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O-Zone: The Big Myth

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bill from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars and local/team media members (yourself included) have told anyone that will listen that Blake Bortles isn't a "placeholder." If that's the case, why was Blake just awarded a contract that says otherwise? He's the 19th-highest paid quarterback, and when a few more quarterbacks get paid this year (Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota), he's going to tumble even further. When has a quarterback ranking in the 20s salary-wise ever been considered anything other than a "place holder" (rookies excluded)? Thanks! Go Jags!
John: The idea of Bortles as a place holder at quarterback is a perception that for some people apparently isn't going away – and I get that. I also get that his contract caused that perception because of what other teams have done historically. Still, if the last few years have shown anything it's that what other teams historically have done doesn't necessarily apply to this version of the Jaguars. They built with an aggressive approach in free agency, something that goes against conventional wisdom. They also won with defense and a running game, which also goes against recent NFL wisdom. I can't control what outsiders call Bortles or how they consider his contract. I can only tell you that the team doesn't consider him a place holder. They're not going to approach the 2018 NFL Draft as if he's a place holder, either, because they're not going to be actively/aggressively seeking his eventual replacement in the draft. I get that that's tricky to understand because it doesn't fit conventional NFL thinking, but that's the approach.
Justin from Virginia Beach, VA:
Who is your candidate to break out this year? My pick is Dede Westbrook. He showed promise last year before his surgery last year.
John: I believe two players capable of taking a major step this year are linebacker Myles Jack and wide receiver Keelan Cole. I don't know that they fit your definition of breakout player, but I think they have a real chance to have huge seasons.
Dan from Jacksonville:
Will Poehls has been on the Jags' roster for a while, but he hasn't been in any games thus far. He's as tall as Calais Campbell (6'8) and bigger than Marcell Dareus (344 pounds). He was re-signed not long ago. I was wondering why we continue to keep him but never actually use him in a game?
John: The Jaguars keep Poehls on the roster for the same reason most NFL teams keep an offensive lineman or two who don't play on the roster: depth. Unlike most other positions, reserve offensive linemen and quarterbacks usually don't play except in the event of injury.
Red from O-Zone Comments Section:
The Jags are committed to having top-notch special teams, right? With the Raiders surprisingly releasing Marquette King, might the Jags' mind trust look at upgrading the punter position by signing King? Brad Nortman didn't do much to help the Jags' cause in Foxboro in January.
John: It's something I would consider.
Daniel from Jersey City, NJ:
O-Man. I'm taking a break in the North Carolina mountains in a remote cabin on top of a mountain with a loud large creek listening to Drive by Truckers. I'm not bragging, but wanted to thank you for introducing me to Jason Isbell. They inspire me to seek the wilderness.
John: There's no reason to thank me. You would have found the Isbell and the Truckers anyway. They're that good. And it sorta sounds like you're bragging.
Max from Jacksonville:
All of these people saying Blake Bortles has never led a late-game, come-from-behind, game-winning drive are forgetting the Bills game in London. He was clutch (as was Allen Hurns) after the Jags squandered a huge lead. If memory serves, teammates even described Blake as cool and collected under pressure, and commanded that huddle like there was no doubt he was gonna get us that go-ahead touchdown. #neverforget
John: True.
Garrett from Albany, GA:
O-man, with the recent rumblings of Rob Gronkowski being unhappy and possibly being traded and tight end being an area of weakness, do you think the head honchos would consider pulling the trigger and offering something up for Gronk? This would not only give us a SOLID tight end but also a No. 1 receiving option. Go Jags!
John: One side of this discussion is you realistically must consider the chances of a player of Gronkowski's status actually being traded remote; team's simply do not like to part ways with franchise-defining, difference-making players. Considering the Patriots depend on Gronkowski more than they depend on any player except quarterback Tom Brady, the chances are that much more remote. The other side of the discussion is that the Patriots over the last couple of decades have been willing to part ways with all "elite" players other than Brady – and there indeed are signals of discontent on both sides. If the Patriots were indeed serious about trading Gronk, then yes … I could see the Jaguars being interested. But at this point it's such a mammoth "if" that it's hard to see it as realistic.
Armando from Vacaville, CA:
What are your memories of Rashard Greene? He was awesome when he played for the Jaguars. To which player in the Jaguars do you compare him to?
John: I'll assume for the sake of being able to provide an answer that you mean Rashad Greene Sr. He remains on the Jaguars' roster and will have a chance to make the team next season. My memories? A big punt return and little else. Greene, a fifth-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, has talent and potential; he needs to be healthy to have a chance to be what he is capable of being.
Jay from Section 124:
Since Corey Grant is not considered a strong candidate as our third down or No. 2 back, do you think they will look at using him as a slot receiver? His speed would create matchup problems for defenses.
John: No. I think Grant will continue to be used as a change-of-pace back and special-teams player with a more extensive role in the offense. When I say I don't think he'll be the No. 2 back next season, I mean I don't think the Jaguars will use him as the starting, "every-down" back if Leonard Fournette is injured. But I do think they'll figure out a way for him to be more involved in the offense.
JP from Orlando, FL:
Johnny, with the Jags trusting their future in Bortles, should they go ahead and draft another running back in the first round and run the old Wing T?
John: I obviously don't see the Jaguars running the Wing T or the wishbone or anything of the like. I am fascinated to see where they will draft running back because I think there's an outside chance it could be in the first few rounds.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
I hear from a lot of people that "draft capital" is the most important thing. You don't trade away draft picks because they're too valuable. My question is, does the status of the roster this year change that mentality? How many draft picks actually have a chance to make the active roster? How many draft picks have even a slim chance to get a starting spot? Most of the picks this year are going to be projects for the future, special-teams players, or they are going to be cut. Why not put some picks together and trade up in the first or second round to get someone they really want? Someone who has a chance to make an impact? (By the way, this question has nothing to do with trading for OBJ; I agree with you that two first-rounders is too high a price for him.)
John: The Jaguars currently have seven selections in the 2018 NFL Draft – one selection each in Rounds 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 and two in Rounds 7. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that they could trade up, but I disagree with the belief that few draft selections have a chance to make this roster. Offensive line, tight end, receiver, running back, quarterback, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back … rookies could make the roster at any of those positions. Remember, too: the NFL is a short-lived business. You need to develop young players for when you inevitably let older ones go.
John from Jacksonville:
Hopefully, the "be-careful-what-you-wish-for" syndrome won't come our way later this month when the new uniforms are revealed. I actually liked the uniforms over the last few seasons and I'm hoping the new ones have an element of toughness and not too much teal. This fan is keeping his fingers crossed and hoping for the best.
John: I have no idea how to predict what people will or won't like. Some people will like the new uniforms. Some won't. Some will like them because they're not the old uniforms. Some will dislike them because some people like to dislike things. But I assure you this: not everyone will be happy because no one's happy. Ever. Happiness is a myth.

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