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O-Zone: The way it is

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Baby, it's cold outside.

Fortunately, we're spending most of our week here at Super Bowl LII inside the Mall of America on Radio Row while covering the Tony Boselli Hall of Fame Watch.

Let's get to it … Jerell from Columbia, SC:
Why didn't the Jaguars land Alex Smith? The Jaguars clearly have a need at the position. How far do they think a replacement-level quarterback can take this team that's ready to win now?
John: There is no indication the Jaguars were particularly serious players for Smith, with one reason perhaps being that the Kansas City Chiefs very likely were reluctant to trade him within the conference – just as the New England Patriots in retrospect likely had little interest in trading a quarterback such as Jimmy Garoppolo to a team in their conference. I do think it's likely the Jaguars have investigated the possibility of pursuing Smith and any other possible quarterback options – likely including whether to try to sign Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins when he inevitably becomes a free agent. But while the Jaguars certainly have investigated possible upgrades, it's time to rethink the level of "need" at the position. That's because the answer to your question of how far the Jaguars believe Bortles can take them is the "Super Bowl." They were within a few plays of that game this past season with Bortles. It's not stretching reality to think they can go a step further with an improved offensive line and receiving corps next season.
Alan from Jacksonville:
OK, but for a quick whistle the Jags would likely being playing against the Eagles this weekend. How would you have seen that matchup? If they played that game 10 times how many would the Jags win?
John: Five. No, six.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
You know my thoughts on Bortles. What do you think about the report stating he will return next year? I am excited to see what he can do with another year of experience, a playoff run under his belt and Allen Robinson back – and possibly an upgraded offensive line.
John: I assume you're referring to a report this week from Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network that Bortles likely will be the Jaguars' quarterback in 2018. I have written often in recent days that I expect that, too. I expect him to improve in the second year in offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's offense and I also expect the Jaguars' receivers and offensive line to be improved. Will that help Bortles? Well, he was much better this season than in 2016 and he made that improvement with a receiving corps that didn't include Robinson – and with a running game that struggled more than its No. 1 ranking would indicate. So, yeah …
Frankie from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Can you explain to me why Blake Bortles would have wrist surgery? He played the whole season with that injury and he was actually decent. Why fix something that's not broke?
John: Pain, one would guess. Wouldn't one?
Rob from Duval:
You keep mentioning right tackle. Did Parnell not play well? Thought he looked good before injury?
John: Jermey Parnell for the most part played fine this past season. I have mentioned right tackle as a possibility for an offseason change because the line as a whole needed to be more consistent both pass blocking and run blocking. Both guard positions could be upgraded, but if there were an upgrade available in the draft or free agency at right tackle that could make sense, too.
Ray from Monroe, CT:
A lot of people have said that sticking with Bortles is a mistake. My question is if we had Marcus Mariota people would not be saying sticking with him is a mistake. From what I saw this year Blake is a better quarterback than Mariota and statistically was way better. So why is everyone praising him as a quarterback with a great future and Blake as a joke and want to replace him with quarterbacks that this year performed at his level?
John: Good question.
Robert from Manassas, VA:
Why all the panic over Blake's surgery? Hasn't he been on the injury report with a wrist injury since September? Shouldn't we expect next season for him to improve with a healthy wrist?
John: One would think.
Steve from Duval:
John, I think the offensive line did an outstanding job protecting Blake Bortles this year when healthy. The run game was also outstanding. Looking to the future, do we draft, or go through free agency looking for players that do both well, or look for someone that is better at one or the other?
John: I think the Jaguars would stop short of saying the offensive line was "outstanding" both run-blocking and pass-blocking in 2017. Though the line undoubtedly improved from 2016, the pass-blocking and run-blocking was very good at times and inconsistent at some other really key times. I think the Jaguars could look to free agency for an interior lineman, and I expect at least one lineman selected in the first two rounds of the April draft.
Sherman from Jacksonville:
Hey Zone, remember when the whole Branden Albert thing - was a thing? Seems funny now.
John: Ha. It actually does.
Strnbiker from Dothan, AL:
I'm an old man that played football back when rules were substantially different. This NFL rule regarding the helmet-to-helmet hit is problematic. Even in my football days, it is human nature to duck your head or turn it to the side in most cases to avoid undue trauma. A lot of the contact now that results in flags and fines is due incidental contact with no intent. Barry Church led with his right shoulder when he hit Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, as he said, and the result was both players lowering their heads to avoid the contact. Incidental with a ridiculous fine. Is this rule going to be refined?
John: I do believe the league will continually examine and re-examine the helmet-to-helmet rule because of the high-profile, important nature of the concussion issue. What I don't know – and what I'm not sure anyone knows – is how the league realistically can perfect the rule. I believe there must be a standard penalty because it's hard to legislate intent during a game. But I do believe intent must come into play when deciding if or now much to fine players.
J. Hooks from Orange Park, FL:
Hey, John. Great work this season! What's your take on Mychal Rivera? We didn't get to see him at all, and I think he's kind of been overlooked by many who feel we'll be drafting tight end. Is he still even signed with us?
John: Rivera has a year remaining on his contract. While I do believe Rivera would have helped in the passing game considerably this past season, I don't expect his presence on the roster to be a major factor when the Jaguars decide when or whether to draft a tight end this offseason.
Jerry from Hero, FL:
John, it seemed like when Tyler Shatley played center and Brandon Linder play guard the line performed well. Any chance of shifting the lineup where this becomes permanent?
John: I imagine the Jaguars are going to take a hard look at pretty much every spot on the offensive line in the offseason. I expect Linder and left tackle Cam Robinson to be a part of the equation going forward. Beyond that, I don't know that anything is absolutely certain.
Dave from DUVAL:
I agree with your assessment the Jags need to draft a running back in 2018. I would look for the prerequisite characteristic of having some "wiggle" to his game. Leonard Fournette has power, T.J. Yeldon has pass-catching and pass-protection ability and Corey "Tail Lights" Grant has straight-line speed. But we don't have a back that can make a defender miss in the open field. Am I wrong?
John: It's extreme to say Jaguars running backs never make defenders miss in the open field, but I do expect the Jaguars to draft a running back – or acquire one in free agent – with "missability" at the top of his list of skills.
Ryk from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I get it John that "Fans gonna Fan" But, Dear Fans, enough is enough with the officiating at the AFC Conference game. The way you clear all this up is to meet your foe in the same game and beat them, I mean really, really beat them. Then all questions will be put at rest. Go Jags.
John: Fair point.
Saif from Washington, DC:
If we keep Blake Bortles, does that mean we see him as the best option for next year or he's the man for the future? And if we do keep him, does that mean we won't draft a quarterback for the future?
John: I anticipate Bortles playing for the Jaguars next season on the final year of his contract and I think there's a good chance the Jaguars draft a quarterback in April. If Bortles plays well in that scenario, that could mean him being the quarterback of the future.
Jordan from Jacksonville:
Third-and-18 still haunts me.
John: Get used to it.

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