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O-Zone: Well within his rights

Posted Mar 16, 2014

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it . . .

Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
So, since the league year has technically started can you give an update on the status of Justin Blackmon? Is there a timeframe we should know something from the league? I am sure many fans are curious if he will ever see the field again.
John: The league year starting has nothing to do with Blackmon’s status or the ability to provide updates. It’s a league issue, and while fans certainly are understandably curious, this is one of those situations where little will be known until it’s known.
Kristi from St. Augustine Beach, FL:
Does JP have to scare all of our free-agency picks with his driving?
John: Apparently.
Steven from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Whether you love the free-agent signings, or are lukewarm, each and every one definitely represents an UPGRADE from 2013. Guess that is a glass half-full viewpoint?
John: It’s a bit of a half-full viewpoint, but there’s a lot of truth, too. Fans of this team should like the free-agent signings very much. They represent an upgrade. They represent the Jaguars getting deeper on the defensive line and moving toward where they want to go on the offensive line. They also represent the team overall having more quality players, which will allow the Jaguars to draft for talent rather than immediate need in May. Overall, they represent a very positive step.
Trent from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I love the depth we are adding through free agency, largely in part to Gus Bradley. Do you expect us to address the positions of fullback, wide receiver (since there aren't any new faces since last year) or the safety spot where Evans and Guy are competing through the rest of free agency or the draft?
John: I absolutely expect the Jaguars to address wide receiver. That’s a position that still needs to be upgraded. I don’t know that fullback or the Evans-Guy safety position qualify as front-burner issues.
Garrison from Baton Rouge, LA:
If we bring in another cornerback like Walter Thurmond, does that mean Dwayne Gratz is moved to No. 3? Because Alan Ball played a lot better than him last year.
John: No, it does not mean that. Gratz almost certainly will start at one corner. He’s a young player who the Jaguars see as a long-term starter. Alan Ball played very well last year and he will be extremely hard to beat out at the other corner.
Meez from Richmond, VA:
Why is everybody so blown away by the water guy in the Culligan ad?
John: The guy’s a pro. When you’re good at what you do, people notice.
Brian from Lansing, MI:
I like the signing of Clemons. A lot of fans online think he's bit too old. I think we need a veteran presence at that position who can still produce. Plus, if we get a young pass-rusher in the draft he can help him along the way. Would you agree O-Man?
John: The Jaguars also thought they needed a veteran presence that can produce. That’s exactly why they signed Clemons – because they think he can rush the passer and be a leader in the locker room. But don’t get caught up in the idea of veterans “helping” younger players. There’s some of that, but it’s not the major reason players are brought in. They’re brought in to play and the best leading is by example.
David from the Island:
O, who's the guy in the back seat?
John: It’s …
Jayston from Willingboro:
One week into free agency do you think the Jaguars will become a competitive team again in the new season?
John: I think they will be a better team next season than they were this past season, and I think that will show on the field. It’s far too early to tell what that will mean in terms of numbers of victories. If you mean “competitive” in terms of will they play teams tougher and will they match up better than they did last season, yes, absolutely. I think the Jaguars are further along in the building process now than a week ago. If by competitive you mean, “do I think the Jaguars will be a playoff team?” … I can’t say that yet. One week of free agency doesn’t get you there. It just gives you a chance to move closer.
Big Jay from Jacksonville:
How many players can a team carry on the roster right now?
John: Eighty.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
I'm kind of surprised no one has signed MJD yet. I'm assuming if free agency comes and goes and no dice, he'll play in Jax for what Big Dave wants to pay him?
John: I can’t say I share your surprise. Jones-Drew has been a very good player, but teams don’t want to pay running backs big dollars anymore, particularly running backs with a lot of mileage on the body. As for your second point, I wouldn’t assume anything either way on the Maurice Jones-Drew issue. It’s still pretty open-ended.
Bob from Walterboro, NC:
You know what's pretty cool? All the free agents could have signed somewhere else for about the same money and in some cases with higher-profile teams. Shad Khan, David Caldwell and Gus Bradley have changed the culture and perception of the Jags in a relatively short time. Not easy to do. The players are here because they want to be a part of what is already happening.
John: That appears to be the case, and I’d say it’s more than “pretty cool.” While it’s still developing, it’s the most significant storyline of the Jaguars’ offseason.
Bryant from Las Vegas, NV:
With all the recent signings on defense, what is your early prediction on the starters as the roster stands today? And what defensive positions do you see Caldwell possibly targeting to improve the defense even more than he already has?
John: I’d guess Chris Clemons, Roy Miller, Sen’Derrick Marks and Red Bryant start across the front, with Geno Hayes, Paul Posluszny and Dekoda Watson at linebacker and Dwayne Gratz, Josh Evans, Jonathan Cyprien and Alan Ball in the secondary. That’s a guess. It’s only a guess. I think Caldwell will keep looking to improve all positions defensively, including cornerback.
Scott from Gilbert, AZ:
I get that to build a sustainable winner you need a plan, and that you must spend intelligently in free-agency and draft well. I am still curious as to why this regime did not make part of the original rebuilding plan to utilize free-agency in a similar fashion last year? There was just as much value available in that market. We had plenty of cap space then as well, and everybody knows it is impossible to fix all of the missing and broken pieces in a single year. Thus, wouldn’t it be better to have some of those glaringly deficient holes from 2012 already on the roster, and/or perhaps not have subjected the franchise and its fan base to such painful misery in 2013?
John: The Jaguars said from the time Bradley and Caldwell were hired they wanted to take the first year to establish the foundation and to reestablish the culture. They also wanted to start the process of building through the draft while getting an absolutely clear idea of needs and where the roster stood. Throughout 2013, they did that. Yes, it was painful, but by the end of the season it was clear this franchise believed in the direction. The Jaguars entered free agency with a plan based on clear ideas of needs and they have addressed those. Plus, think of this: a big part of the success of free agency has been players wanting to be a part of what’s going on here. This time last offseason, there wasn’t nearly as much going on.
Tom from Katy, TX:
John, two words for you and the entire website crew...Thank You!
John: And you as well.
Sean from Candler, NC:
I believe most of these contracts are three- or four-year deals. Which means they will be coming to an end about the same time the Jaguars will hopefully have a dire need to re-sign their own talented drafted players. That Dave Caldwell guy impresses me more and more...
John: You make a good point, and remember, too, that a lot of these contracts are structured so that if the players don’t reach the end of their contracts the situation won’t cripple the Jaguars’ salary cap. Caldwell and the Jaguars are following the plan set forth when this began in 2013. That’s the most important part of what’s happening.
Kevin from Bakersfield, CA:
How many times must Chris Clemons mention that he wanted to come and play with Red Bryant?
John: He’s 6-feet-3, 255 pounds and survived the drive from EverBank Field to the airport with Shadrick. I guess he can mention what he wants when he wants.

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