O-Zone: Run for fun

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ

I can't imagine we don't want to keep Yannick Ngakoue long-term, because I believe there are 32 NFL franchises that would love to have him signed up long-term. I also understand cost control in business. I agree with Yannick's stance, but understand you can't always pay everyone. Is there any scenario where we hold onto the Class of 2016 without either being in cap hell forever or stretching the other positions too thin?

There absolutely are scenarios in which the Jaguars pay Ngakoue, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack without being in “cap hell.” NFL teams often have two or three elite players – or more – under contract and remain competitive. The key is to draft well around those players and to make sure the players you’re signing to mega-contracts are good enough to merit such contracts. That means they must be good enough to raise the games of young players around them and make their position groups good without other highly-paid veterans. If they’re not truly elite players, pay them elite money at your peril. I believe the Jaguars will determine all three are elite players worthy of second contracts and that they’ll figure out a way to sign all three. One final thought on this topic: All three of these players remain under contract for at least another season, and the Jaguars have franchise tags available for use. Yes, there are moving parts to solve, but we’re a long way from any of the three players not being with the Jaguars.

Steven from Duval

I believe David Garrard was the better quarterback, but Mark Brunell did have the better career with better teams.

Nah.

Don from Marshall, NC

What we need running back Leonard Fournette to do is be healthy and ready inside the red zone. That’s what he does the best. Lots of options when he is healthy. Maybe the best in the league at that. Go Jaguars!

This is a very valid point. Fournette in many ways hasn’t lived up to being the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. He hasn’t been durable, has had too many on- and off-field issues and hasn’t shown the miss-ability you want from an elite running back. But he definitely has been very effective scoring inside the red zone. That’s sometimes a trait that gets overlooked in running backs, but it shouldn’t be overlooked with Fournette. It’s a trait that helped the Jaguars a lot in 2017 and one they missed last season when he wasn’t available.

Bob from Sumter, SC

Admit Bortles had a brief good run in 2017 and move on. Check. Acquire a Super Bowl MVP quarterback in his prime without giving up a draft choice. Check. Add running back depth. Check. Add linebacker depth. Check. Upgrade offensive line. Check. Replace two highly-paid safeties with homegrown talent. Check. Get potentially the best pass rusher in a deep rush draft. Check. Sign offensive coordinator who has had success with your quarterback. Check. Not saying this guarantees success but it’s a good offseason. If they stay healthy, get a few bounces their way this team could go 10-6 or better.

That’s certainly how the Jaguars’ decision-makers see their offseason. While bemoaning the contract extension given to former quarterback Blake Bortles in the 2017 offseason makes for “entertaining” offseason discussion, those running the franchise would have gained nothing by spending the 2018 offseason kicking themselves or saying, “What if?” Instead, they tried to address as many issues – including quarterback – as possible. As your email indicates, they did this at a bunch of key positions. There’s every reason to think the Jaguars have better depth at running back and that they’ll be better on the offensive line. And it does appear they have put themselves in better position to contend next season. Either way, Foles is the obvious key to next season. If he makes the offense more consistent – particularly on third down – then this offseason has a chance to be a real success. If that doesn’t happen, then the offseason will be looked upon … well, differently.

Fred from Jacksonville

John: We have recently passed the 50-year anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band forming and then cutting their teeth in Jacksonville before establishing a base in Macon. These guys started Southern Rock, and there would not have been a Lynyrd Skynyrd or Molly Hatchet without them. I submit to you candidates for songs to be played at the Bank. 1. “Blue Sky,” Perfect for before a 1 p.m. start on a picturesque early December day; 2. “Ramblin' Man,” Cue it up after Leonard gets loose; 3. “Trouble No More,” After we erase a deficit and take a lead; 4. “Jessica,” I'd save this one for London, the Brits are very familiar with this instrumental as it was the theme song for "Top Gear;” 5. “Southbound,” Later in the London game as the return trip to the homeland is on our mind; 6. “Every Hungry Woman,” Have the cameras pan on women having some snacks. It would be great for concession sales; 7. “Whipping Post,” As we pound yet another opponent into submission. I could come up with a few more but I'll leave it at this for starters. Come on, John: show the ABB the love! (Also: Long-time guitar player and one of Rolling Stone's top 100 guitar players of all time, Derek Trucks, is a huge fan and long-time season ticket holder.)

Hey, one very long one fer the Allman Brothers.

Sam from Orange Park, FL

Was Rashean Mathis in the Ramsey stratosphere in his prime? I think if Mathis had the players that Ramsey did in front of him, he would have had an even more successful career. Not taking anything away from Jalen, I just think Mathis was very, very good.

Let’s not diminish the players with whom Mathis played. The Jaguars’ defense through much of Mathis’ prime was good. Very good. Tackles John Henderson and Marcus Stroud were as good as any players the Jaguars have had at the position – and among the NFL’s best tackles at the time – and those Jaguars’ defenses were the key to some very good teams. Mathis was a big reason for that, too, but Mathis didn’t have the combination of strength, size and athleticism of Ramsey. That’s not an insult. Ramsey’s otherworldly in this area.

TD from Festus, MO

Enough already ... corner versus rush end …. who wouldn't trade away Ramsey to get Khalil Mack? Because that's the equivalent. Best for best. Only then does No. 20 get traded, otherwise hush it!

Good eye. When discussing Ramsey, he must be discussed in the context of franchise-defining talent. That’s a different conversation than discussing good or even very good players.

Jake from Virginia

Is there a smoking gun when it comes to Ramsey “not being a willing tackler?” Those that want to criticize his play in general can point to that Colts game (I guess), but I have a hard time recalling him being anything but physical when it comes to tackling. All defenders are going to miss here and there, but simply missing tackles does not mean unwilling. Not being a willing tackler just seems like a blanket criticism for defensive backs, similar to a defensive end not being great against the run.

Ramsey’s fine against the run. He perhaps doesn’t play the run as consistently as a strong safety. The good news there is he’s not a strong safety.

Jimmy from Gainesville, FL

Why all this talk of the superior talent UF & LSU put out at cornerback each and every year? Everybody is overlooking first round studs at QB - Timmy and JaMarcus.

Fair.

Dave from Orlando, FL

O - I once asked you “O-man, what's your biggest OMG memory from an NFL draft?” Your reply was, “When the Jaguars traded up in 2011 to select Blaine Gabbert.” If he was one of the best QBs in the draft, why was that such a shocker?

The Gabbert trade was unexpected for a couple of reasons. One was because he was expected to go earlier than he did, so it was a surprise that he was available at No. 10. The other was that few figured before the draft the Jaguars would draft a quarterback early. When a team trades up six positions in Round 1, it’s always a shocker. That didn’t make Gabbert a bad selection. There was little wrong with the selection at the time. It only became bad when he didn’t work out.

Sam from Winter Park, FL

Who was the real Nature Boy? Gene Frenette or Ric Flair?

Former Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. “Gene” Frenette was, is and always will be The Real Nature Boy. This goes without saying.

George from Savannah, GA

Down in the Keys for the 4th and I swear saw Gene run by in a Borat-style mankini!

Wow. Happy fourth, right?

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