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O-Zone: Surprise, surprise

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mike from Jacksonville:
Dear O-Man … why did we let Cap Capi go? He produced more than our starters this preseason. He obviously was effective and we have so many injured players on the defensive line. Also, what happened to the philosophy of "you can never have too many pass rushers?" Chris Smith gets a sack and you guys post a highlight video. Capi gets like three and no coverage – and then released???? Please explain. I trust your judgment. Long live the empire.
John: I've received a lot of questions about Cap Capi since he was released Friday; interest in and surprise over his release is understandable, so I suppose it's as good a place to start this final preseason Sunday O-Zone as any. Each year, there is at least one player whose release shocks many fans. It's often a wide receiver who has produced big preseason yards. Other times, it's a running back. This year's version was Capi. What often happens is players produce big numbers at statistics-friendly positions and observers/fans assume that production means they are contributing-level players. When the players get released it's because the team doesn't believe the players can produce the same against front-line NFL players in the regular season as they did against third- and fourth-team players in the preseason. That's pretty much what happened with Capi this preseason. He "obviously" was effective, but the team didn't feel he was ready to make that production translate in the regular season. That's the long version of the answer to the question, "Why did we let Cap Capi go?" The short version is the Jaguars didn't think he was as good as the players they kept at the position. That's not a knock on Capi. It's why the vast majority of NFL players get released.
Ron from Kingstown, MD:
With roster spots at a premium, why don't teams have their centers learn to be the long snapper too
John: Ideally, they would do just that – because it indeed would save a roster spot. But long snapper is a fairly thankless job that most players who are playing other positions don't particularly like doing. Hence, a league full of teams with long-snapping specialists.
J. Hooks from Orange Park, FL:
So here we are ... finally releasing draft picks under Caldwell's watch. To me this is proof that the roster is getting deeper in talent. Suddenly, those late picks and 2013 picks aren't able to compete successfully. This is what a roster should be like. I have no doubt that other teams will be scarfing down our releases. They know how we do business here in J-Ville.
John: You're right that Friday's releases of cornerback Jeremy Harris (2013, seventh round), wide receiver Neal Sterling (2015, seventh round), tight end Ben Koyack (2015, seventh round) and running back Storm Johnson (2014, seventh round) were good signs. If you have a deep team, seventh-round draft selections shouldn't always make the roster. In many cases, they should spend a season on the practice squad, which I expect will be the case for at least Sterling and Koyack. Much the same principle can be applied to A.J. Cann, a 2015 third-round selection who is backing up Zane Beadles at left guard. I, like many, thought Cann could perhaps push Beadles harder than he did during training camp. But the team absolutely doesn't mind that Beadles won the job. Third-round rookies should have a hard time starting over experienced veterans. You want rookies to have to earn their way into the starting lineup; for players outside the first couple of rounds, that doesn't always happen in their first season. You want seventh-round draft picks to fight their way onto the roster and into the lineup, too. When your roster is developed, that happens less and less.
Dave from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Josh Scobee was a great Jaguar. I, among many, will miss him, but I don't get all the "loyalty" talk. In my opinion, the Jaguars showed loyalty to the fans by making their decision based on on-field performance and by planning for the franchise's future rather than by holding a popularity contest. Jason Myers is a good kicker and from what I've seen so far, a good guy, too. Give the kid a chance.
John: Jaguars fans loved Scobee, but if Myers is as good as the Jaguars believe he is, fans will love him, too. This just happened this week; just give the fans a little time. There's plenty of love in Duval to go around.
Jory from Kodiak, AK:
Hey, O: I was just curious how Rashad Greene has looked so far. I was extremely happy when we drafted him, but haven't heard too much about him so far ... Is he looking as poised and calm as he always did at FSU? Thanks O!
John: Greene looked better and better as camp progressed. He didn't do much early, frankly, but after being given a day off around the middle of training camp to rest an Achilles issue he looked a lot quicker and more effective. I expect Greene to have a big role on punt returns. I think he'll have a big role early offensively, too, and he needs to keep playing better and improve his consistency to be productive in the latter role.
Kyle from Jacksonville:
Do you think Corey Grant could be used in a similar fashion as Darren Sproles has been over his career? Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson appears to like having running backs line up outside and throwing them the ball. Are his route-running and receiving skills good? It looks like he has some real game-changing potential. How about some plays with him and Denard Robinson on the field together?
John: Grant has some potential as a receiver because of his speed, though it's unfair to try to force him into Sproles' roles. That's because Sproles was very advanced as a returner and receiver coming out of college – and also because Sproles was as much about quickness as he was straight-ahead speed. Grant is a little more of a straight-ahead burner; hence, his role as a kickoff returner and runner more than a punt returner/slot guy. But whatever the role, Grant has speed. The Jaguars like that speed enough that they're going to try to figure a way to use it a lot.
Austin from Jacksonville:
John, give me your thoughts on where you think Blake Bortles will be in five years progress-wise. Will he be the next Aaron Rodgers or will he be another Chad Henne? Just want to know what to look forward to.
John: This is obviously a difficult question, and not only because you're asking to predict the future of a young quarterback who had a few really good games this preseason but who struggled a lot last season. You have to like what you see in his three preseason games, but it's still a pretty small sample size. You also have given a pretty wide range of possibilities between Rodgers and Henne. It's hard to project Bortles being Aaron Rodgers, but that's because I think Rogers is the best quarterback in the NFL right now. Few guys reach that sort of level and it's really hard to project the ones who do. I will say this: I wasn't sure on Bortles before this offseason began. I thought he'd be good, but I wondered if he could be elite. I don't think he's close to there yet, but I do think he can be elite.
Brian from Gainesville, FL:
Big O, to continue with your theme about drafting from the current players in the NFL, you don't take J.J. Watt over the top 8 or 9 quarterbacks, or over Lev Bell, AP, Jamaal Charles, or Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas. But at some point in the Top 25 or so you have to take J.J. Watt don't you? The guy is a game-changer on defense the likes of, dare I say it, Lawrence Taylor! There is a reason that he finished second to Aaron Rodgers in the MVP voting. As a Florida and a Jags fan, I have high hopes that Dante Fowler Jr. will someday breathe the air in Watt's stratosphere.
John: I actually think you take Watt over all of the guys you mentioned. You just don't take him over an elite, franchise quarterback. You don't take any position player over an elite, franchise quarterback unless you already have … you know, an elite franchise quarterback.
Christian from Owings:
Is there a chance of Fowler coming back this year? Oh – and can I get an update on Lee and his return date?
John: Dante Fowler Jr. is on injured reserve and done for the season. Marqise Lee has not been ruled out for the regular-season opener. I'd personally be a little surprised if he plays against Carolina September 13 because he hasn't practiced since the first week of training camp, but I've been surprised before. And I actually like surprises. They're fun.

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