JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . .
Michael from Jacksonville:
I know the quarterback is not going to get hit in organized team activities or training camp. When is the first time an NFL quarterback has to worry about a defensive lineman bringing the pain? The only thing that matters in the end is how good a quarterback can be under pressure.
You’re correct that only in the rarest of instances – read: a pretty big mistake by someone on defense followed by a really angry offensive coordinator and head coach – do quarterbacks get hit in the offseason, or in training camp for that matter. That means the preseason is really the only time other than the regular season when quarterbacks get hit. That has been that way at least since I began covering the league in 1995, and it was that way for a long time before that. And since I assume you’re making reference to Blaine Gabbert
here, we can take it a step further: the only thing that will matter for Gabbert is how he performs under pressure/getting hit in the regular season. He has looked good in the preseason before, and though he has looked good at times in the regular season, the latter hasn’t been true often enough. The regular season will be his test. There’s no sugarcoating that.
Tony Boselli from Jacksonville:
You're kidding me, right chump?
John: Huh? What?
Bobby from Salt Lake City, UT:
I don't know if you followed the Top 20 Games of 2013, but I am not happy the Jaguars-Texans game wasn't up there. That was hands-down the best game of the season. Are you surprised about it not being up there or do you agree with the other people around here that you have to a good team to be on there? If that's the case, they need to call it, "Top 20 games featuring only the popular teams?"
John: I don’t know if that’s how it should be, but that’s how it is. It’s hard to get notoriety at 2-14, and from the Texans’ point of view, it’s hard to get recognition for beating a 2-14 team. It may not be fair, but that’s the deal. Incidentally, I wouldn’t be too unhappy about the game being left off. Lists like that are nice offseason fodder, but mean insanely little in the big picture of . . . well, anything.
George from New York, NY:
You should be locked up. Seriously. I'm a Psychologist, so I should know.
John: There are a thousand stories in the naked city, and mine’s just one.
Manning from Calgary, AB:
I know you don't like talking about records, but something I feel worth mentioning is while this team only won two games last year, we were quite competitive. We lost three games in OT, lost to the Packers, Patriots and Jets all by less than 10 points and were only "Blown Out" (loss by more than 20) twice, to Chicago and Miami. With a few less injuries or an extra big play here or there we easily could have won a lot more games than we did. And this year's team is better than last year's. I don't think eight- or nine wins is out of the question. We still probably won't make the playoffs this year, but we at least should be playing somewhat meaningful games in November and December. Thoughts?
John: Anyone who reads the O-Zone regularly – and both of them know who they are – knows I have written often that the Jaguars easily could have won upwards of five or six games last season. Those same two readers also know that when I mention this, I am routinely dragged from my desk, mocked and occasionally beaten about the face and neck for daring to suggest this. Such is life in this chair. But while I have written this, I can’t in good conscience or with a straight face say that the Jaguars were “quite competitive” last season. They were as close if not closer to being 0-16 than to being 6-10, and while you have one definition of being “blown out,” the Jaguars really weren’t too competitive in more than five or six games. Besides, you’re *supposed* to be competitive in the NFL. Most games are won and lost in the last five minutes. To be as uncompetitive as often as the Jaguars were last season is unusual, which is why the team underwent the overhaul it did after the season. As for your question, I don’t think it’s out of the question that the Jaguars can be playing meaningful games in November and December. The focus of the organization is on improving for the long haul, but a culture change and some additions can make a lot of difference. Enough of a difference for eight or nine wins? Well, let’s get through the first half of the season first.
Dave from Atlantic Beach, FL:
"... he can do what he likes on the weekends. We all can." I used this line on my wife - it didn't work.
John: Yeah, as far the married types go, I was speaking – er, writing – a bit theoretically.
Steve from Section 215:
I was curious about Gus Bradley's commitment to ensuring a player would have quality video to show other teams. Does this mean that teams share practice video?
John: Actually, no. I wasn’t really clear in my answer. What Bradley meant was the opportunity to get video in preseason games, and in cases in which the player does not get a preseason opportunity, the opportunity to be coached well and compete in practice. Teams don’t share offseason video.
Eric from Section 127:
John, the season is taking forever to get here, and I'm very bored now. It feels like that old military saying, “Hurry up and wait." I need more from the OZONE.
John: Hold on . . . I think there’s a vein I haven’t opened yet . . . all right . . . there.
Camron from Orlando, FL:
Cecil Shorts will have a 1,000 yard season, MJD will have a 1,000-yard season, the QBs will combine for 4,000-4,500 yards – whether it's Gabbert or Henne or a combo if one gets benched or injured. We will have at least 30 sacks as a team, with at least a third of what we get being credited to Babin. Poz gets over 100 tackles (again), we will have at least 15 INTs, with 10 going to our safeties. We will allow only 30 sacks – one for every one we give out. A total of 10 will come on our tackles. We will have a total QBR of 79-82. And you know what? We keep Bradley, we keep Caldwell, and we get a 6-to-8 win team. And I'd be happy with that. I'd be happy with us reaching all the realistic goals, because that means we are improving. And improving is what we need NOW. Not the Playoffs, not the Super Bowl. We need to improve. The Playoffs are a far reach for right now, let alone the Super Bowl. But we'll get there. We'll get there.
John: But what about me: am I getting a raise? Seriously, while your enthusiasm is to be admired, one thing that’s striking is this latest trend of emails discussing Bradley and Caldwell being retained after 2013. This is really a non-issue. Khan hired this tandem for the long haul, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario under which they’re not here past the end of this regular season.
James from St. Mary’s, GA:
I understand the frustration many have with not addressing our offensive playmakers such as quarterback this offseason. However, watching games last season – and the JAX/HOU game in Houston personally (I live in Austin, TX now) – our defense was HORRIBLE! No matter how much our offense got better what good would it have been if the defense didn't? Also, it seems the staff is trying to fix special teams. I see a year of defensive play, field position, and the run game (why we drafted Joeckel) setting up play action. Can I live with this? YES! If the record still doesn’t reflect the changes that have been installed this year, we can also replace Gabbert next year.
I don’t know that the Jaguars see this season quite your way. The last two seasons’ 32nd ranking on offense has caused many to assume the team will be horrible offensively this season. Jones-Drew being unable to practice in the offseason with a foot injury and Justin Blackmon
’s looming suspension hasn’t helped that perception. But the Jaguars sincerely and fervently believe that the drafting of Luke Joeckel
will help whoever starts at quarterback – and indeed, the entire offense. Cecil Shorts III
’s continuing development, as well as a free role for Marcedes Lewis
, also could help. This is not to say the Jaguars will be the Rams offensively. It’s not even to say they’ll be the ’99 Jaguars. But can they be improved? Yes – and to get back to something close to an answer, field position and the run game could be a part of that, too.
Tony in Jacksonville:
(Sigh) - I don't know how many of the rest of us caught this little gem, and I realize that I'm a day or two late on the O-Zone, but some of us are foolish enough to work 40 hours a week and catch up when we can. No questions here, O-man, just lovin' the little bit of time you do put in (in).
John: That weird symbol you used when talking about how much you work: 40 hours . . . I’m afraid I don’t follow.