eagles) draft a top quarterback only to immediately trade them during/after the draft to a team in the opposite situation (like the Chicago Bears, for example)? Are there rules to prevent this from happening?

This theoretically could happen. The reason it doesn't happen often is teams usually make such trades before the selection – either in the days leading up to the draft or during the draft when one of the teams is on the clock.

Tom from Charlottesville, VA

Thoughts: Dan Marino was a late first-round pick. So was that guy in Green Bay. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick and Russell Wilson was not drafted in the first round. So who will be the next GOAT. Only time will tell! Quarterbacks with a "fire in their bellies" are better than the Ryan Leaf's or Jamarcus Russell's of the world! Trevor Lawrence has worked/waited all his life to be drafted; he is entitled to have his day (and many more to come) on the stage and hold up the No. 1 jersey. I wish everyone would let him have his moment in the spotlight of national television.

He will.