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O-Zone: Still a no-show

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … William from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Thoughts on the release of Roy Miller? I was surprised.
John: The Jaguars indeed released nose tackle Roy Miller Sunday. The move surprised me and at the same time it didn't. It was a little surprising because Miller seemed like a good fit moving forward in terms of professionalism and veteran presence. He also had been playing at a high level the past two seasons until sustaining a torn Achilles this past season. At the same time, a torn Achilles is a serious injury that often is career-threatening – and Miller is entering his ninth NFL season. The Jaguars also recently re-signed Abry Jones, who replaced Miller last season and played at a high level, and are overhauling much of the defensive line. Miller was one of my favorite Jaguars players in recent seasons. He was a class act and always willing to try to put the Jaguars in perspective even in the toughest of times. That's rare and it was appreciated. I will miss Miller's professionalism and candidness, but considering all of the Jaguars' goings on this offseason, and considering his age and health, his release in the big picture perhaps wasn't a mammoth surprise.
David from Maplewood, NJ:
John, how about one fer Marks? During the years he was here, we didn't have all that much to root for and he was an exception. My nine-year old always asked about No. 99; he will be missed and we wish him well.
John: Absolutely. One fer Sen'Derrick Marks – one of the classiest, most-entertaining players I've had the pleasure to cover in 23 years covering the NFL.
Daniel from Gordon:
What are the basic changes in scheme that our defense will have this year? What players will be vital to it and how do you see it highlighting our current squad?
John: The Jaguars haven't officially discussed this in detail, so most of the discussion about scheme is speculation more than fact. Judging by what has been said by team officials, and judging by the roster moves, it appears the Jaguars are moving away at least somewhat from the idea of having a true "in-the-box safety" and a true "free" safety – as was the case last season when Johnathan Cyprien played in the box and Tashaun Gipson played free. The team also is going away from the "Otto" and "Leo" terms, though I think the front seven is going to look pretty similar to last season – with a strong-side defensive end, pass-rushing defensive end and strong-side, middle and weak-side linebackers. The release of Miller and the re-signing of Jones indicate a more athletic approach on the interior of the line. Vital players? Most of the starters, I suppose – with an emphasis on Jalen Ramsey and the front four. If you're playing a 4-3 scheme, you need disruption from the front four whatever the scheme.
Dave from Jacksonville:
Good idea for DeAndre Hopkins to talk trash about Jalen Ramsey this offseason. I'm sure that JR won't remember and/or care about those comments when their teams play each other this year.
John: Ramsey certainly doesn't need me chiming in on Hopkins' comments Friday upon A.J. Bouye signing with the Jaguars. That's because Ramsey is more than capable of holding his own in the world of Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat responding and retorting. Here's what Hopkins reportedly told a Houston radio station: "I told A.J. if he goes to [Jacksonville] then he better be the dude guarding me on third down instead of Jalen because he couldn't get the job done. I love A.J., but hopefully he's the one guarding me on third down to win the game next year for those guys. They might have a better chance." Considering Ramsey's level of play in the team's second meeting of the season – and considering the devastating hit on Hopkins he delivered in that game – it seemed the Houston Texans' wide receiver did exercise some selective memory. I'm sure Ramsey will remember the incident and I'm sure it will come up next season. And the next. And the next.
Dan from Jacksonville (freezing in New England):
We could make the postgame interviews a bit more interesting if the reporters wrote their questions down and read to someone who could do a great Johnny Carson 'Carnac the Magnificent' ... just saying.
John: I'll pass this on to the supporting cast.
Jeff from Keystone Heights, FL:
No more excuses involving the word "talent" on defense. I know it's on paper now, but there is quality at every single position on that side of the ball. It may be performance, execution, coaching, scheme, play calling, etc. ... but not talent.
John: I don't recall a lot of people talking about excuses or talent on defense last season, but sure … OK. No more excuses.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Is this team better than last year's team? I feel like left tackle, defensive end and cornerback have been upgraded. We didn't downgrade at strong safety. I think the secondary and linebacker groups have the potential to be very good. The weakest groups appear to be offensive line and running backs. They should be able to address the run game with another free agent and/or in the draft. The pieces appear to be in place. The success of the 2017 season may depend on quarterback play. What do you think?
John: I think the 2017 season will depend on quarterback play.
Dave from Duval:
It is simply amazing to me that we don't have a franchise quarterback, hold the No. 4 pick (thanks in part largely to our current starting quarterback), a new coach, Tom Coughlin calling the shots – and yet the senior writer — has not even entertained the possibility of us taking a quarterback in the first round.
John: I'm glad you're amazed. Amazement is an extreme emotion, and it's good to experience emotional extremes. They clean out the innards and can give you a fresh perspective. They also can tucker you out and help you sleep at night – sort of like my dog after a good, long walk. As for a quarterback at No. 4, I've entertained it. Few think it will happen, and I've gotten no vibe about it happening, but that doesn't mean I haven't entertained it.
Ryan from Fremont, OH:
At first I was skeptical about signing so many older players that seem to go against the trend of signing players that are ascending after their first contract. After seeing the interviews of Campbell, and Church, I get the feeling that they are going to be high-impact leaders we will be talking about a lot each and every Sunday. Do you get the same feeling?
John: That's certainly the idea behind the signings. There's no question the acquisition of Branden Albert, Calais Campbell and Barry Church goes against conventional ideal free-agent wisdom. These aren't ascending players and they're not entering their second contract. They realistically are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. But that's OK. These signings are not about 2021. They're about 2017 and 2018. They're about winning now.
Ed from Winston-Salem, NC:
I know you need a trade partner to make a trade and you want to be fair to the players, too, but couldn't we have kept Roy and Marks and possibly sent them to a team that needs defense like the Saints for a pick or two?
John: The Jaguars reportedly explored trading Marks and apparently got no interest. As for Miller, he's coming off a torn Achilles sustained last season. That's a serious injury and is often career-threatening. I'm guessing Miller plays again, but teams don't trade for nine-year veterans with Achilles issues.
Scott from Wichita, KS:
Man, Ramsey's in Hopkins' head after one year. That's pretty funny.
John: I laughed.
Bill from Whalen, VA:
OK, we have been very active in free agency. How much have we spent and did we overspend on two or three?
John: The Jaguars reportedly are paying left tackle Branden Albert $18.5 over the next two seasons with cornerback A.J. Bouye being guaranteed $26 million and defensive end Calais Campbell $30 million. That's a lot of money. As for overspending, yes … the Jaguars overspent on all three of their high-profile signees. Because free agency.
Bryan from Jacksonville:
Yo, Zone, no-show at the Gate River Run? Or did you run under a pseudonym? ... I noticed Jarjar Binks ran …
John: I indeed was a no-show at the Gate River Run. This is in keeping with my longstanding tradition of being a River Run no-show. Because this year marked the 40th River Run, my estimate is that my no-show streak is … 40. I run between three and three-and-a-half miles a day every day. I abhor every step of every mile every day and I have no desire to add to my misery. My father, who for reasons he never could explain loved running, ran in the inaugural River Run and ran in many thereafter. That Oehser presence may well be enough for the ages.

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