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O-Zone: Twists of fate

JACKSONVILLE – Look Ahead Wednesday.

Let’s get to it …

Bryan from Tampa, FL

John, your past answers suggest that at least two defensive linemen out of Marcell Dareus, Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson will most likely depart in the offseason due to their contracts. Reading between the lines, it appears the two you deem most likely to leave are Campbell and Jackson. Is there a particular reason for this? And would you expect Dawuane Smoot and Taven Bryan to step into starting roles? My untrained eye tells me that Smoot has played fairly well since his role has expanded midseason.

You’re right that I believe Campbell and Jackson are the most likely defensive linemen not to return to the Jaguars for salary-cap reasons next season. I believe this about Jackson because he was removed from the starting lineup last month, and I believe it about Campbell because age and salary will make it difficult to retain him. I’m far less certain on this front about Campbell than Jackson. Campbell is playing at a high enough level to make this a very difficult decision. In fact, he may be playing at a high enough level that the Jaguars figure a way to have him back next season. And yes, I expect Smoot and Bryan to have increased roles next season. Smoot and Bryan have played better in recent weeks, and that’s a good thing. The Jaguars are going to need both players to be better next season than they have been so far during their careers.

Kyle from Fairfax, VA

Do you think the front office will look into getting Kareem Hunt off of waivers?

No.

Nicholas from Fort Hood, TX

I know that that you don’t cover the Packers but as a general NFL question why would you fire a coach midseason when that coach has produced a playoff appearance over 50 percent of the time in the last 12 years? It just makes me feel that the Jaguars are way behind in that we celebrate a winning season as a success.

NFL teams fire coaches for various reasons, and every organization has different inner workings that prompt decisions. Mike McCarthy, fired Sunday after the Green Bay Packers dropped to 4-7-1, had been the Packers’ head coach since 2006; sometimes organizations deem change must be made at head coach simply because it’s time – or because the coach’s message no longer is resonating. In the Packers’ case, there have been reports McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers had tired of one another. If so, it was probably time to move on from one – and the Packers weren’t going to move on from Rodgers. As for the Jaguars being way “behind” for celebrating a winning season as success, I assume you’re talking about last season. The Jaguars won the AFC South title and came within a game of the Super Bowl. They were one of the last four teams playing. That’s not a successful season? That wasn’t worth celebrating even a little?

Paul from Salvadore, Brazil,

O! We got a W by the defense! Would the effort of the D be the same with BB5?

Yes.

Nick from Palatka, FL

As I recall, cornerback D.J. Hayden, running back Leonard Fournette and safety Ronnie Harrison did not play the last time we saw the flaming thumbtacks and it was a fairly close game. With all things being about equal at the quarterback position (Kessler vs Bortles that is), I think we've got a chance Thursday night. Whatcha say?

Titans-Jaguars on paper absolutely should be close, and the Jaguars absolutely have a chance. The Jaguars also should have motivation, with the Titans having beaten them twice last season and again this season. But there are a couple of issues working against the Jaguars Thursday. One is they are all-but out of the playoff chase; it’s common to have a couple of rough December games when that’s the case. They’re also playing a Thursday night game as the road team, and there may not be a tougher NFL circumstance than that. Home teams are 11-2 on Thursday night this season. That’s not a coincidence.

Michael from Middleburg, FL

“It’s tough on a short week.” Kessler is sniveling already. That’s definitely something we didn’t have with Bortles.

Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler wasn’t sniveling this week when he said that. He was answering a question. But whatever.

James from Socorro, NM

Back to irrelevance for the Jaguars. They gambled on Blake Bortles being average this year and lost. Now, they are saddled with his huge cap hit and they need to jettison several important defensive players to get under the cap. It's 1999 all over again, except they are last in the division. If a last-place team needs to shed players, that's bad management. The Jaguars had their shot and lost big time, like they always do.

Last-place teams shed players all the time; that’s when teams most often shed players. And the Jaguars didn’t lose big-time last season.

Mike from Savannah, GA

Since the league seems to want to promote offense do you ever see a change to college rules of needing only needing one foot in bounds for a catch to be ruled a reception? Why are there different rules anyway?

No. Because the NFL is harder.

Bill from Folkston, GA

Based on our present situation with quarterback and the history of how quarterbacks have worked out starting in their first year in the league, I personally would like for the Jaguars to bring in a veteran quarterback for at least the first year and draft a quarterback – but not push him into starting first year. It really didn't work out well for Blaine Gabbert or Bortles – and who is to say that the poor offensive line play was not a contributor to those two not progressing? I would rather have a proven veteran and concentrate on offensive line first. I was just wondering what you think and who do you think the Jags should look at if you agree?

The worry about a proven veteran is why is a player so proven “available.” I anticipate the Jaguars selecting a quarterback in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. That’s the best way to get a franchise quarterback – the Jaguars’ failure to do so in 24 drafts notwithstanding.

Craig from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

While the playoffs are now an afterthought, can this season be seen as being salvaged if the Jags finish with a 3-3 record in the division and a chance to reach 8-8?

Not if “salvage” means what I think it means.

Mark from Richmond, VA

Where do you see us taking more action in draft and free agency? We’re good enough at defensive back and linebacker. The defensive line will be missing the older guys but will still be a young, ascending group. Has to be quarterback and wide receiver, right?

I anticipate the Jaguars addressing offensive line, tight end, reserve running back, wide receivers, safety and linebacker in the offseason. Oh, and quarterback.

George from Savannah, GA

Do you think both Coughlin and Caldwell misjudged Blake Bortles talent and ability?

I think both Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell knew Bortles’ ability. I think they thought they could win with that ability if things were going well around him.

Mark from Archer

Kessler may not be mobile like Bortles, but here are the things I look at that make me think he will likely be an upgrade. If his completion percentage stays even close to what it was against the Colts, that is a huge upgrade. Bortles hovers around 60 percent or lower. It also seems Kessler’s release is a lot quicker than Bortles, which should be far few passes being batted down at the line of scrimmage and if it is faster it can also help him avoid some sacks. Do you see the same benefits or am I way off?

Those seem to be Kessler’s strengths. We’ll see over the next few games if those strengths benefit the Jaguars more than Bortles’ athleticism and mobility. Right now, the differences seem negligible enough that the conversation won’t matter much after the season. We’ll see.

Jordan from Jacksonville

All Kessler does is win.

No doubt.

Blues Man from St. Augustine, FL

John... I am one of those that feels Kessler is in no way better than Bortles. I personally think the benching of Bortles was the organization saying, “You’re done in Jax, Blake.” I never once thought Blake was a franchise quarterback, but to think Kessler is better is watching the game with your eyes closed.

Hey, one fer Blake!

Bryan K from Tampa, FL

Is it just me or does it seem as though the Jags habitually force themselves into a position of drafting a quarterback in the first round in a year when there is not slated to be franchise-level talent?

That often has been the case. Fate is cruel sometimes. Sometimes it favors you. Sometimes it doesn’t.

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