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O-Zone: Talkin' 'bout the man

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Frankie from London, UK:
Does free agency affect your targets in the draft? Or does the draft class affect your targets in free agency? Does the attitude differ team by team? Would be interesting in hearing your take as you spout your grand knowledge on to me like how Tom Coughlin will sprinkle the dust from his Super Bowl rings onto Doug Marrone.
John: I don't know who's sprinkling what around here, but when it comes to free agency and the draft … in an ideal world, neither would affect the other. That's because in an ideal world a team would partake in free agency mostly by re-signing its own players and perhaps – with an emphasis on perhaps – signing an unrestricted free agent or two to address a small need or two here or there. In that same ideal world, the team would have starters/core players in place – and therefore be able to draft the best available player with each selection and develop players over a season-to-season-and-a-half before moving them into front-line roles. Alas, teams rarely operate in an ideal world, so free agency and the draft are rarely mutually exclusive. That means teams usually do what they can to fill needs in March during the first few expensive, high-risk days/weeks of free agency, then fill a remaining need or two in the first round or two of the draft in late April. If teams are still filling holes after that … uh-oh.
Tom from Orlando, FL:
With Tom Coughlin in the building, everyone will have to be more professional and up their game – no slacking off will be allowed. So what does this do to the O-Zone? From what I gather, slacking off is pretty much your bread and butter. Or do you up your game by slacking off even MORE— like just coming in wearing sandals and a Hawai'ian shirt, and disabling spellcheck?
John: Tom Coughlin doesn't scare me. Wait, that's not right.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
I have been one who never bet against the Patriots. However, I think I am ready to do that this year. The Falcons have a good offense led by a good quarterback. Julio Jones is going to be difficult to stop, and the Falcons have the league leader in sacks. I think it will be a great game, but I think the Falcons pull out a win.
John: I, too, think Super Bowl LI will be highly competitive. If I could forget about the uniforms and the fact that the Patriots will be wearing theirs, I probably could select Atlanta. The Falcons were dominant in the playoffs and appear to be peaking at the right time. But a couple of things keep gnawing at me when thinking about the Falcons' chances. One is the Patriots seem to have the better defense, and the better defense typically prevails in high-pressurized games such as the Super Bowl. Another is I like the more experienced quarterback in tight, pressurized games and Tom Brady is the more experienced quarterback. This feels like it could play out a lot like the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl a couple of years back with multiple big situations in the final minutes without much time to prepare or think. I give the edge to Bill Belichick, Brady and the Patriots in that situation.
Cliff from Dufall/Jags4life:
The Jaguars should seriously sign Manziel and/or Tebow. See how they do at running back or wide receiver (see Pryor, Terrelle). What do they have to lose? Publicity?
John: Are you serious, Clark?
Tommy from JAX:
O, I applaud you for not being shy about writing honest things about Blake Bortles. I am glad you understand we will be the same old Jags until someone new is under center. And please let Tom choose this time. Dave's comments on Bortles are a bit concerning …
John: Contrary to the opinion of some, I strive to be as honest as possible in as many answers as possible. Let's be clear: I am not "down" on Bortles, and I believe he can be an effective NFL quarterback. I say that honestly. But he absolutely must improve in decision-making, consistency and pocket presence. I leave mechanics out of that Holy Trinity, because I think there's a fairly high-percentage chance he can get his mechanics worked out to the point where they're not an issue. The decision-making, consistency and pocket presence are more difficult areas to improve and are more important. That will be the unknown until next season.
Darren from Arlington, TX:
Can we please stop talking about a running back at No. 4? I'm sorry but I don't really see Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook as being that game-changing player you'd like to have in the Top 5. I do however, really like Jamal Adams and his potential. Can we talk about that instead?
John: OK.
Clint from Mandarin:
Have you heard of Anthony Calvillo?
John: Yes.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
I think most agree that Blake Bortles has three major issues: mechanics, decision-making and having protection. Only Blake and his coaches can fix the first two. If the Lions don't persuade guard Larry Warford to stay in Detroit, would he be a way to start fixing the third issue?
John: I'm fine with the idea of pursuing Warford if he hits free agency. The idea of signing a veteran interior offensive lineman makes sense because it's a place where you can be reasonably sure how a player will fit – something that can sometimes be difficult to gauge as a free agent. But I'm not as on board with protection being a major problem for the Jaguars this past season. Bortles certainly was under duress at times in 2016, but not to the point where protection was a defining issue of the Jaguars' season – and not to the point where the majority of Bortles' struggles last season should be attributed to it.
Ray from Jacksonville:
John: Was there an effort by the Jaguars to sign Alex Mack last year?
John: Not a significant one, no … (/ducks).
JV from West Des Moines, IA:
"Bortles himself has said that he is not a natural thrower of the football." Why does that sentence scare me so much, O?
John: Because Bortles is a quarterback and quarterbacks need to throw well. That's why his motion is such an issue – because it's evident he must work and focus on the area to maintain his accuracy. Now, that doesn't necessarily make him unique among NFL quarterbacks. Many quarterbacks spend significant time each offseason focusing on mechanics – and time before and after practice trying to make sure that offseason focus doesn't lapse during the season. Does Bortles have to spend more time on this because he's not Mr. Natural? Perhaps. This is still playing out.
Joe from San Antonio, TX:
At No. 4 I only want to see us draft defense. If we can trade back, then I could see it being a smart play for an offensive lineman or Cook/Fournette depending on where we land. Offensive line at four is a reach, and one of the premier running backs would be handicapped equity without better run-blocking, and therefore not worth it at four. Thoughts?
John: My thoughts are your thoughts are good, sound thoughts – and my gut is that likely will be how the Jaguars approach the draft. I'm a big believer that unless a back is ultra-special – i.e., Adrian Peterson and the like – it's very difficult for the player to outplay his offensive line. And even if the back is ultra-special, quarterback still will more often than not decide the team's fortunes. Now, there are circumstances when the available players make a running back make sense early – and considering the players who currently project at No. 4 – this might be one of those seasons.
Doug from Jacksonville:
Bortles will quiet the critics next year. He won't have Hall-of-Fame numbers, but with improved line play and an improved running game he will be fine. In a couple years, people will forget they were calling for his release. If you go through the list of quarterbacks in the league, of course there are the top tier, but then I would be hard-pressed to trade Bortles for any of the rest. He is still young, he has natural athleticism and an improved team allows him time to grow and improve.
John: #BBTWD
Jeremy from Dodge City, KS:
O, you're the man! Jags Nation!!!
John: OK.

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