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O-Zone: Home front

Posted Nov 8, 2013

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it...

Bo from Dresden, NC:
I want to go back to MJD and his stance on not coming up and meeting the then-new owner and coaching staff last year. I understand what he did was nothing illegal or against NFL rules, but don't you think this act alone helped with the downward spiral we are experiencing? Wouldn't it have been a good time for a veteran to step up and take a leadership role?
John: No, Maurice Jones-Drew’s actions last offseason did not start the “downward spiral.” Missed draft selections, years of missed talent decisions, injuries and players not developing conspired to cause that. I wrote often that while I didn’t think the holdout was going to have the results he hoped, what he was doing was perfectly within his rights. Jones-Drew last season did what a lot of veterans in his position would have done. Would it have been good for him to be around the team at that point? Sure, in the sense it’s always good to have your best players around. Did it cause 2-14 last season and is it contributing to this season? No, I just don’t see the connection.
Thrill from Section 236:
Wasn't there a segment of the fan base upset with Gene Smith for taking too long to get Blackmon signed to his rookie contract? If I recall correctly, the sticking point had to do with the possibility of any further off-the-field issues. How did that work out? I know you don't like to tell fans to be patient, but well, the fans need to have enough patience to allow things to get done right.
John: This is true, although to be fair a lot of fans were more agitated with Blackmon for not signing earlier than with Smith.
Mario from Zapata, TX:
I am very intrigued by this statement you made: “There also is a priority in the organizations on those quarterbacks not getting hit. All those factors together reduce risk and help keep those players in the game.” Can you please elaborate the extent of those factors by those teams?
John: I may have made this sound more secretive and grandiose than it really is. What I was referring to was an overall philosophy in an organization with a great quarterback to keep that player healthy. When Peyton Manning was with the Colts, for example, the belief was that it was better in many situations for him to go down or throw incomplete than to put himself at undue risk for taking a monster shot. It also was a priority to have an offensive line that could pass protect well, and if an offensive lineman had a choice between giving up a sack and taking a holding penalty, there wasn’t much doubt on the part of the lineman that giving up a sack was not the correct option. The Colts’ offensive line when Manning played there wasn’t the best offensive line in the league, but he routinely was among the least-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL. He also took few hits. That was a huge reason he never missed a game for 13 seasons. Ironically, the neck injury that forced him to miss the 2011 season may have stemmed from one of the few crushing hits he did take. So, you can’t completely protect a quarterback, but if you’re building a franchise around him, it’s best to do whatever possible to minimize injury risk.
Kevin from Richland, WA:
I know that everyone in the media has a "radio" voice. What does JP Shadrick sound like in real life?
John: A cross between honey and the sweet purr of a tractor trailer.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Players get paid a very large amount of money to do a job and part of the job requirement is to stay clean. If they don't like it, they don't have to sign up. I did 20 years in the Navy with a zero-tolerance policy and I was able to stay clean for much less money. These guys are role models for kids and I don't think a zero tolerance is an unreasonable expectation.
John: There probably isn’t a whole lot more to be gained from this ongoing topic. In an ideal world, all NFL players would have no off-field concerns, and in an ideal world they perhaps would even be role models beyond reproach on all fronts. In that same ideal world, all people in the world would be treated equally. In the NFL and in professional sports, people with talent are treated differently. They are paid more and they get opportunities because their skills are perceived to have a chance to help teams win, which in the end is the ultimate goal.
Quentin from Baltimore, MD:
I am a diehard Jaguars fan here in Ravens territory. I notice in the weekly O-Zone Mailbag you often have Orioles gear in the background. Could it be that we are diehard fans of the same teams in the NFL and MLB!?
John: No. I stole the Orioles magnet off the car of a guy I work with. That’s who I am.
Rob from Section 228:
I am another fan and season-ticket holder who is pulling for Justin Blackmon. They guy is really good and can be great. We need great on this team. He is fun to watch, like MJD in his heyday. We need fun to watch. He plays hard and with heart, just like MJD does. We need more of that. He has a problem. Hopefully he can work that out and realize what he is throwing away. He also seems to be a great guy off the field. I want the Jags should give him all the chances possible. What if he does clean-up for good and goes on to be a HOF player for another team? Who will we blame then?
John: You needn’t worry. While there are some who have framed this is a dilemma or a gut-wrenching decision, it’s really not. Justin Blackmon at some point almost certainly will apply for reinstatement to the NFL. If at that point he is reinstated, he almost certainly will be playing for the Jaguars.
Mr. Man from Athens, GA:
John, I'm slightly confused on compensatory picks. Will we most likely get one for Daryl Smith, Knighton, and Cox?
John: It’s hard to say what “likely” is when discussing compensatory selections. There is a formula that is based on free agents signed and free agents lost, and the results often don’t appear all that logical. Derek Cox and Terrence Knighton figure into the Jaguars’ formula next offseason. Daryl Smith, because he was signed by the Ravens after June 1, does not.
Talha from Piscataway, NJ:
Just wondering, but, when is a player considered a bust? For instance, the case with Blaine Gabbert?
John: Whenever you feel like it.
Benjamin from Jacksonville:
A couple of years ago there was talk of making pass interference reviewable. If all scoring and turnover plays are reviewable in order to prevent the game from changing on a judgment call, it would seem pass interference would be a prime candidate for similar action. Your thoughts?
John: I’d be surprised if pass interference ever is reviewable. It is by definition a judgment call. Reviewable penalties are almost always something that can be clearly defined by “indisputable evidence.” Interference would involve a replay official ruling that another official had judged incorrectly. You also would have a scenario under which the team on the wrong end of the challenge could argue that the incorrect call had been made. The NFL doesn’t want that scenario.
Brian from Santa Rosa Beach, FL:
John, what did you have for breakfast today?
John: Syrup.
Andrew from Statesboro, GA:
The season is over playoff wise for the Jags unless we win out, but even that probably wouldn’t be enough. My question is, “Why are the younger players not being developed and getting game experience?” Like Gratz, for example. Why is Blackmon still getting the valuable reps that Gratz needs in order to improve going into next season? The same goes for McCray at corner. He looks like he can be developed into a really great player, but that’s the key word, “Developed.” What better way is there to develop young talent than live game action?
John: I’d expect Gratz to be back in the starting lineup sooner, not later, but Blackmon has played well enough that he deserved to play. There’s no reason that Blackmon can’t be around here for a few years, so there’s also no reason to not play him if he’s playing well. I’d expect a lot of young players to have their playing time increase the last eight games. At the same time, the team also is still trying to win. You don’t necessarily want to just put a rookie at every position. The team is outmanned in some spots already. You want to be careful accentuating that too quickly.
Brad from Key West:
0-16?
John: I still don’t believe so, no.
Sherick from Jacksonville:
A house divided....
John: … feels a lot like home.

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