O-Zone: Stealing home

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it … David from Belisle, MD:
John, trying not to be emotional … just sharing facts regarding the now-former Jags wide receiver Allen Hurns. If you look at his numbers – even last year as a per-game average against games played – they are almost identical to Marqise Lee's. Largest differences being in targets and drops, where Lee had more. I'm not trying to bash Lee, but I don't understand why it is "so understandable" that the team would cut a guy who is locked up at somewhat reasonable terms for two more years, then re-sign and layout all new monetary guarantees for more annually to go with same production but more drops. Call me emotional or stupid or whatever, but the numbers just don't add up.
John: I understand the emotion – and you’re not stupid. Still, there often is a disconnect between how a team feels about players and how fans feel about the same players – and there certainly is a disconnect between how the Jaguars felt about Hurns and how many fans felt about him. The Jaguars believe Lee is better than Hurns – plain and simple. And as much as I like and respect Hurns, I agree. Lee has more explosion and is more of a threat to defenses. This is not a knock on Hurns as much as it is an acknowledgement that Lee is the more athletic and faster of the two players. The Jaguars clearly believed this last year during training camp and preseason, when Lee and Allen Robinson ran with the first team. Lee also opened the 2017 regular season as the starter opposite Robinson. Also, Lee has been by far the more durable player over the last two seasons, missing just two games in that span compared to 11 missed games by Hurns. As much respect as everyone in the organization had for Hurns – and that respect was high – this was not a particularly difficult decision. Nor should it have been.
Rob from Ponte Vedra, FL:
Kelly Slater is a more dominant athlete than Roger Federer. He has 11 world titles and has dominated the sport for more than 30 years. He took five years off in the prime of his career and still won 11. No one in any other sport ever mentions it or knows about it, but he is the most dominant athlete the world has ever seen.
John: OK.
Vince from Jacksonville:
I wanted to know your expert opinion on something I have been thinking on ever since Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell mentioned with confidence recently that they have a plan in place for the backup quarterback. I surmised that if they wanted to, they would have already signed the likes of a Matt Moore, Chad Henne before being signed, Matt Cassel, etc. Do you think given that this team is a legitimate contender, the Jaguars could persuade Jay Cutler to play another year? It could be an open competition that whomever plays better can start since Cutler said he will only play if he has a chance to start. That gets the best out of Bortles and also ensures if he gets injured or regresses the Jags have a capable backup in their Super Bowl quest. I can't fathom the idea of having a rookie take the reins and ruin the season if Bortles goes down with an injury. What's your thoughts?
John: I don’t doubt the Jaguars have a backup quarterback plan in place; why wouldn’t they? I would be stunned if the plan involves Cutler – or any “high-profile” veteran. First, the Jaguars have made it clear Bortles isn’t a place-holder for the position, and they’ve made it clear they’re not looking for an open competition at the spot in training camp. And while many observers love to talk about the Jaguars bringing in a player to “push” Bortles, that implies the Jaguars believe Bortles needs another quarterback in camp to be motivated – and that implication is incorrect. The Jaguars were impressed with Bortles’ dedication and work ethic last season. They believe he will do everything he can to continue to improve, to lead the team, to be the best he can be, etc. That doesn’t mean I know the details of The Backup Quarterback Plan, but it does mean I’m pretty sure it won’t be Cutler with the idea of “lighting a fire” under Bortles.
Frank from St. Augustine, FL:
Remember a few years ago the Jags had two receivers with over 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns? Thought the wide receiver position was set for years to come. Now a few years later they’re both gone. What a difference a few years can make.
John: Not to mention a change in philosophy.
David from Oviedo, FL:
Some people complain that NFL players are overpaid. The NFL generates an incredible amount of revenue on the backs of these highly-talented football players. Why shouldn’t they share in the spoils? Just like any occupation, they are getting paid what the market will bear. One could argue that top-tier players could be making even more, if it weren’t for a “made-up” limit – aka, the salary cap. Thoughts?
John: I’ve written and said since I began covering the NFL in 1995 that players should get paid as much as possible whenever possible. They have a talent that people want to see and people are willing to pay them handsomely for that talent. As far as the salary cap, it wasn’t as much “made up” as it was collectively bargained by the owners and players. The players could theoretically be making more, but perhaps at the expense of the long-term financial health of the league. That would be the owners’ argument, anyway.
Kelly from Greenburg, IN:
If it's still going; you gonna break your streak to watch Federer? I think you should.
John: The streak has endured through me taking my son to college, family trips, vacations, sickness and a bunch of other first-world issues. It certainly can endure through me watching Federer for a couple of hours.
Bryan from Yulee, FL:
Hey O-Man, remember that time a few weeks ago when I asked if the Jags may take a look at Johnny Manziel and you said “Just. Stop. Talking?” I know it won’t happen, just wanted to point it out. Have a good weekend!
John: I do remember that! Just. Stop. Talking.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
A lot of theories have been thrown around about what position the Jags will draft on the first or second day, but there’s one that I think makes a bunch of sense considering what this offense wants to be: running back! You want to run all day on defenses, have two dominant backs switching off all game – and what if Leonard Fournette gets injured next season? Can T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant carry the load?
John: I also am intrigued by what the Jaguars might do at running back in the draft. My expectation is they will address the position somewhere in Rounds 3 through 6, but I do wonder – like you – if they might draft one earlier. If you’re going to be as dedicated to the run as it appears the Jaguars plan to be, would it be so weird if they wanted to add another dynamic player at the position?
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, when people sass you about the 2018 offense being laden with the long list of lackluster players as last year, should you – in addition to pointing out the improvements at tight end and offensive line – also point out that exciting young players like Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Cam Robinson and Fournette are entering their second NFL seasons, which is when players typically take big leaps forward?
John: Yeah, probably.
Kyle from Green Cove Springs, FL:
With no backup quarterback currently on the roster, I'd say it’s almost a certainty that one will be drafted. The real question is when? I have a sneaky suspicion Caldwell is intrigued by Mason Rudolph. If somehow an "upper-tier" prospect falls, I also wouldn't be surprised if a trade up occurs. This is going to be a good one John! Man, I love draft season!
John: I would be surprised if the Jaguars select a quarterback in the first round. The one way I could see that happening is if one of the top four prospects – Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold – took an epic slide. If that happened, then maybe – a big maybe – the Jaguars could trade up. That’s my thinking now. There’s still a month between now and the draft.
David from Oviedo, FL:
What are your thoughts on fullback Tommy Bohanon? Is he penciled in or do you think the Jags will try to upgrade?
John: I expect Bohanon to be the Jaguars’ fullback. I imagine the Jaguars could sign a player at the position, but I would be surprised if he outperformed Bohanon enough to be the Jaguars’ fullback.
Armando from Vacaville, CA:
Is Jossie Jules of Iowa a steal if we get him in the second round?
John: Will he be good?

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