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O-Zone: Sad truth

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Michael from Middleburg, FL:
Why are you and everyone else portraying Dante Fowler Jr. as a godsend? He is coming off a bad injury (which l worry about being he injured himself in non-contact work) and he never has played a single play in the NFL. He needs to prove quite a lot.
John: Although I certainly believe he can help the Jaguars' defense next season, I'm hard-pressed to remember portraying Fowler as a godsend. But whatever you call him, there's a simple, straightforward reason Jaguars observers are discussing Fowler this offseason. He matters! A lot! He was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, and along with Sen'Derrick Marks, he represents elite-level talent that is currently on the Jaguars' roster – and that could make an impact on the pass rush by playing at a high level next season. No, he never has played a snap in the NFL, and that makes him an unknown. And he does have a lot to prove, but he potentially should have an impact on the front seven. As far as his injury … while it was indeed serious, the non-contact nature has no effect on its severity. While a torn anterior cruciate ligament is a serious injury, it's no longer considered career-threatening or even talent-diminishing if the player is under about 26-to-27 years old. Fowler is well under that, so there's every reason to believe he can return from the injury and play at a high level.
Tucker from Nashville, TN:
I don't care who we draft as long as it's defense. I expect Jags to go defense in the first five rounds unless there is an offensive lineman sitting there when he shouldn't be.
John: I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Jaguars draft defense in the first five rounds.
Dalton from UCF:
Going into the regular-season opener Marqise Lee will, at best, be the No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart. With that said, I don't think there's much of a risk to try him out at kick return. We always talk about how good Lee can be in space, so why not let him return kickoffs and give him all the space in the world? I feel his measurable are similar to Jacoby Jones. If he's healthy, let's see what the kid can do.
John: This isn't ludicrous, but I doubt it happens. While Lee returned kickoffs at the University of Southern California (averaging 28.5 yards per return in his first two seasons there), he has struggled with injuries in the NFL. He also has value as a big-play threat in the offense. Is it worth the risk putting Lee at kickoff returner? Maybe, but I'd rather see what Lee can do in the offense.
Kyle from Ohio:
What are your thoughts on maybe targeting SS George Illoka of the Bengals? He is solid against the run and also holds up in coverage and would certainly improve the defense at that spot. He could probably be signed for a reasonable cap figure due to the nature of the position and I think any player that could improve the team deserves consideration.
John: Iloka is intriguing. He has the size of a strong safety, but he has shown the skill set at times of a free safety in that he is good in coverage and covers a lot of ground. He wouldn't be at all prototypical and might not be the ideal fit for free safety, but many considered him the best player in a very good Bengals secondary this past season. I doubt he'll be available in free agency because it just feels like a situation where the Bengals will do what's necessary to re-sign him. If not … well, I still doubt it's a priority, but we'll see.
Ralph from Jacksonville:
My apologies for misspelling your name. That is a pet peeve. It won't happen again Jon.
John: Well dun.
Renee from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
You really showed your age with the answer, Deborah Harry- … "And it comes right down and lands on the ground … And out comes a man from Mars … And you try to run but he's got a gun … And he shoots you dead and he eats your head..... GO JAGS!!!!
John: It's really not cheating.
Dan from Cary, NC:
We talk about "every-down" running backs and "every-down" linebackers. I can assume a "third-down" running back would need to have really strong pass-blocking skill and a "third-down" linebacker should have really good pass protection. However, my mom always said when I assume it makes me ... oh, look, a squirrel! Would you please define how the first, second and third downs are looked at from a personnel perspective?
John: Every-down running backs typically run well and not only can function in pass protection, but can catch the ball out of the backfield. A third-down running back often would be more of a pass-catching back who can run draw plays effectively, though it's good when he can pick up blitzes, too. Third-down linebackers more often than not excel in coverage, whereas every-down linebackers are strong against the run and against the pass.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, the Jags have done such a good job of managing their cap room and have so many young players "locked" into lower contracts, aren't they at a point where they can "set the market" on one or two players? Let's say Malik Jackson's agent says he has an offer for six years at $80 million with $40 million guaranteed. Couldn't the Jags easily afford to pay him $90 mil with $10 million more guaranteed than the next team? This isn't something you'd do with every free agent, but couldn't they do this for one of two? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: Bill! Yes. You want to make sure it's the right guy, and you can't do it often, but yes … the Jaguars could probably overpay for a free agent or two this offseason.
HobartKornfed from TheDeepSouth:
Noah Spence should not be considered by the Jaguars. Treated for drug addiction and banned for life from Big Ten after failed drug tests in 2013 and 2014. Arrested in May of 2015 for alcohol intoxication and second¬-degree disorderly conduct.
John: Yes, those are the negatives on Noah Spence – and without question every NFL team will seriously consider the off-field issues when considering whether to draft Spence. At the same time, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell repeatedly has said the team isn't necessarily looking for choirboys and that players with character issues will be considered. The Jaguars undoubtedly will research Spence heavily. I doubt the Jaguars will take him at No. 5 and I doubt they will have a chance at him after that, but we'll see.
Adrian from Inglewood, CA:
I believe David Caldwell will draft Jalen Ramsey if he's available. Caldwell already has used his three first-round draft picks to draft at three of four premium positions. He's got his left tackle Luke Joeckel, who is decent; his quarterback Blake Bortles, who appears to be improving to franchise level; and his defensive end, Dante Fowler Jr. It's unfortunate that Fowler got hurt because his play last season could've been a factor to consider at this year's draft.
John: Your theory has some merit, but while Caldwell drafted Fowler last season, you need more than one pass-rushing defensive end in the NFL these days. I don't see Caldwell drafting over himself to select a left tackle or a quarterback in April, but could he take a pass rusher to go along with Fowler? No, that's not unreasonable at all.
Branson from Waxhae, NC:
You once said Sample and Cyp will compete for strong safety and another safety via free agency or draft will start at free. What if Wash keeps Sample at free safety and starts him there next to Cyprien. Is this likely or no?
John: It's not likely. If it were, I would have said, "I think Sample will start at free safety next season with Johnathan Cyprien starting at strong safety." I believe Sample and Cyprien will compete at strong safety with a free agent or a draft selection starting at free safety. The Jaguars haven't seen enough of Sample to be sure he's the answer at free safety, and the position is too important to enter the season with that as an unknown.
Ryan from Apopka, FL:
Being that the NFL is moving to a more running-back-by-committee approach, could you see someone like Fred Taylor who is 16th on the all-time rushing rank get into the Hall of Fame? If fewer running backs are getting to that high of a total in the future would that help Fred get in?
John: Sure, it would. I've written before that I think Fred Taylor should be in the Hall of Fame. I think it will be tough for him to get in, but I don't think it's impossible. And the more difficult his rushing total is perceived to reach … yes, the better his chances as time goes on.
Hunter from Jacksonville:
Oh, I get it. Cause you're old.
John: I sure am getting there.

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