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O-Zone: Ya gotta believe

JACKSONVILLE - Let's get to it... Cliff from St. Augustine, FL:
If all things were equal, wouldn't Gus Bradley be a shoe-in for the defensive coordinator job in Jacksonville if he were available and not the Jags' head coach? His reputation in Seattle was that he was one of the best. Wouldn't it make perfect sense for him to essentially be head coach/defensive coordinator for the Jaguars? If I owned a company and knew I was the best marketer, I wouldn't leave the marketing up to someone else.
John: This is the topic of the week. And with Bob Babich not returning as defensive coordinator next season, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley assuming the role you describe indeed makes sense. Listening to Bradley the past few days, you get the idea he is open to calling plays and having more of a "coordinatorish" role, but that he also wants to explore all options. I also don't get the idea he is rock-solid committed to either route. Bradley's approach last year searching for an offensive coordinator/offensive line coach was to have extensive discussions during the interview process and see where that process took him. I would expect some version of that to play out with the defensive-coordinator search.
Rob from Section 122:
Now that the playoffs are set, who do you think will play in Super Bowl 50? And who would you LIKE to see in SB50?
John: I think New England will play Carolina. I don't care who plays in it.
Joel from Machias:
Johnathan Cyprien racks up tackles, but not many big plays ... should they try to give him some snaps at the Otto next year in training camp?
John: I can't see that happening. I can see James Sample competing with Cyprien for the starting strong-safety position and the Jaguars doing what they can to upgrade free safety.
Brandon from Atlanta, GA:
I have heard we don't have impact players at all levels of our defense. Telvin Smith is the only one I can think of that was consistently an impact player this year. Do you see any players in the secondary on this team that could develop into an impact player or are we in need of outside help?
John: I think Aaron Colvin has a chance to be an impact player, and James Sample has that sort of ability. Colvin needs to improve in the offseason to fulfill that potential – and as for Sample, won't know what he is until he stays on the field. Overall, it's hard to know what the Jaguars have in the secondary until the pass rush improves.
Zain from Jamlando:
One of the hardest things about projecting youthful, "potential"-filled NFL teams is projecting for next season. Even taking away things like freak injuries (Dante Fowler Jr.), youth brings a more inconsistent short-term trajectory (Gratz, McCray, Cyprien, Denard over the past couple years). The expectations for the coming year are built largely, on huge, primarily single-year gains by young players (Blake, Allens, Telvin, - Joeckel etc.). Looking back at their season's play, who are the young Jaguars you think we should temper our expectations for (perhaps over-performed or close to hitting ceiling), versus those you think have a good chance of making a big bounce up next year (Colvin/Greene/Julius Thomas?)?
John: We'll have plenty of time throughout the offseason to parse through the potential and realistic expectations for … well, for pretty much every player on the Jaguars' roster. The biggest factor in all of it is Blake Bortles' continued growth. He made great strides this season. He went from a young, unproductive quarterback who struggled with interceptions to a young, productive quarterback who struggled with interceptions. General Manager David Caldwell said it well Tuesday when he said next season will be a mental challenge for Bortles because teams will now game plan for him; Bortles will have to deal with the challenges of that. If he negotiates that and begins to master the game at the line of scrimmage, then you will see a huge step up. That will also allow a whole lot of other development to happen more quickly and obviously around him.
Jefferson from Phoenix, AZ:
Regarding the comment from the Hurns interview regarding sticking around town in the offseason to practice, please clarify (if you know yourself) if this is covered with the labor agreement … I thought there were rules to specifically not allow this kind of thing so that teams in turn couldn't pressure or incentivize players into doing this sort of 'off-the-clock' practice during the offseason. Or are the rules just that the organization (coaches, trainers, etc.) cannot have involvement?
John: The rules are that coaches and players can't talk football in the offseason until the offseason program begins in mid-April. Players also can't do football work at the team's training facility. If players opt to work together on their own away from the facility without coaches present, they may do so.
Steve from Woodbine, GA:
So, do you think 8-8 will meet Khan/Caldwell's expectations next year or are the playoffs a must for Gus to keep his job?
John: I understand that people are going to want a number or a specific plateau by which to judge Gus Bradley next season. I think Caldwell explained it best Tuesday when he said there obviously are bigger expectations next season, but that it doesn't necessarily mean a specific number. I think the Jaguars need to improve, which means winning games next season rather than "being competitive in the fourth quarter." I think that will probably mean being better than 8-8. After that, circumstances such as injuries, etc., will probably be deciding factors.
Andy from St. Johns, FL:
Been having an argument with a co-worker about drafting a left tackle No. 5 overall. Then I read this, "...Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles became the first player in NFL history to be sacked 50-plus times in each of his first two seasons." A little eye-opening stat. Maybe Dave should go offensive line with the No. 5 pick?
John: I doubt it. I'm not saying I don't see the argument, and I'm not saying Luke Joeckel is an elite player. He needs to improve, and he can't continue to have the lapses he had this season, but I don't see the Jaguars addressing the position with a Top 5 selection.
John from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
What are the skills/qualities/attributes the Jags are seeking in their ideal free safety? Why is it "as hard to find a free safety as a quarterback?"
John: The Jaguars are pretty much trying to find the same things in an ideal free safety as the rest of the NFL. He would be a ball-hawking, play-maker with speed to make plays sideline to sideline and speed/instincts to be disruptive in the backfield. You also want him to have enough of a feel for the game to make plays above the Xs and Os and to be able to instinctively take chances outside the framework of the defense while being smart enough not to take too many chances outside the framework of the defense. You want him to be athletic and agile enough to cover tight ends and the occasional wide receiver. You also want him smart enough to be able interpret modern passing attacks with multiple options for quarterbacks in a split second. He's sort of the quarterback of the defense with otherworldly athletic ability. And they're not at all easy to find.
Chris from St. Augustine, FL:
One bit of irony following Sunday's loss is the past few years fans have complained we didn't tank our last game in order get a higher draft pick. Now, since we lost our last game, everyone is complaining about how much we stink. Something tells me if we won the game your inbox would be full of fans complaining about us winning a useless game that could have garnered a better draft pick. Fans are never happy.
John: No, they're not. At the same time, if you watched Sunday's game it's awfully not hard to complain about something.
J. Hooks from Orange Park, FL:
Hey, John, youse guys did a good job this season. Question … I'm curious as to the education or experience requirements that separate a general manager and a head coach. Do you think a general manager could cross over and do the job of a head coach and vice-versa? Does a general manager possess the Xs and Os knowledge? Does a head coach possess talent scouting capabilities?
John: A general manager NFL typically works his way up through the scouting side of the business, working first perhaps as an area scout, then holding higher-ranking personnel positions before becoming a general manager. A head coach often works his way up from position coach to coordinator to head coach. A knowledge of football obviously is paramount in both positions, with a scout focusing on talent, potential and traits of players and coaches focused more on the development of players and game preparation/execution. Generally speaking, the skill sets needed to excel at the highest level – i.e., the NFL – are specific enough you don't see crossover. Now, if you're asking if there are general managers and coaches who believe they could do the other job … well, that's a significantly different question.

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