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O-Zone: Run to glory

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Stephen from Gatlinburg, TN:
Scouting and draft. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell has let scouts go, brought in new scouts and added consultants in the form of Chris Polian and John Idzik. Since the 2013 draft, which at the time was considered a 'B' grade, the drafting of talent seems to have improved because he let go of three top scouts. Is it that Caldwell is just really good at evaluating talent? Is he really good at using the information made available to him? Or has he assembled a superb staff that has been very thorough in evaluating talent, and made his choices easy?
John: There's no single answer to your question, partly because being a good general manager means doing all three of those things well. Your question also overlooks the importance of people such as assistant director of player personnel Andy Dengler, director of pro personnel Chris Driggers, director of college scouting Mark Ellenz, former director of college scouting Kyle O'Brien and assistant director of college scouting Paul Roell – not to mention the area scouts. The scouting process is detailed and comprehensive, so it's difficult to credit any one person for improvement. One thing to also consider is the 2013 draft overall was weak compared to other drafts, so that plays a factor. Still, the Jaguars have drafted well in the last two years and the roster's foundation appears to be being built primarily through the draft. That was crucial to Caldwell's long-term building plan as general manager, so he certainly deserves credit for that being the case.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
For those judging Dante Fowler Jr. based on Derrick Harvey and the UF connection, please make them aware of Carlos Dunlap. He actually played with Harvey at UF, yet he has been a core player for the Bengals with 13.5 sacks last year and 49 sacks since 2010.
John: I have hesitated to over-discuss this topic in an effort to avoid the silliness of comparing Harvey to Fowler, but yeah … Dunlap.
Aaron from Chantilly:
John, if the free safety we are looking for is so few and far between, why do it? What happens if we find this diamond in the rough, then he is injured – that throws off our whole defensive approach (by definition the backup would be really hard to find). Why not build a defense that suits most of the players coming out? I'd rather us focus on being a highly intelligent team versus trying to gather impossible athletes. Seems to me the best teams have good athletes that were coached up and had the details down tight.
John: The Jaguars certainly aren't taking the approach that finding a free safety will cure all that ails the defense, but whatever your scheme – and whatever the specifics of what you need from the position – very good free safeties are difficult to find. And you won't find many defenses that don't need the free safety to play well.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
"There's no question he is entering his NFL career with high expectations. He was the No. 3 overall selection in the draft; expectations are pretty much part of the game." That's funny you're using that line of thinking now. We as fans have a high expectation about Luke Joeckel as well considering he was drafted No. 2 overall, but you're knocking us fans with your spin/excuse because we are hard on him for not playing ... wait for it ... as a No. 2 overall pick that makes impact, Pro-Bowl type of plays! So which one is it O?
John: It's funny that people believe me answering questions means I'm criticizing fans. I've never knocked fans for being hard on Joeckel, and I've never said he didn't enter the league under high expectations. I also never have said he has lived up to the expectations of being the No. 2 overall selection in the draft, and I've never said he was a Pro Bowl player. What I have said – and what remains true – is that he's not playing as poorly as many fans believe, and that he is as good as a lot of starting NFL left tackles right now.
Sunil from Jacksonville:
Rashean Mathis always will be one of the truly great Jaguars. I feel that I – and many of my fellow Jags fans – took Mathis for granted during his years in Jacksonville. We realize now how significant a shutdown corner can be for a defense and would give anything to have him here in his prime again. Unfortunately, we cannot turn back time, but we will always have the memories of a hometown kid who made the hometown team and its fans very proud! Congratulations on an amazing career No. 27!
John: Hey, one fer Rashean – and maybe two.
Jerry from Tamarac, FL:
Isn't Poz's pedigree expiring in the modern NFL? We say third-down linebackers should be able to cover, but first and third down are statistically almost right up there in passing plays percentage. Don't all NFL teams need three-down linebackers to be able to effectively cover at all times?
John: The days when the league is full of starting middle linebackers such as Posluszny may indeed be behind us. That's because it's becoming more of a passing league, and teams generally prefer linebackers who excel in coverage on all downs. At the same time, let's not completely write off Posluszny's effectiveness. This is a defense that puts a priority on stopping the run on early downs, and he is very good in that role – and he's not nearly as much of a liability in pass coverage as is often perceived. Posluszny is still very important to this defense, whatever the future of players similar to him may be.
Roger from Jacksonville:
Hey John, I've worked for the same construction company for 27 years and football teams are not the only people that overpay for help. When you need workers, you do what you can to get them and the people who are already the foundation of the company are not always happy about it. What other factors do teams have to consider?
John: You seem to be asking if players already on the team get annoyed when free agents are overpaid. Yeah, there are times that's the case. General managers can't spend a whole lot of time worrying about it, but there certainly are times that's the case.
Brian from Charlottesville, VA:
"... the answer at free safety, and the position is too important to enter the season with that as an unknown." It's interesting that this has become a common thread in the fourth offseason of this regime. Was the free safety position unimportant in the last three years? The Jags have run the same scheme for the last three years (and often not ran it well). Some of the free-safety candidates the Jags have passed on in the last three years are: Malcolm Jenkins, Antoine Bethea, Charles Woodson, Rodney McLeod and Tashaun Gibson. I know we pursued McCourty, but there wasn't really too much of a hope of signing him. Did we suddenly discover the importance of the position or did we neglect it for the first three years of the build?
John: The free safety position always was important. Remember, the Jaguars didn't hit free agency heavily at any position in the first two years of the regime because the thought was there was no reason to spend heavily at that point before a core was built through the draft. They became more aggressive in free agency last offseason, and they pursued McCourty because he was perhaps the lone true impact player available at the position. It also was not a great year for free safety in the draft last offseason. It will be a priority again this offseason, and I expect the Jaguars to be aggressive in the pursuit.
Cliff from Everywhere with a Helicopter:
Martha or Nina?
John: Martha, Martha, Martha.
Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I heard a commentator in NFL radio saying Joey Bosa has been coached to the maximum of his ability and that what he is today is all you are going to get. I replayed it a couple of times to make sure I was interpreting it correctly. How can anybody say a person has reached his highest level at any point in time, especially someone that has not played in the NFL yet. Did I miss something?
John: Commentators say things leading to the draft because they have to have things to say. I've never quite understood what that assessment meant, either, though it's something you often hear about players who people think lack exception athletic ability. I do remember when Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were entering the draft many people saying Leaf had tremendous upside and that Manning was pretty much what he was going to be. So, there's that.
Sid from Jacksonville:
If the Jaguars somehow won the Super Bowl this season, how would it rank in the least likely Super Bowl runs?
John: Up there.

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