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O-Zone: That fuzzy feeling

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Vince from Jacksonville:
I'm not a fan of moving Brandon Linder to center. He has been a guard his entire NFL career and in college. It's crazy to think placing him in a new position where he's an unknown commodity – coming off a season-ending injury, no less – will be a seamless transition. It just doesn't make sense when the narrative for extending Gus Bradley was keeping continuity despite subpar results. Why not just draft a center and keep Linder at playing at a high level at guard? P.S.: They should've done more to sign Alex Mack.
John: While I'm not quite sure the Jaguars' decision to keep Gus Bradley as head coach has much to do with this topic, I admit I'm intrigued by the angst people have over the Jaguars apparently planning to move Brandon Linder to center from guard. First, there's no indication Linder is incapable of making this transition successfully. Secondly, the team is trying to get its best interior offensive lineman in the most important interior-offensive-line position. Third, history suggests that the transition can be done; Brad Meester, remember, started his NFL career at guard before moving to center. Why not "just draft a center?" Because you don't know that a center you draft will be good; you're pretty sure after seeing Linder up close that he can play. As far as Alex Mack is concerned, the reality is that never was going to happen this offseason. The Jaguars didn't pursue him.
Jimmy from Randolph:
For some reason I think DeForest Buckner is a real possibility at No. 5 - more than some people think. Am I sane?
John: You're absolutely sane because Buckner is a very good player and a relatively safe selection at No. 5. I don't think that's the direction the Jaguars will go, but it wouldn't be insanity.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, while being smart with the football is certainly important, the idea that Blake Bortles needs to get down to 10 interceptions a season for the team to succeed is silly. Brett Favre, considered one the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, averaged 18 interceptions a season. Eighteen, John! The years he won the MVP he averaged 14 interceptions. Quarterbacks throw interceptions; that's just the way it is. Fortunately for the Packers, Favre also threw a lot of touchdowns. Hopefully, Bortles does the same. Thoughts? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: Bill! You're correct in your assessment of Favre, and there certainly are parallels between his style and that of Bortles. And while Bortles needs to reduce his interceptions, a more pressing concern is increasing his accuracy and effectiveness in the short passing game; the Jaguars need to convert more third downs and being better on first and second downs will get them into more third-and-manageable situations. That last part isn't all on Bortles, but he does need to improve there. Still, while Favre proved you can be great and still throw interceptions, you don't want to fall into the trap of saying "well, that's just the way it is" when it comes to turnovers. Yes, they're going to happen, but it's much harder to win when they do.
Cole from Orlando, FL:
John, David Caldwell seems to be a strong believer in the two-back system when it comes to the Jaguars' rushing game. I think you definitely need a two-back attack in today's NFL. How close to 50-50 do you think production will be split among T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory this season?
John: Very.
Chad from St. Augustine, FL:
What do you think about Dante Fowler Jr. playing OTTO and Joey Bosa playing LEO - if we drafted Bosa?
John: I don't think you're going to see Dante Fowler Jr. full-time on the strong side of the defense, which means he won't be a full-time "Otto." But I think overall the Jaguars' defense is going to be a lot more flexible with less emphasis on always having the starting Otto on one side of the defense and the starting Leo on the other side. I think that certainly will be true if they draft Bosa.
Tony from St. Augustine, FL:
I hope Luke wins this competition. If he does, I say we lock up Dave for a long time.
John: I think Luke Joeckel has a better chance of winning the left tackle job over Kelvin Beachum than many people may think, but I don't know that David Caldwell's future should be tied to the competition – and in fact, I doubt that will be the case.
Carl from Tallahassee, FL:
As many have said before, I'm all for the Jags playing in London every year if it means long-term stability in Jacksonville. I make it to a couple of games every year and would hate not being able to go to any at all. That said, I'm curious: with the clear popularity of the sport overseas, why did NFL Europe fail? I don't pretend to know everything, but was it not basically Europe's league for NFL Football?
John: NFL Europe wasn't the NFL in terms of quality of play, and it really wasn't close. While in one sense it would have seemed to have had an appeal as a developmental league, teams were reluctant to allocate valuable players for a couple of reasons. One was the obvious risk of injury; another was that teams preferred having players with potential to contribute in their offseason programs as opposed to playing overseas during the offseason.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Let me say I like Dave Caldwell and in general the job he has done as general manager … especially compared to his predecessor. However, his support of two players astounds me. Luke Joeckel and Johnathan Cyprien are way below average at their positions. Hopefully, this training camp will finally feature a true competition at left tackle and strong safety. I've already read that the staff hopes Luke wins the left-tackle job. Why? I just have some doubts.
John: Cyprien and Joeckel are better described as "average" than "way below average," but however you describe them, both will need to earn their positions in training camp this season.
Rob from Brunswick, GA:
John, do you know what our plans at kicker are? Are we sticking with Jason Myers for sure (both of his names are synonymous with horror villains, btw) or will there be a competition in camp?
John: I believe there will be a second kicker in the Jaguars' offseason program and in training camp, though I doubt it will be a drafted player. I expect Myers to be the Jaguars' kicker next season.
Rob from Duval:
It seems people have forgotten that taking players with serious injuries is very risky. Todd Gurley worked out great; same with Aaron Colvin and many others as of late. Nobody seems to remember Marcus Lattimore. Doctors are good, O'man, but this is a very violent sport and there are still injuries that people can't come back from. I wouldn't draft anyone in the first three rounds who has to sit for a year. What about you, John?
John: Your point speaks to a question that has been discussed in the O-Zone a couple of times in recent days – that is, the difference in the situation facing Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith and the one facing Dante Fowler Jr. Really, the entire discussion illustrates the fundamental difference between a "simple" torn anterior cruciate ligament and an injury involves multiple ligaments. Gurley, Fowler and Colvin sustained relatively straightforward ACL tears and nothing more. While there is no such thing as a minor ACL tear, if the injury is "just" an ACL, recent history – including Gurley and Colbin – shows a player often now returns to play at his previous level. Lattimore, like Smith, sustained damage in addition to the torn ACL. That's a significantly different situation and Lattimore never was able to return to a high level. As for whether I would take a player if he had to sit out a year, it's impossible to give a general answer. If team physicians believed the player likely would return to a high level … then, yeah; if not … then no. Either way, it's a case-by-case decision.
Josiah from Fargo, ND:
John, my excitement for football has been nil to none the last five years, but starting last year and rolling into this year I feel … fuzzy. This offseason feels longer than normal, and I feel like this Jags team can accomplish something – winning football – that we haven't been able to root for in a quite some time. Am I naive to think that this year will be different?
John: Neither I nor anyone else can guarantee how the Jaguars will fare this season. What I can tell you is the roster this season is better than it has been in several seasons. Combine that with a young offensive core that should benefit from playing together and it's fair to say the Jaguars have a better, more-legitimate chance to win consistently than they have in some time. What will that mean? Stay tuned.

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