The Jaguars will kickoff the season Sunday against the Green Bay Packers and fans are naturally pumped for a new year of expectations. However, with great expectations come plenty of question marks.
The first mailbag of the regular season features questions about the team's projected success and the future of the Otto position.
@ReemsMTL asks: Your prediction for the Jags record this year?
Mike Kaye: I keep bouncing back-and-forth from 7-9 to 8-8. I think this team is absolutely improved, especially on defense, but it is hard to expect that much of a jump from a team that is still so young and evolving. I think the Jaguars will continue to ascend but I also don't think this will be an immediate playoff push.
That said, this division is very weak and I think the Jaguars have the most talented offense in the AFC South. If the Jaguars get off to a 3-2 start, I think they will very much be in the thick of things. I think it will come down to a 9-7 record for the division and I don't see that out of realm of possibility for the Jaguars. That said, 7-9 would still be a sign of progress.
@Jags1185 asks: Do you think Jaguars will be more like Weeks 1 and 2 of preseason or more like Week 3 as far as effectiveness and preparedness?
MK: I think it's a mixture. I don't expect them to be lighting the field on fire with every possession but I also don't think they will have communication issues and consistent stalled drives either. The penalties will likely drop off considerably as the unit has had time to mesh since the first two weeks of the preseason.
There will still be issues to solve on the fly, but I expect the team to be more cohesive than in previous years. I think the pass rush has to be better than it was in the preseason for the team to really have a shot. The caveat is that the first team got pretty limited snaps in the preseason, so perhaps it was a matter of lack of opportunity.
@HankJoness asks: If they like Arthur Brown and want to put him at [SAM linebacker], does that mean the OTTO is finally dead?
(@ALanguageUnique asks: Arthur Brown, what got him waived and what's his role in Jax? Will we see Brown replacing Skuta or could he play MLB?)
MK: Brown failed to get on the field for a significant defensive role in Baltimore. I think he is a better fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker than he is as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 front. He was claimed by the Jaguars and head coach Gus Bradley says he is a good special teams player.
I don't think the Otto position is dead. You don't dedicate a coach to a position all summer and separate the position from the other linebackers just to kill it. That said, I think the misconceptions about Otto being an extra pass rusher should be tamed. Brown is a natural linebacker. He may blitz a bit but is not a pass rusher by trade like Dan Skuta or the recently jettisoned Ryan Davis.
I was among those surprised by Bradley's designation of Brown. I asked about the future of Otto - and without hesitating - Bradley said Brown was backing up Skuta. I think Brown will have an opportunity to shine in coverage if he can learn the playbook quickly.
@SamTeague28 asks: What are your expectations for Dante Fowler Jr?
MK: I think Fowler has been built up and knocked down without much merit. Fowler's expectations have been huge but I think it's fair to keep things relatively understated. I came into the offseason thinking 6-8 sacks as a rookie would be understandable.
Fowler is essentially a rookie and was very limited this preseason as he shared snaps with Yannick Ngakoue and Chris Smith. Fowler will have his lumps after looking great against the Jaguars offensive line all summer. Remember, he is still learning and getting used to the speed and strength of his opponents.
Guys like Tamba Hali and Ziggy Ansah were in the 6-8 sack range in their first two seasons and have now become premium pass rushers in the NFL. Not everyone is going to be Von Miller or Khalil Mack and that's okay.
@JagsRolls_94 asks: Do you think Myles Jack takes over at WILL at some point this season?
MK: I think Jack will rover quite a bit. He's playing a lot of weakside linebacker right now but also spent most of the summer learning MIKE. He could also reasonably play Otto due his coverage ability. I don't think taking over at WILL makes a lot of sense for him or the team. Jack's versatility makes him a better fit for Otto or MIKE, especially with Telvin Smith at WILL. Why rob Peter to pay Paul?
The team wants its best three linebackers on the field and taking Smith off does not allow that to happen.
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