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O-Zone: Underwhelmed

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, as just about all feel, I am thrilled Tom Coughlin returned to the Jags. I'm happy with his free agency so far, but (here it comes) I would have thought Blake Bortles would have been gone when Tom came on board. I just cannot see why the Jags are leaving their fortunes in Bortles' lap. Realistically, even in 2015 his stats were padded in fourth quarters when the other team was in prevent defense. I'm just hoping there is a plan other than "BB will be better this year."
John: This is not an uncommon sentiment, though it is one does not take into account the realities of the NFL – and yes, even Coughlin often must adhere to NFL realities. In this case, the reality is that an executive vice president of football operations or general manager or head coach can't simply look at a quarterback and say, "He's gone." They must look at a quarterback and decide if realistically there is an improvement to be had elsewhere. It's quite reasonable to assume that there are quarterbacks that Coughlin, Head Coach Doug Marrone and even General Manager David Caldwell would prefer to Bortles. Many teams would prefer different quarterbacks. There are certainly quarterbacks whose track records indicate they are less interception-prone than Bortles and who have achieved elite levels – or who are closer to elite levels than Bortles. But those quarterbacks play for other NFL teams, and the ones who don't play for other teams aren't perceived to be significant improvements from Bortles. That's where Bortles stands now – in March 2017. It's up to him in the coming months and next season to move toward that elite level. If he does, then he's probably the Jaguars' starting quarterback moving forward. If not …
John from Jacksonville:
John, I believe teams that pick lower in the first round bring out negative points of character or injury to make a player fall so they have a chance to pick him for themselves. What do you think?
John: So, you're saying there may be gamesmanship, draft chatter and pre-draft rumors? And you're saying such things might be perpetuated by teams for their own advantage? And you're saying that officials of these teams might sometimes "overemphasize" these things when speaking to a reporter "confidentially" in the hope that the reporter might write it or talk about on television and have these things potentially cause players to slide in the draft – again, to the team's advantage? Naaaaaaaaaaaaah……
Michael from Charleston, SC:
Has there been any interest on the behalf of the Jags concerning overlooked free agents such as Jay Cutler, Adrian Peterson, Johnny Manziel, Darrelle Revis etc? The aforementioned group may be a gamble, but Peterson and Revis seem like quality vets and Coughlin-like locker room guys. Has there been any legit looks at all from the David Caldwell?
John: I'm certain the Jaguars have considered all four players in the sense that someone on the level of Coughlin or Caldwell has seen that the player is available and determined whether or not to pursue the player. None of the aforementioned players has been reported to have visited Jacksonville.
Andrew from Mattoon, IL:
Dear Mr. O: I enjoy reading that O-Zone daily ... I do not wish to meet you.
John: I get it.
Alon from Malibu, CA:
As the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft, is Dante Fowler Jr. at this point a bust? The other Top 6 players from the draft are starters and have played in a Pro Bowl.
John: Fowler at this point is a first-year player who struggled as a pass rusher in his first year. He also is a player who played that year while returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him his rookie season. He's a player that must improve as a pass-rusher and who realizes this. Does that make him a bust? I'm sure there are people who would say so. I see him as a work-in-progress who definitely needs to make major strides this season.
Jordan from Jacksonville:
If the BAP is a cornerback or safety at No. 4, take him.
John: OK.
Alan from Aurora, IL:
This year we are losing some well-liked and talented players. Who will you miss covering the most? And who do you think will have the most productive post-Jacksonville career?
John: I make no secret that I enjoyed covering Tyson Alualu very much. I was always impressed by his class, professionalism and willingness to discuss sensitive issues. He began his career here with many fans angry he had been drafted "over" Tim Tebow, and injuries early in his time here helped cause him to never live up to his status as the No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. Still, he developed into a reliable, professional player and never seemed to resent the undue criticism of many fans. Of the free agents who left the Jaguars in the past few weeks, give me cornerback Prince Amukamara as the player who might have the most productive career. If he can stay healthy, he can play at a high level.
Dave from Los Angeles, CA:
I'm not a big Bortles believer at this point, but I respect his grit and desire to improve. Who doesn't love an underdog story? The talking heads have written him off. The Jags won't pick up his option. He's reworking his mechanics in year four. Basically, the whole world is against him. And yet, there's a chance he could show up and rewrite his story in 2017. Here's hoping - for his and the team's sake - he does just that.
John: Hey, one fer Blake!
Ray from Jacksonville:
John: I think the Jags should pick Marshon Lattimore and have two very good corners who would make the pass rush better. Since the team seems like it will keep Bortles, it can get a pass rusher with one of the top five picks in next year's draft.
John: The Jaguars signed cornerback A.J. Bouye as an unrestricted free agent early this month. Considering how much they paid him to sign, and considering the presence of Jalen Ramsey at the other corner, the Jaguars certainly hope they already have two very good corners.
Wyatt from Jacksonville:
O-Zone, I know there is a lot of fixation on Blake Bortles when it comes to turnovers and such, but why is no one mentioning that the Jaguars had the most fumbles from their running backs in the NFL last year? They also had disastrous turnovers on special teams and major failures in return coverage. Much like most things, the problems the Jaguars had in 2016 can't just be attributed to one thing. Yes Bortles needs to be better, but he had a significant number of "interceptions" that hit his wide receivers before being picked, and I don't really think a pass that hits your wide receivers before being picked is a decision making issue. What say you, O-Zone?
John: I'd say when team commits as many turnovers as the Jaguars did last season, it of course is more than one thing. Turnovers and special teams are two areas that no doubt will be a major focus. But while it's not all Bortles, lost fumbles and interceptions are too big of an issue, and if they're not reduced improving in the other areas won't be enough.
Paul from North Dakota:
I thought I heard somewhere that Mr. Coughlin would like to see us run the ball more with a fullback lead-blocker option. If that is so, are they looking to find a true fullback or is it likely going to be a tight end or other running back lining up with a hand in the dirt behind the offensive line and in front of our running backs.
John: Coughlin actually to my knowledge hasn't specified that he wants a full-time fullback. He did shortly after re-joining the Jaguars mention that he has had success with a fullback before, and he immediately said that you could have success with a full-time fullback or with a tight-end playing the position or by using other approaches. Perhaps because of some outside preconceived notion that the lack of full-time fullback is what has ailed the Jaguars' offense in recent seasons, there were some who took this to automatically mean that Coughlin would sign a full-time fullback – possibly in unrestricted free agency. This so far hasn't happened and I expect the Jaguars will find someone to play the role of the fullback. Perhaps that's a full-time player in free agency or the draft, or perhaps that's a defensive lineman or tight end moving to the role. Either way, I wouldn't stress: they'll find someone to fill the role. It's not an impossible "get."
Bill from Hawthorn Woods, IL:
Tell Glen not to get so jazzed up about meeting you. It's a rather underwhelming experience.
John: Bill, I have to live with myself all day, every day. I know all about underwhelming.

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