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O-Zone: Knock, knock, knock . . .

Posted Jun 17, 2013

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . .

Cameron from Jacksonville:
John, if you're the coach, who are you starting at quarterback if you had to choose today?
John: I’d start Blaine Gabbert, but I admit that could be because I’ve gotten used to the idea this offseason that Gabbert will start next season. That idea has come from within me – not based on what the Jaguars are saying, because all the Jaguars are talking about is open competition. Gabbert seemed to look slightly better than Chad Henne in the offseason. At the same time, this competition is going to be decided in training camp and preseason, so whatever anyone thinks now is speculation.
Jimmyfive from Jacksonville:
People say the Jaguars don’t have an opportunity this season to make the playoffs, but they have one if they win the division. Houston has a rough schedule. The Colts and Andrew Luck are in their second season and will have a hard season (remember Cam Newton). The Titans are on the same page as the Jaguars. I see the records at the end of the season very close among the division teams. Your opinions.
John: My opinion is that I admire your optimism and enthusiasm. I realistically have a hard time predicting the Jaguars to make the playoffs next season. They’re not ruling it out as a possibility, certainly, and it’s absolutely a goal. But if the Jaguars are playing better at the end of the season than the beginning – and if they’re showing improvement – then that’s a successful season. Could circumstances conspire that they compete? Yes. And I agree that the Colts could slip a bit in Luck’s second season. But the Texans are good enough to withstand a difficult schedule, and will be a huge favorite to win the division.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
How about Vince Young, no risk, possibly a huge reward? He has proven he can lead a subpar team to the playoffs. With the team we are assembling he could be the spark we need. And you can't tell that Gabbert is a better quarterback than Young.
John: I get emails like this sometimes.
Jared from Downtown O-town:
Established teams in the NFL often have to let go of players that they are high on due to the numbers game and teams that have a lot of holes, like the Jaguars, should be able to benefit from this during the preseason. Is this the process that you refer to when you say that there will probably be starters on the team come regular season that aren't on the roster yet?
John: Absolutely. And that’s what Gus Bradley and David Caldwell likely will do this regular season and into the future – claim and try guys who are on the street and available until they believe the roster is beyond being improved by such moves. It’s not the ideal situation, but then again, 2-14 wasn’t ideal, either. You find players by any means possible.
Randy from Fernandina Beach, FL:
It's great to see the young talent we have at wide receiver. It's also funny to think two years ago if you would have asked anyone around the team what our needs are, wide receiver would have immediately jumped out. I know you like Ace's potential. Did you see Tobais Palmer's game against Clemson? I’m excited to see how he develops.
John: Wide receiver indeed is looking like a strength. At the same time, let’s keep perspective. Justin Blackmon is on suspension the first four games, and while Cecil Shorts III has the look of a vastly improved player, he still must prove he can be a go-to guy to reach a new level. Sanders indeed has potential, but will be a rookie. My point is not to be a naysayer, but to say that they are “set” at any position – even receiver – is a bit premature. There are a lot of things to play out on this roster, and receiver remains one. As for Palmer, he has looked very, very fast in the offseason. He still needs polish, but he has shown potential.
Josh from New Brunswick, NJ:
Can I take a shot at explaining something to your readers? The Patriots signed Tebow because they're one of maybe four teams in the NFL immune to a quarterback controversy. Even the most ardent Tebow supporters cannot seriously think he should start over Brady. I'll admit the kid's a gamer, but he needs time to develop his skills. New England is a place he can do that without the added pressure and drama of the start him/sit him circus.
John: No doubt. I have said often that Tebow’s best chance of success was to get to a place with a strong enough situation at quarterback that the “noise” that comes along with his presence would be minimized. Once that happens, then he indeed may have the chance to learn and develop. Will he accept that role? Will he take advantage of that opportunity if it comes? There have been those who wonder if he will, but if he does, maybe that’s his chance to someday get back to a starting role.
Doug from Jacksonville:
What strikes me as funny is all the Gabbert bashing. San Francisco fans bashed Alex Smith for years. Now, until KC signed him, everyone was clamoring for him. A friend who is a KC fan is less than thrilled with what he thinks is a lifelong subpar quarterback with a decent 24-game stretch. The fans who want someone else don't realize someone else isn't better or someone would have them. Kafka isn't picked off waivers to start. If he fits the program perfectly and they tweak his mechanics or get something from him no one else did/could, then great, but there are few examples of that. Finally, as soon as Gabbert could be picked up off waivers he would be. He wouldn't float aimlessly for weeks/months until someone signed him to be a third stringer.
John: You’re correct about perception and quarterbacks, and you’re right that Gabbert would be claimed immediately if released. That’s part of why it makes sense for him to get an extended look this season. I am on record that I think he’ll earn that chance, but if he didn’t get it here, he will get a chance to compete somewhere.
Mike from Glen St. Mary, FL:
If we don't sign the rookies until just before training camp, then those players do not have their salaries and signing bonuses and the means to get into "trouble." Isn't it safer to play the young guys at the last minute?
John: That’s a popular theory, and I get it. I just don’t buy into it as much as many readers do. You’re talking about young players having two or three fewer months with money to spend. Once they sign, they will be with you for many, many years with a lot of money. What then? Basically, if you trusted a guy enough to invest a draft pick in him, you probably trust him as much during those few months as you do the next four or five years.
Earl from Las Cruces, NM:
John, as your communications career skyrockets with your intelligent and witty coverage, it is only time before you run public relations for the Jacksonville franchise. Have the NFL offices contacted you about helping them?
John: The Jaguars have outstanding public relations people. I do not want their jobs, and do not pretend that I could do them as well as they do. They tell me this daily, and I now believe them. Now, as for my supervisor, Senior Vice President of Communications Dan Edwards, he has a pretty biting wit. So, do I think he could answer a few O-Zone questions? Yeah, me thinks he could pull it off.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
Well, since you ignored my question about Mincey, I'm guessing it's farewell for him. He will be missed.
John: You have an inflated opinion of your own questions, I’m afraid. I don’t answer every question every day. I have written before that I believe Jeremy Mincey needs to continue to play well. With Tyson Alualu likely to start at one end and Jason Babin likely at the Leo, there’s not a logical, absolute starting role for Mincey. He’ll need to earn his way into the rotation in training camp, but if the Jaguars had given up on Mincey he wouldn’t be here. He has a chance to have a role.
Chad from Jacksonville:
You keep saying that you wouldn't be surprised if we pick up any free agent linebacker or defensive tackle or corner during training camp. Do you have any in mind that we could possibly pick up from waivers or free agency?
John: I’d love to share that, but I don’t like to share information that I glean from my ability to see into the future. It’s a valuable, if mistrusted skill of mine, and there are people out there who wouldn’t like it. Hold on, there’s someone at the door . . .

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