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O-Zone: Rookie excitement

Posted May 6, 2013

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

Corey from Orange Park, FL:
I was reading some articles on NFL.com. We just went 2-14, so we don't really demand respect, but our draft is considered to be of quality. I don't think the media has it out for us. I think we're a losing team, and will be viewed as such until our record indicates otherwise (didn't you say that?). Also, I really enjoyed reading about the analytics. The stats about Blaine Gabbert make me feel a lot better about our first-round draft choice.
John: I’ve gotten several emails from fans happy about the Jaguars being in articles on NFL.com. That’s understandable. The Jaguars have gotten beat up pretty badly and pretty regularly – and in some cases, pretty deservedly – for a long time in the national media. The crux of the recent stories has been about the quality of the Jaguars’ draft and the solid planning and analytics that went into it. It’s good that the Jaguars are being recognized for that, because the approach to the draft was indeed solid. The Jaguars had data that Blaine Gabbert was significantly and statistically better when he had time to throw compared to times he did not. It was a clear example of analytics as a tool helping to provide understanding and clarity to an on-field situation. Your gut would tell you, “Yeah, any quarterback would be better with time.” In some cases, your eyes – and the overall perception – would tell you that Gabbert has struggled mightily at times in two seasons. Sometimes, when perception is strong, it’s hard to analyze, and the Jaguars in this case used data to help provide a picture. That’s what analytics is supposed to do. Another positive about the draft is that even if Gabbert happens not to improve because of the presence of Luke Joeckel, Joeckel is a really good player. It’s probably a pretty good draft selection either way.
Joshua from Jacksonville:
JP, who? JAY! PEE! SHAAAAADDDRRRIIIIIIIIICCCKKKKKK!!!
John: Darned right.
Ryan from Saint Johns, FL:
I noticed that a few veteran players (Brown, Banjo) participated at the rookie minicamp. I was under the impression that this is not allowed. Can you provide an overview of which players are eligible to participate in rookie camp?
John: Mike Brown, Chris Banjo and Ryan Davis participated. They are first-year veterans without an accrued NFL season, so they are eligible to participate in the rookie minicamp.
Sean from Atlanta, GA:
Now that the rookie minicamp is over, in your honest opinion, who is going to the Hall of Fame?
John: All of them. Otherwise, we need to do something about that Caldwell guy.
Ben from Los Angeles, CA:
I'm getting really excited about Cyprien. My worry is, no matter the durability of the player in college, do you think that a hard hitter like Cyprien is in danger of missing more games because of how much more seriously concussions are dealt with these days?
John: Perhaps, but to worry about that is to assume an awful lot. Concussions are part of the NFL, and if a player hits hard – especially a safety – then concussions could be part of the equation. At the same time there are plenty of safeties who don’t miss significant time with them, so it’s probably too early to move this to the top of the worry list.
Richard from Starke, FL:
I wish all of the games were in November and December. Who wants to sit there and sweat?
John: If all of the games were in November and December, that 16-game schedule would be darned tricky.
Steve from Denver, CO:
Can you print the stats for WR Brandon Marshall against Derek Cox in last year’s game?
John: I could, and I certainly could have in answering the question about Cox on Sunday. I didn’t, because my point was not to bury Cox, nor to imply that he wasn’t a quality player when healthy. Cox struggled at times against Brandon Marshall last season but he also was playing at less than 100 percent, and the Jaguars asked him to cover Marshall all over the field. That’s a difficult task, and Cox actually played very well against Marshall much of that game – a game in which the Jaguars often gave Jay Cutler too much time to throw. My point with Cox is that while he’s a very good corner, he’s not a true “take-away-a-side-of-the-field” corner. That’s not an insult. The great majority of corners – even the great majority of Pro Bowlers – also don’t fit that description. Such players are rare – far rare than you might think considering how often you hear players described that way.
Jamie from Jacksonville:
Not good enough John, not good enough.
John: If I wanted to hear things like this, I’d just stay home.
Corbin from Rockledge, FL:
Longtime reader here and I really enjoy your writing. I just wanted to know what your thoughts are on the future of Chad Henne. It seems as if the management has enough faith in Gabbert that we can assume he'll be the starter next year. However, with the recent acquisitions of Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers, do you think the team will choose one of them to be the primary backup?
John: First, Corbin, thank you for your impeccable taste. Regarding Henne/Gabbert and the whole quarterback situation, these days after the rookie minicamp are as good a time as any to reset things. It has been talked and analyzed to death in recent weeks and months – and with reason. It’s a critical area – THE most critical area on the team – and it is our nature as fans and followers of sports to want immediate answers on all issues. The reality is the Jaguars now have four quarterbacks in camp. In terms of how the decision-makers feel about all four, we very much are at the beginning of the process. If I had to guess, I’d say Gabbert starts the season. But to talk in Kentucky Derby terms, they’ve just left the starting gate. I’d say the rest of the offseason and preseason will be a long race involving all four players. The two rookies – Scott and Rodgers – have a lot of ground to make up. They’re rookies – and undrafted ones, at that – and that should give Gabbert/Henne the advantage, but how will it all play out? Let’s let organized team activities at least get underway before we get into assumptions.
Robert from Moorpark, CA:
Will we get to see Blackmon in training camp and preseason?
John: Yes. His suspension is for the first four games of the regular season.
Eddie from Jacksonville:
Was that you I saw last week running down Baymeadows? If so, you need to pick up the pace. You seemed to be struggling. I just hope you are getting better every day.
John: If what you saw on Baymeadows last week was an athlete of rare beauty and grace, with the legs of Carl Lewis, the face of Tom Brady and the hair of Fabio . . . if what you saw was a striking figure, running like the wind with agility usually reserved for the heroes of the ancient Olympiad and Greek mythology . . . if what you saw was an athlete of such power and force to make women’s hearts jump and men go green with envy – no . . . no, that wasn’t me. That was J.P. Shadrick.
Lance from Jacksonville:
Serious question I have today. Were the practice fields set over ancient Indian burial ground? I mean how is it all it takes is for someone to take one step on them and an injury ensues? Every year for years now this is happening. At least the other teams in the league lose players to injury from actually playing against other teams! Sorry John, my rant is over.
John: Football players get hurt. I don’t know what is confusing about this.
Tom from Glenallen, AK:
Want to see the impact that players with leadership ability can have? Just look at the Ravens this year. Ray Lewis carried that team with his leadership and willpower.
John: That was certainly the storyline. Joe Flacco playing well and the Ravens being an underrated and effective offense didn’t hurt, but yes, the tone that Ray Lewis set for that franchise was significant and had been for a long time.
Keith from Palatka, FL:
Trust is earned and with each passing day I am gaining more confidence in our new "brain trust." From the Joeckel pick to the acquisitions of Sanders and Robinson (in light of Blackmon's most recent fiasco), it looks like the new regime really does know what they're doing. I am cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season. What say ye?
John: I’d say if you’re a Jaguars fans you have reason to be cautiously optimistic about the short- and long-term future. How that will translate into immediate won-loss record, I have no idea, but I have said since the hiring of David Caldwell that it felt like the structure of this organization was in good hands. Nothing we’ve seen since then has led me to believe any differently.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
Do you think the new players will be excited about going to London and competing against one of the best teams in the NFL?
John: I think right now the new players are excited when they find the locker room without asking for help.

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