O-Zone: Works both ways

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Rob from Ponte Vedra, FL

What must DJ Chark Jr. do to become Julio Jones? He has about the same height and speed, right? If he fills out a bit and continues to work on his route running, do you think he could become a similar type of player? Also, do you think Laviska Shenault Jr. could potentially be a third-down pass-catching back for us at times? I know we have running back Chris Thompson, but his ceiling is pretty low and Shenault could be more dynamic. If we actually give him the ball from time to time, we could get him covered by linebackers or safeties, motion him out wide into receiver sets and Moodachay. Thoughts?

I don't know that I expect Chark to become Jones, the Atlanta Falcons' All-Pro wide receiver. You're talking about a player in Jones who is unique in the last 20 years in terms of athleticism, physicality and speed at the position. I do think Chark can be very good and he appears to have the combination of work ethic and ability to indeed be very good. I would say he has more potential than any Jaguars receiver I have seen in the last 10 years. If he never reaches Jones' level, he can still eventually be one of the NFL's better receivers. Also: I was struck by your dismissal of Thompson's "ceiling" because while he may not be headed to the Pro Bowl, I do have a sense he will mean a lot to this offense next season. As for Shenault, I do think he can play a unique role and line up all over the field – including in the backfield at times. The league is moving toward offensive players who defy being pigeon-holed into a position, and Shenault fits that concept of a hybrid/swiss-army-knife type player. That's reportedly what new Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden liked about him entering the 2020 NFL Draft. If he can be that, he would give the Jaguars an offensive dimension they haven't had in a while – maybe ever.

Henry from Atlanta, GA

What do you expect from Fournette this season?

I expect Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette to be motivated and to run hard with maximum effort. That's what the Jaguars got from him in the 15 regular-season games in which he played last season, and there's no reason to think it will be different next season.

unhipcat from carlsbad, ca

Hi John. I feel it's unfortunate that reading O-Zone is generally one of the first things I do. It's newsy, opinionated and (see what I did there?) humorous. My day goes downhill from there.

You're doing what is known as "peaking low and sliding from there." That's a big accomplishment and you pulled it off. Kudos to you.

Ovidio from Southbridge

With the NFL allowing coaching staffs back at team facilities, state permitting, I assume our coaching staff will be back in the building. Does this offer a team any advantage?

Yes, the Jaguars' coaching staff will be allowed to return to TIAA Bank Field Friday. Working from the facility doesn't offer a team any advantage, per se. It does allow staffs to get back in their normal surroundings, and the primary significance of the news is it moves the league a step closer to the operating capacity that will allow a season to be played in the fall. But coaches being back at TIAA Bank Field realistically doesn't change much in terms of how the Jaguars are preparing for the 2020 season. The significant change there won't occur until players are allowed to return.

Chris from Space City, TX

Let's pump the brakes on the talk of Chark being "one of the best receivers in the NFL." I think we will agree that he could potentially have a bright upside. As of now, Chark should not be mentioned in same sentence with "best receivers." My question is what stats (yards, touchdown) would you expect from Chark this year to put himself in the great young wide receiver conversation?

I agree that Chark is not yet one of the NFL's best receivers, and I don't think he's generally in that conversation yet. He has potential to be in that group. To get there, he must learn to beat the double teams and shaded defenses that he began seeing in the second half of last season. I don't know that his statistics matter as much as consistency. He averaged 82.5 yards and caught six touchdowns in the first eight games last season; he averaged 49.8 yards and caught two touchdowns in his last seven games. That indicates teams were doing a good job taking him away in the second half of the season – after he established himself as the Jaguars' No. 1 receiver. His next step to getting into the "great young wide receiver conversation" is not allowing that to happen. Bottom line on Chark: he's 23 years old and showed enormous development in his second season last season. There's no reason to think he won't take that next step. I would be surprised he doesn't.

Marty from Jacksonville

Regarding Zac's question about when the rookies get paid, can't an agent extend a loan to a draftee and get paid back when the contract is signed and the money comes through?

Sure, but that wasn't the question.

Tom from St. John's, FL

Ever the optimist, I haven't bought in to the "doom-and-gloom" tea that some many are drinking. Drawing on eight decades of living and (hopefully) learning, I peer into the magic orb and see the most dramatic and important addition to the team during this offseason. Behold---it's the addition of one Coach Gruden. You wanna sip?

I have no reason to think Gruden won't do a good job in his first season with the Jaguars next season. If the players perform and make plays, the offense has a chance to be improved from last season.

Jason from Port Orange, FL

KOAGF: Thanks for keeping the streak going! I am glad the Jags didn't trade Fournette as I think he will still contribute. Say he continues to develop, his offensive line gives him some space at the line, they sustain blocks and he runs for 1,200-plus yards with more touchdown production (eight-plus) and similar receiving production to last year. Do the Jags give him a second contract or move on? In this scenario, I'd be happy to keep him.

How the Jaguars approach any player in the final year of a contract typically depends on how the player performs in the final year of the contract and whether re-signing him makes sense in terms of the salary cap. That means the decisions aren't always made before that final season of a contract. If Fournette has the season you project, there would be temptation to re-sign him. But when taking the salary cap into consideration, it's just very difficult to give a running back a long-term, cap-space-eating contract. The position is too short-lived and young – cheaper – players are too readily available at the position. I would expect the Jaguars to move on from Fournette after this season. Not because they don't think he's good or valuable as much as the nature of the position.

Richard from Jacksonville Beach

O'man, should I be concerned that our new offensive coordinator is excited to put our best wide receiver in the slot? Should he not get more playing time on the outside? In theory, the double team (or the shade toward him) by defensive backs with him on the outside clears the middle for the tight and slot? I'm basically asking shutting your best receiver be on the outside and if not why?

Gruden is talking about putting Chark in the slot in the same vein as he is talking about putting all the Jaguars' skill-position players in different positions to create mismatches. It's a big part of his approach offensively, and it strikes me as being creative. It also strikes me that people would complain if they didn't hear Gruden talking about moving players around and that they would complain about it if they hear him talking about. Such is the life of coaching in the NFL.

Diego from South of tierra del Diego – thank you Larry Merchant

As much grief David Caldwell receives, I believe he is still the best general manager the Jags have had in their history. Cannot count Coughlin as general manager. Compare DC to Shack Harris who gave us Byron Leftwich and Gene Smith who carried on the SH tradition.

You have to count Coughlin as the general manager. From 1995 until 2002, he absolutely played that role.

Sam from Orlando, FL

Perhaps we can hit on a quarterback once in franchise history before chastising people for hanging on to the misses for too long, eh.

Nah. I enjoy chastising people now and then. Besides: There's no reason chastising has to be a one-way street around here.

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