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O-Zone: Tough task ahead

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Chad from EverBank:
What do you expect out of Bortles next season? Do you expect him to push/surpass the numbers he put up this past year? We obviously have to see how he plays, and other circumstances that affect his situations, but do you go into the season with an expectation of what he should produce?
John: I don't have any particular expectations for Blake Bortles' numbers next season – and I don't think Bortles or the Jaguars do, either. That's because numbers won't measure his progress. I'd actually be surprised if Bortles matches his 2015 yards and touchdowns next season and he may never do so again, but so what? Far more important are Bortles and the offense getting more efficient on third downs — and for Bortles' interceptions to get down into the low teens or below. That would be good progress, and if both of those happen, Bortles and the Jaguars will have improved whatever his touchdowns, yards or interceptions.
DeMillion from the Mean Streets of St. Johns:
Are there any limitations to renegotiating an undrafted player's contract? Allen Hurns has earned a payday and we could probably get a good deal if we locked him in now as opposed to waiting another year or two.
John: Teams may renegotiate with undrafted free agents after their second seasons. That means the Jaguars may renegotiate with Hurns at any point. I imagine that point will come sometime in the coming months. We'll see.
Stephen from Gatlinburg, TN:
I read an Eric Williams (ESPN, 1/29) piece recently where he seemed to feel the Jaguars were now in the position to consider drafting BAP instead of drafting strictly for need. I'm not sure that is the case yet, especially with the issues in each functional area of the defense – though it might be true with respect to the offense. Do you hold more to the Williams view, or do you see the Jaguars a year away from that draft mentality, if ever?
John: Eric Williams if I'm not mistaken covers the San Diego Chargers for ESPN. That doesn't mean he's wrong, but it does mean I don't particularly rely on his insight into this franchise. The Jaguars certainly are closer to being able to draft best available player than they were two years ago – and they may be even closer following the free-agency period. If they fill needs in free agency at pass rusher and free safety, for example, they likely will a bit freer at No. 5 to take the best of a group that might include a safety, a defensive lineman or linebacker. I think it's hard in this era of roster turnover to get to a point of not ever looking for need in the first round, but I think the Jaguars are getting close to that area in Rounds 2-7. That's a start.
DUVAL DOOM from Section 217:
Yeah? Well I don't like Tudor.
John: Don't make me stop this car.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
Once the indoor practice facility is built, do you expect the Jaguars will move into it full time and abandon the current practice fields? If so, what will happen to those fields? Would the move offer another construction/stadium enhancement opportunity at the current practice-field site?
John: I expect the Jaguars will continue to use the current practice fields except when weather forces them to use the indoor facility.
Tony from Jacksonville:
Joey Bosa reminds me a lot of Michael Bennett (Seahawks). So who is more important to the Hawks? Earl or Mike? And who is going to upgrade our defense more? Ramsey or Bosa? Seems like a deep safety draft and Bosa is physical as hell.
John: That indeed is the question facing the Jaguars in the offseason – both in free agency and the draft. Is safety more important than pass rush? Or vice versa? I subscribe to the theory that pass rushers/linemen have more impact than defensive backs, so in your scenario I probably would take Bosa. I wouldn't do it because of the perceived depth at the safety position, though. The Jaguars don't need safeties. They need SAFETIES.
Brooks from Duval:
I feel the need to voice my disagreement with your take on Bosa's hypothetical role in the Jags' defense. Bosa would not play strong-side Otto linebacker for the Jags. And he wouldn't be a Leo or "Big End" either; Bosa would just be a plain ole' defensive end, as he has the size (6'5" 275 lbs.), length and strength to be a dominant run-stuffing 5-technique as well as the explosiveness and flexibility to be a terrifying edge rusher in passing situations. The one thing he can't do, however, is play in coverage (which he would have to do as the strong-side, Otto linebacker). Thoughts?
John: My thought is there is no law that says a 275-pound defensive end can't play Leo. My thoughts are also that you find ways to get talented football players on the field and that the Jaguars would do that if they drafted Bosa.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
You discuss all-time great Jaguars frequently in the O-Zone but it seems every one of them played offense. Who, in your opinion, is the greatest defensive player in franchise history? Rashean Mathis? Marcus Stroud?
John: My perspective on this is skewed because I didn't cover the team from 2001-2010, when many of the best defensive players – Mathis, Stroud, John Henderson – played for the team. I have trouble leaving Tony Brackens off the list. I also know that when the Colts' teams I covered played the Jaguars their primary concern was keeping the defensive line from dominating the game. That line was keyed by Stroud and Henderson, so for me any conversation must start there.
Bill from Jacksonville:
John, in studying some of Blake Bortles' passing numbers from 2015, I came across two scary stats. Of his 18 interceptions, 13 came on first down. And 14 of the 18 were thrown on the Jaguars' half of the field. It goes without saying he needs to lower the number of picks he's throwing, but isn't the down and his team's field position just as important, if not more? You just can't win consistently by throwing a pick on first down from your own 30-yard line. Thanks! Go Jags!
John: You're absolutely right that Bortles must improve in those areas. As I've written often, Bortles has a long way to go to be an elite quarterback – and becoming more efficient within game situations is a big part of that. The good news is there is no reason that Bortles can't improve in those areas – and the reality is he must do so if he and the team are to reach their potential.
Maurice from North Potomac, MD:
Hey John, I heard you say on LIVE you wouldn't mind taking a hard look at Myles Jack at No. 5 overall. My question is, "Why?" Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't complain about that at all. I think the kid is a BEAST. However, which linebacker spot to you play him at? Ryan O'Halloran recently said the Otto linebacker plays about 45 percent of the snaps, TOPS – and it's more of a run-stopping role. I love the idea of Myles Jack and Telvin Smith as the foundation of our linebacker core; however, do you believe Jack could fit as a Otto linebacker and why?
John: I can't say I was pounding the table for Myles Jack at No. 5; I can say that Bleacher Report NFL Draft writer Matt Miller – our guest on LIVE Wednesday – thinks highly of him for the Jaguars there. And I think Miller has a point. There are people who follow the NFL draft far more closely than I who believe Myles Jack is a special talent who could transcend position. Players who transcend position tend to be on the field more than 45 percent of the snaps. Also, Jack appears to be a playmaking linebacker with difference-making speed and athleticism. The Jaguars don't have a surplus of that right now.
Shawn from right here in good old Jacksonville:
Dear Mr. O., almighty insightful writer of universal football crystal ballness: Assuming Marqise Lee stays healthy this year, what's the ceiling on this guy? With breakout seasons by the ball firm of Allen & Allen, and the glimpses of stardom we have seen in Marqise, I am really starting to wonder if we may actually end up with one of THE best receiving corps in the league. How realistic is it for him to have a breakout season in 2016?
John: It's realistic, although it won't be easy. I'm a big Marqise Lee guy; his talent is off the charts and he has been able to contribute in limited opportunities. The problem has been getting him those opportunities, and that will continue to be a challenge. He's not a prototypical slot receiver, and the Jaguars like Rashad Greene in that role. That means finding time on the outside, but you can't take Allen Robinson off the field and it's difficult to reduce Allen Hurns' role, too. That means having Lee in spot duty, or special packages. That's doable, but not easy. I believe the Jaguars need to find more ways to get Lee on the field, but I am curious how that will happen.

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