O-Zone: Swing for the fences

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Sascha from Cologne, Germany

Hey, John. One week before the season, we know almost all the circumstances that have to come together for a successful season, but what do you think? How realistic will a six-or seven-win season be if you are completely honest?

Many things must go very right for the Jaguars to be a seven-victory team in 2020. This was true before the moves of the last week – and trading defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings without question will make reaching that mark more difficult. To reach it, many young players who haven't performed at a high level in the NFL must play to their potential. To reach it, an offensive line that has struggled in recent seasons must improve. To reach it, a run defense that struggled last season must improve. To reach it, a few young players – maybe more than a few – must make second- and third-year jumps. To reach it, quarterback Gardner Minshew II must turn from a player with potential and questions into a Top 20 player at his position. The NFL is difficult; when so many things need to go right, a few often don't. I therefore think reaching seven victories will be difficult. Perhaps I'll be wrong. The odds on that happening actually aren't bad.

Jaginator (formerly of) Section 124

Running back Leonard Fournette's release has me cautiously optimistic. He was the manifestation of this franchise's long history of playing ugly, run-it-up-the-gut football. I could blame Head Coach Doug Marrone for this. But the "tradition" predates his tenure. (Former Head Coach Jack Del Rio was very fond of plowing running back Maurice Jones-Drew right up the middle as well.) I'm really hoping that new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and the absence of Fournette, could finally signal a more creative mindset on offense. I'm so sick-and-tired of run up the middle, run up the middle, and then pass on third-and-long.

I think you will see creative play-calling from new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and I don't think his approach will be run up the middle, run up the middle and pass on third-and-long. I suspect that Gruden will do a very good job when the Jaguars win, and I suspect he will do an awful job when the Jaguars lose. I also suspect that many, many, many fans could do his job far better than he. Because it's always coaching in the NFL. Always.

Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL

John: I'm sure they traded safety Ronnie Harrison to get some value because he was sure to be cut. You didn't seem all that surprised. What did you see about his play that made him likely to be cut?

I don't know that the Jaguars would have cut Harrison had they been unable to trade him to the Cleveland Browns Thursday. I do know they would have been very tempted to not start him, and that would have been a difficult situation. What made it likely that he wouldn't start? A lot of mistakes – too many considering the amount of big plays he made.

Eric from Columbus, IN

You and many others thought Harrison was going to have a breakout year ... Fournette looked great in camp ... and yet we trade them at the last second. Ronnie Harrison for a fifth? A fifth rarely becomes Rodney Harrison. WHAT ARE THEY DOING? The "We are trying to win mantra" is words. Actions say different.

I did not think Ronnie Harrison was going to have a breakout season. As far as fifth-round selections are concerned … while they don't often become as good as Rodney Harrison, they do often become as good as Ronnie Harrison.

KC from Orlando, FL

KOAF - with our last two departures, would we have been better off letting them walk as free agents to get compensatory picks instead? Or do the Jags dabble too much in free agency to get picks like the New England Patriots?

Teams only get compensatory selections when they lose more in unrestricted free agency than they gain. Then, you get compensatory selections the following offseason. Considering the amount of salary-cap space the Jaguars are clearing – and considering they therefore likely will be active in free agency in the coming offseason – it may be a while before they get compensatory selections.

Tom from Shanghai, China

Yan took a pay cut to leave. That suggests a desperation to get out that is not financial. If you had to guess, what would be his thinking? Does he have a problem with the coaches/ownership/city? Did the Vikings promise him something in the future? Or is he just saving face?

Yes, probably.

John from Priest River, ID

I'm a big believer the NFL by its nature and structure is a "draft and replace" league. Teams that seem to have long-term sustained success are in essence practicing this; the Patriots come to mind. The other obvious key and exception is having a true franchise quarterback; the Patriots come to mind again. In an NFL general managers' utopia, they are constantly drafting players to replace players on expiring contracts while re-signing key contributors to second contracts that allow the team to move on from that player before that contract expires. Am I off base on this? If not, why don't more fans grasp this obvious concept. Your thoughts?

You're not off base. I don't know why more fans don't grasp this, though I think a great many do. The reality is the Jaguars haven't done well enough on either front. It's why they have struggled in far more recent seasons than not.

Steve from Tallahassee, FL

Mr. Zone: How does Steven from Charlotte, NC get the privilege of having two questions answered in the same day's thread? Is it that you don't get as many questions as you portray each day? Maybe you are just asleep at the wheel and need to step it up a bit? Remember Zone: Being a senior editor for an NFL franchise is a young man's game and it would be heartbreaking if you were released before the season. I have full confidence you will shake this error off and will give us a very productive season.

I answer questions I feel like answering. There's no more mystery to it than that.

Gary from Fleming Island, FL

Coach Marrone talked about player skill sets when discussing waiving Fournette. Does that mean he doesn't think the O-line has the skill sets to run block well enough to open holes for the RB? It seemed like when there was hole there was no better back to take advantage of it than Fournette.

Marrone doesn't think the offensive line lacks the skill set to block for the run. Most professional running backs can take advantage of a hole when it is there.

Eric from Jacksonville

Why should we as fans have ANY confidence that the general manager who picked a Top 5 player he WAIVED on Monday (rather than selecting quarterbacks Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes) is the general manager to lead us out of this clown show?

I could cite a bunch of reasons, and I could point out that it was former Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin was making the final decisions during the 2017 NFL Draft when they selected Fournette – not General Manager David Caldwell. But the reality is fans' feeling on this will only change with results. Nothing else.

Dan from Varna, Bulgaria

Hi John, when will be the right time to start questioning Shad about his decisions in regard hiring the right people to run this team? Looking on the last few years' first-round drafts have me worried a lot about the future of this franchise. We have badly misused the selections and the times we were able to find good/above average players we were unable to re-sign them to a second contract. What will make you or me believe that the front office will be more successful this time?

Jaguars Owner Shad Khan gets questioned about the direction of the team pretty much anytime he speaks to the media, and he gets criticized for it pretty much constantly. That's fair, because NFL owners are going to get criticized when their teams don't win. He also got pretty roundly criticized for his decision to retain Caldwell and Marrone after last season. His reasoning at the time was he believed the duo deserved a chance to lead the team without the presence of Coughlin, and that he believed the team could improve and flourish under the new direction. If he's right, he will deserve praise. If he's wrong, he will deserve more questions and criticism. Such is the nature of NFL ownership.

Alex from Jacksonville

Saying you're not tanking without having a fullback on your roster is like saying you didn't spill anything with a big stain on your shirt.

You took a swing, Alex. That's admirable. You can't hit it if you don't swing.

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