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O-Zone: You never know

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mike from Middleburg, FL:
I agree generally with your statement that Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell won't want to make major changes next year on his young, developing offensive line. But after two losing seasons Gus and Dave will feel some pressure to win in their third year. Though the Jaguars aren't in an unexpected position, it will be awfully tempting with a lot of money in his pocket for Dave to get away from his original strategy and pick up quite a few free agents to try and ensure they have the best chance to win immediately. What say you?
John: I wonder if an all-in free-agency splurge will be all that tempting, actually. Though understandable, your question is based on the theory that "free agents … ensure they have the best chance to win immediately." History – recent, ancient and all points in between – suggests that this is very much not the case. Let's offer up for argument's sake that Luke Joeckel is really struggling as badly as many observers seem to believe. And let's say for argument's sake that the Jaguars want to sign a free agent to play left tackle. Is there one in free agency that will improve the team? Is there one in free agency better than Joeckel? If so, will he make a tangible difference? Will he fit in quickly? Does he have the long-term upside as Joeckel? All or most of the answers need to be yes if that move is going to be a positive one. I don't see the remotest chance the above-scenario happens, by the way, but it illustrates the problem with the Build-Through-Free Agency concept. It sounds terrific, but if it worked all teams would do it. I believe the Jaguars will add pieces this offseason, but I don't know that it will be "quite a few" high-profile guys, and I just don't see free agency being a time when the offensive line is overhauled.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, I don't see Luke Joeckel as the left tackle of the future. Simply not strong, fast, or mean enough. I can see him at right tackle next year. We then need to pay up to get a good experienced left tackle with a touch of nasty in free agency.
John: Who ya want?
Jason from Jacksonville:
OK John … you are high on Cyprien and his value to this squad. Would you please provide more detail as to why, other than "you feel the defense is better with him than without him," because the last time I checked he has ZERO forced fumbles, ZERO fumble recoveries and ZERO interceptions (not to mention too many missed tackles and blown coverages) in almost two full years. These are the same numbers as you and I have over the same period. Oh yeah, we're not starting safeties in the NFL.
John: While I'm not big on being argumentative here in the O-Zone, you may need to check again from the last time you checked, because your statistics are incorrect. He hasn't had any forced fumbles, interceptions or fumble recoveries this season, but he had two forced fumbles, a sack and an interception last season. But when evaluating Cyprien, I'd be more bothered by the missed tackles and coverages by the lack of "impact" plays. You're talking forced fumbles, interceptions and sacks; sacks are difficult to get if you're not asked to blitz a lot and I've seen safeties – particularly strong safeties – have good seasons without a lot of forced takeaways. Now, all of that said, I wouldn't say Cyprien has been great this season. I imagine he would say the same. There's no question he has too many missed tackles and has allowed too many big plays. Part of the reason I believe he is valuable is because I remember the defense really struggling without him early in the season and it for the most part has played better since his return. But when you rewatch games and watch the coaches tape, you see errors that are glaring, but you also see a player who is around the ball a lot and who finishes tackles and helps the run defense. I wouldn't say his development so far makes him look like a future Pro Bowler, though there's time for that to change. But I also don't see him as the liability that many seem to have come to view him.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
You said we need to turn down the coaching change talk. The one part you did not address is the fans' perspective … While you're probably right that they won't make any changes in coaching this year, how do you defend that to the fans at the end of the year? As a fan/season ticket holder you come to me and tell me we have six wins over two years and I am supposed to be patient? Understand? Please hold on until next season because we know what we are doing? That is a tough pill to swallow for many of us fans John.
John: My answer won't satisfy you. It probably will make you angry. That's because the only answer is that you can't base that kind of a football decision on the opinion of fans. I'll wait now for the flurry of emails containing capital letters and exclamation points, but either way, that's the answer.
Clay from Section 214:
I have heard the comparisons to the Packers, Steelers, Patriots and those sorts of established organizations that contend every year. But it's been so long since they were bad that I can't remember. Is there a more recent rebuild to which you can compare the Jaguars; current, hyper-young, total, complete, long slog of a rebuild?
John: Not really. The Colts of the 2000s with Peyton Manning had much the same approach, too. Most teams ideally would do it that way. But very few organizations have the combination of patience from ownership, commitment to the process and good fortune to make it work. The good fortune is you have to hit on the quarterback and stay injury free and there are always circumstances you can't control. This is not to say you can't add players by other processes, but you need to have the core of your franchise be drafted players, and that's a process that – like it or not – takes time and vision. And a quarterback. Of course.
Eric from Winter Garden, FL:
Rebuilding. Lather. Process. Rinse. Frustrating. Repeat.
John: It has been frustrating. No doubt.
Ed from Atlantic Beach, FL:
John, I am patient with Blake. I think we have a winner. I am impressed with the feel he has with his surroundings. He changes field beautifully, always looking downfield. My only question is what does he see that the majority of 60-plus-thousand fans do not when he rifles the ball toward the sideline where a defender lies in wait?
John: He sees what you see, but he sees it from the eyes of a young player with little experience. That means the game is moving very fast and he's processing many things, and while he may process the vast majority of those things correctly, one mistake is going to stand out. And get asked about. And get criticized and analyzed for a week until there is something else to ask about and criticize and analyze. That's the life of a quarterback in the NFL.
William from Section 423:
I think you need to figure out who you are before you ask who other people are.
John: Who is this?
Mike from Claremore, OK:
I remember seeing questions on here that asked: 1-15? and 2-14? and both times you said, "Not even close." What say you now O-man? Two and 14?
John: Your memory may be better than mine, and probably is. I remember saying not even close to 0-16, and saying no to the others, but whatever … to answer your question: No, but yeah, it might be close.
April from Pooler, GA:
Hi, John. Denard Robinson had a stretch earlier in the season where he was rushing the ball more effectively than he has been lately. Do you think it's due to ball-security anxiety making him more tentative, offensive line play, the grind of the season to someone relatively new to the position, NFL defenses knowing his tendencies, a combination of things or something else?
John: The context of this answer changed Wednesday when the team announced that Robinson is out for the season with a sprained foot, but it's still pertinent because the answer pertains to the Jaguars' running offense in general. I'm not going to write that the Jaguars' line is an awesome run-blocking unit. It's not yet. But while I usually believe that a running back goes as his offensive line goes, the line doesn't appear to be the primary problem with the running offense. Robinson and the Jaguars' running game were very effective for three weeks – Weeks 7-9 versus Cleveland, Miami and Cincinnati. Since then, teams are stacking the box and taking away the run – not as much because of an overriding fear of the Jaguars' running game but because of the belief that a rookie quarterback and a young receiving corps cannot make enough big plays in the passing game to score enough points to win. So far, teams have been correct in that belief. Until the Jaguars prove that belief wrong, they are probably going to struggle to run whoever lines up at running back.
Sonny from Melbourne, FL:
Do you think the same fans that are saying cut Cecil Shorts III this year will be the same fans that complain to you next year about the team not keeping its talented veterans when Cecil is having a good year with another team?
John: I certainly wouldn't rule that out as a possibility.

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