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O-Zone: Two words

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Jason from North Pole, AK:
I personally feel like an 8-8 record depends entirely on how it is accomplished. If the Jags are 4-8, then bench Blake Bortles, and Chad Henne leads us to an 8-8 finish when we have been eliminated in November, then I won't feel like we accomplished anything. If we are 8-6 and in the hunt in December, but drop our last two games in heartbreakers, it will have been an exciting season. I just want to play meaningful games in December, regardless of the final record. Do you feel like it makes any difference how 8-8 is accomplished?
John: All records are not created equal, and a competitive start leading to playoff contention indeed is the better – and more exciting – of your scenarios. That would make the Jaguars competitive for the first time since 2010, a span of seven years that by any definition is too long. Still, I can't say your other 8-8 scenario wouldn't accomplish anything. Winning in the NFL is hard; the Jaguars if nothing else have proven that the last six seasons. If the Jaguars find a way to win half of their games in 2017, that would represent a five-game improvement and would provide tangible, on-field evidence of progress. After more than a half-decade of double-digit losses, that would be a welcome occurrence for this franchise.
Ace from Jacksonville:
Is Jalen Ramsey the best rookie to play in 2016? If not, where would you rank him?
John: Ramsey was outstanding as a rookie. I don't cover all NFL teams, so I can't honestly say if Ramsey was better than, say, San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott or Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. I'd put those four in a group at the top, though I'm likely leaving more than a few players out.
Chris from Goodnight, TX:
Which undrafted free agent pickup do you think has the best chance to make the final 53 in your opinion? Avery Gennesy looked good on tape, but he is not very athletic, and the Jaguars have good depth (albeit largely average starters) along the offensive line. Hunter Dimick had great production in college, but it sounds like his short arms kept him from getting drafted. Amba Etta-Tawo and Carroll Phillips also seem like decent candidates. Who is your money on?
John: If I'm projecting the final 53 right now, I don't have any undrafted players on the roster. That probably will end up being wrong once it shakes out, and I imagine there will be at least four or five undrafted rookies on the practice squad with most or all of those players eventually being signed to the active roster sometime during the regular season. Undrafted rookies typically start to separate themselves and earn roster spots once the pads go on in August. I'll be watching Etta-Tawo and Phillips closely – and Dimick, too.
Dylan from Tulsa, OK:
Say a decent starting veteran guard/tackle is released for cap space, first-round draft pick, injury, etc. Do you think the Jags will look into signing him? Oh, and can I get one fer Brandon Linder? He doesn't get enough credit.
John: Experience tells me "decent" often is defined differently by fans than teams. If there were a player available that the Jaguars thought could help them on the offensive line, then yes … they would sign that player. Would the team do that because fans were familiar with the player's name? Not unless the team thought the player was an upgrade. And yes … one fer Linder.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Deion Sanders was probably my favorite player to watch growing up with possibly the exceptions being Barry Sanders and Dan Marino. I consistently watched Prime Time make quarterbacks think they only had a half of a field to use. Most of the time they wouldn't even look at his side. He frequently gave his receiver space to bait the quarterback into thinking the receiver was open. Throwing at Deion was never a wise endeavor. I've never seen anyone cover receivers like him and I doubt we ever will.
John: There certainly have been other great cover cornerbacks. Darrelle Revis in his prime could take away sides of the field and elite receivers. Rod Woodson could do it as well and there have been others. But in terms of taking away a side of the field and creating scoring opportunities – making an impact – on defense, I never saw anyone match Sanders.
Jordan from Hampton, VA:
Winter is coming!
John: What?
Sandman from Jacksonville:
If Branden Albert wins the left-tackle spot this year, or if Cam Robinson wins it, why not let the loser challenge for the right-tackle spot? I believe either one could be stronger than Jermey Parnell. Why not let him be the swing tackle or possibly guard?
John: If the Jaguars shared your belief that Robinson or Albert would be a stronger right tackle than Parnell, then your scenario is one that would probably play out. I have heard or seen nothing to indicate the Jaguars share that belief.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
Our offensive line is still not fixed. It is not from lack of trying by Dave Caldwell (Sam Young, Jacques McClendon, Luke Joeckel, Zane Beadles, Brandon Linder, Luke Bowanko, Parnell, Stefen Wisniewski, A.J. Cann, Mack Bernadeau, Kelvin Beachum, Albert, Earl Watford and Robinson). That's every free-agency period and four out of five drafts since 2013. After all that time and effort, what we don't have is a 13th-ranked offensive line as per PFF. I understand the extenuating circumstances that Caldwell was hamstrung by Gene Smith and had to focus on all aspects of the roster. Albert is a stop gap, Cann regressed last year, Linder is a stud, Parnell is not a spring chicken and Robinson has potential. Do you think our offensive line is "fixed"? If not, any idea on how many more seasons it will take to fix?
John: I think the offensive line was better as a pass-blocking unit last season than many fans believe, and I think the protection was more than adequate enough for the passing offense to have been better than it performed. I did not think it was a very good run-blocking unit last offseason, and I thought that had more to do with the run game struggling than the performance of the running backs; not everyone shares the latter opinion. Is the line fixed? I see no reason why it won't continue to pass protect well, and adding Robinson and Linder – and some improved health elsewhere – could improve as a run-blocking unit. That improvement is one of the team's three major storylines this season along with Blake Bortles and the pass rush. Much of the fate of the Jaguars' 2017 season depends on it. Stay tuned.
Dylan from Tulsa, OK:
Nnamdi Asomugha I think deserves to be in the category of really good yet really underrated corners. The dude was Patrick Peterson before Patrick Peterson.
John: OK.
Arthur from Ormond Beach, FL:
Nnamdi Asomugha has to be somewhere in your Top 5 corners. That dude scared quarterbacks so much they only threw to him 27 times an entire season and only 10 of those were caught. IN AN ENTIRE SEASON 10 RECEPTIONS!! And he the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Big Ben etc, all in their primes and only Tom Brady had success because he had a dude named Randy Moss to throw to and he still only managed 2 catches against Asomugha. Give me Nnamdi over Sanders any day.
John: Nah.
Terrell from Jacksonville:
I think Dede Westbrook is going to be a star. My question is, "Who do you keep next year?" I like Allen Robinson, but is he a true No. 1? I like Allen Hurns; don't need a lot of balls to come his way. No. 11 gets hurt too much. Who do you keep if Dede become a No. 1 receiver?
John: This is one of the Jaguars' most-obvious and most-intriguing season-long storylines for 2017, and I don't know that anything's written in stone on this front. Robinson, Hurns and Marqise Lee all have had productive stretches, and of that group, Robinson has shown the most potential to be a No. 1 receiver. If he has a season somewhere between the ones he had in 2015 and 2016, I think the Jaguars will re-sign him to a long-term deal. I think three of the four players you mention will be on the roster in 2018, and I think Westbrook will be one. If there indeed is a decision to be made between Lee and Hurns, it likely will come down to one of the two showing this season that he is a bona fide front-line NFL receiver. I think it's a tossup as to which of the two will do that.
Jordan from Jacksonville and South Florida:
You recommend Sbarro's? Sbarro's in the Avenues Mall is your recommendation? You joke around a lot, but now you've gone too far!
John: Two words, Jordan: Garlic roll.

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