JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Steven from Duval:
Mr. O, I honestly respect the fact that you stay objective to the game – and with your years of covering the NFL, it is understandable your fandom has subsided. But you are from our city and obviously understand our passion and occasional ridiculous expectations/love for our team and players. Since I am a sometimes-delusional and always-passionate fan of our players, I would like your honest opinion of players I believe should be in the Pro Bowl every year such as Telvin smith, Brandon Linder, Jalen Ramsey and the one we call Poz. These guys seem Top 5 at their position. I know our team sucked but where was the individual recognition – or am I really that jaded? Did they get shafted or am I blinded by loyalty?
John: The players you mentioned all have played well enough at times in the last two or three seasons to have earned Pro Bowl recognition. At the same time, it's hard for me to honestly say they were shafted to any great degree because none clearly stand out as far and away the league's best players at their positions. It's probably fairer to say all are among a group of players at their positions who play very well and wouldn't be out of place at the Pro Bowl. This is where many will assume that market size is what prevents these players from being honored, I'm not big on that theory. I saw too many Jaguars players make Pro Bowls in the 1990s to blame market size. The reason more good Jaguars players don't make the Pro Bowl is the team has lost 11 or more games six consecutive seasons. When your team isn't performing year after year, it becomes increasingly hard to earn Pro Bowl or All-Pro recognition. I believe such recognition will come soon for Ramsey. If the Jaguars improve, it will happen for others. But the winning must happen first.
Cathouse Crazy from Wallyworld:
I just saw a stat that the Jags were Top 10 in yards rushing before first contact last year. That's a stat one associates with a Top 10 offensive line, yeah? Is it possible the run-blocking is further along than we think? With a healthy top-end back and an improved bigger badder, better running left side ... maybe I'm just dream'in. Have you made a decision on the perm?
John: That actually is an encouraging statistic, and the Jaguars' belief indeed is that the offensive line has improved over the last two seasons – and the belief certainly is that the line didn't need a complete overhaul this offseason. The statistics bear that out in terms of pass blocking, which by any measure was better last season than the previous two seasons. While the run-blocking statistics perhaps are fuzzier, the area did improve in the last nine games last season with Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator. The main concern in this area is one Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone has voiced a couple of times this offseason – and that's the ability to run when the team wants to run. It hasn't been able to do that enough in recent seasons. If it can't do it this season, it won't be because of a lack of focus on the area. As far as the perm … yes, yes … a thousand times … actually, no.
Steven from Duval:
I'm on the #dtwd train – and I believe Telvin Smith should receive a nice extension. He has outperformed every high draft pick on this team – and while I know this is a business, guys like that don't come along often. He is a perfect example of a young man working his way to the top and he is a fan favorite for all of the right reasons. To not recognize that would be an insult from management. And we will not find a better weak-side linebacker available.
John: I agree. When it comes to fourth-year players such as Smith, Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Brandon Linder, etc., the team wants to let this coaching staff work with the players a while before working on extensions. Remember: this is a new regime in many ways, and it's understandable to want to get things moving forward before starting the extension process. A reason I could see for not re-signing Smith is if you don't like a linebacker of his size – and there are some in the NFL who just have a tough time playing someone so light at the spot. Smith has proven himself to be an effective player who transcends that, and he improved last season after being out of position too often in 2015. I see him as someone who indeed is exactly what a team needs, and a player around whom you can build. My sense right now is the Jaguars will see him that way when it comes time for an extension. We'll see.
Glen from Orange Park, FL:
We let a lot of talented players walk this year and seemingly replaced them with even more talented players. Why didn't we keep more for depth, especially in the trenches? Is salary cap an issue this year?
John: While the salary cap always is a concern, the Jaguars didn't release or chose not to re-sign players for cap purposes this offseason. I agree that players such as Sen'Derrick Marks, Tyson Alualu and Roy Miller had value and I would have liked to have seen some combination of the three return. But the Jaguars were going another direction – and Marks and Miller had dealt with injuries in recent seasons. The Jaguars signed and drafted players to replace those players. While Stefan Charles, Jonathan Woodard and Duwaune Smoot lack the name recognition of Marks and Miller among Jaguars fans, that doesn't make them bad options.
Mike from Elberton, GA:
Unless something happens to Branden Albert injury-wise, I doubt there will be any serious competition for Robinson to start at left tackle. But why is there no consideration for him starting at right tackle instead of guard? Jermey Parnell didn't impress me with all the holding penalties he got flagged for last year and I think Robinson could hold his own on the right side until he gets moved to the left. It comes down to would you rather have Patrick Omameh or Parnell on the field. I think that makes for pretty good camp watching. Does Omameh step up and make himself less bench-able than Parnell? Is it possible, O-man? Or am I underselling the season Parnell had last year?
John: The team's stance is Parnell was injured much of last season and played better late in the season when healthy. He needs to prove the team's stance is correct.
Jared from Atlanta, GA:
I hope people realize that P.J. Davis will soon be the best linebacker on this football team. Frankly, this website needs to talk more about P.J. Davis.
John: Hey, one fer P.J. Davis!
Jason from North Pole, AK:
I'd be willing to bet Drew Brees and Andrew Luck would happily take a better running game and defense this season in exchange for not having to carry the team. Improving your football team does not mean you have no faith in your quarterback.
John: Well, of course any quarterback would prefer quality running backs and defenses as opposed to the alternative. Look, this is a silly topic and one that's not really worth arguing. I answered an O-Zone question Wednesday that wondered if the Jaguars acquiring good defensive players in free agency and drafting Leonard Fournette meant they didn't believe Bortles was a franchise quarterback. The answer is that those moves don't give a final analysis on how the Jaguars feel about Bortles, and the answer is that all teams want to run and play good defense. The Jaguars obviously don't know if Bortles is going to be elite, and they don't believe he is elite now. But there remains a belief that he can improve and fulfill his potential. Maybe he will do that or maybe he won't. This season will tell a large part of the tale. But whatever the outcome regarding Bortles, having a good defense and a good running game certainly can't hurt.
Keith from Jacksonville and Section 236:
In response to your response from Marcus of Jacksonville, the reason fans don't accept the team's lack of competition for Bortles and bringing in more development in the offensive line is because management hasn't shown it deserves the trust of the fans with their decision-making abilities like keeping Gus Bradley on one year too long or not allowing Blake Bortles to work out in the offseason with Tom House even though it was proven to work. If you want the fans to stop fanning so much, the trust needs to be built and it has a long way to go after being destroyed over the last decade.
John: I neither want fans to stop fanning nor do I expect them to stop fanning – and incidentally, fans won't stop fanning if the team improves. Fans gonna fan. It's what they do. And thank goodness for it.
O-Zone: They're just gonna...
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Steven from Duval: