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A society in trouble

Let's get to it . . . Ryan from Pontiac, IL:
Who would you say you are most excited about and who do you think will be the most improved player on the Jaguars' roster this season?
John: I'm looking forward to seeing a few players in training camp and early in the season. One is running back Rashad Jennings, who appears to be ready for an increased load – albeit, of course, behind Maurice Jones-Drew. He has the talent to add a dimension to the offense, and the team believed he was on the verge of making a big impact had he not been injured last season. Defensive end Austen Lane also could be a guy who takes a step, and I don't think I'm alone in being anxious to see how Cecil Shorts responds to wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan in Year Two. That's going to be perhaps the most intriguing storyline of training camp – how players such as those mentioned above as well as players such as D'Anthony Smith, George Selvie, Zach Miller, Eben Britton, Brian Robiskie, Taylor Price and others respond to new coaching, new situations and the opportunities they have been given.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
I'm wholeheartedly with the Jags on the MJD thing. You sign for five years, you uphold your commitment for five years. If there was only a year left, I could sympathize for wanting an extension. With two years left, shut up and play ball.
John: There indeed is a difference in the NFL between a contract with one year remaining and one with two years remaining. Some teams renegotiate with more than one year left, but it is very common in the NFL for teams to take a pretty hard-line approach to anything more than a year. You can say all you want about players deserving to be paid, but teams must manage upwards of 53 contracts with players at various stages of their careers. It is simply unwise for teams to tear up contracts and pay based on past performance. There are too many players who need to be signed to form the core of a roster.
Erik from Bridgeport, CT:
If Chad can't get open enough for Tom Brady to throw him the ball, what makes Jaguars fans think that he will get open enough for Gabbert?
John: I have no idea. He signed with Miami on Monday, so we'll see if he can get open for David Garrard or Matt Moore.
Matt from State College, PA:
Is it simply Gene Smith's personality to not outwardly praise players for progress and a job well done? Or is it something along the lines of not wanting the player to feel comfortable and lose focus? It seems whenever asked about Gabbert and other players, he says he expects progress, but rarely says, 'He looks really, really good.''
John: Smith is always careful to speak accurately and also talks from the point of view of a scout. That means often tempering praise and analysis, particularly if there are unknowns. When a player is deserving of praise, he has no problem praising. He praised Jones-Drew rather effusively at the end of last season. When discussing Gabbert Monday, he was very positive about the progress that has been made this off-season. At the same time, he also knows we're in June, not September, so saying he has seen progress and expects more seems a pretty appropriate approach.
James from Socorro, NM:
Gene Smith expects Maurice Jones-Drew to fulfill his obligation in regards to his contract. Of course, Mr. Smith can fire Aaron Kampman with two years left on his contract. Do as he says, not as he does.
John: In the NFL, the player receives security in the form of guaranteed money. Often, this is in the form of a large signing bonus and sometimes it is guaranteed salary. Kampman received a $10 million signing bonus and signed that with the knowledge that as he got deeper into the contract he would have to perform at a certain level to keep earning the base salary. That's the purpose of the signing bonus, and most NFL players – certainly veterans with as much NFL experience as Kampman and Jones-Drew – understand that fully.
Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
"I'm bored ... MOVING ON!" Taking lines from your children now?
John: There are days in the O-Zone that would be appropriate.
Raju from New Orleans, LA:
In your response to Billy from East Northport you mentioned the formation that would have the best skills players on it would include MJD, Lewis, Blackmon, Robinson and Evans/Shorts. Where do you think Mike Thomas fits into this? Do you think he might not make the top 3 at WR? I've always thought, that when used right, he has a chance to shine. That was evident in his second year. Thoughts?
John: I looked back and was surprised my answer didn't include Thomas. That's on me and was an oversight – not a thought that Thomas won't be a factor. I threw in Evans and Shorts as possibilities, and should have had Thomas in there and possibly standing apart from that duo. Absolutely Thomas has a chance to shine, and as Smith said on Monday, he's having a solid offseason and is probably the Jaguars' most versatile receiver right now.
Dustin from Jacksonville:
Are you going to give us a heads up when you finally decide to take a well deserved weekend off or am I just going to spend an entire weekend refreshing my browser waiting...and waiting...and waiting?
John: Oh, you'll know. You'll know.
Brad from St. Augustine, FL and Section 115:
I think the Hall of Fame is a joke because offensive players outnumber defensive players 10 to 1. It should be renamed The Hall of Popularity....your thoughts?
John: I actually have a lot of respect for the Hall of Fame, but I'm probably biased because I know a lot of the people on the committee and have seen first-hand the effort committee members give to the process. It's certainly not perfect, and there's no question that a player's popularity can play a role. There may be cases when how a player treated a certain media person could conceivably play into the process. But at some point with something like the Hall of Fame, there must be a human element. Having a human element means you won't have a perfect process and having a group of media seems the closest thing to an unbiased group as is possible. As for the offensive players outnumbering the defensive players, there is an argument to be made that that makes sense because the Hall should be for people without whom you can't write the history of the game. Following that line of reasoning, offensive players by their nature are going to be a bit more high-profile and will touch the ball and effect outcomes a bit more than defensive players. I don't buy that reasoning, but that's the argument.
Bill from Jacksonville:
Josh Scobee, Eugene Monroe, Terrance Knighton, Derek Cox and Daryl Smith. All of these are core players who are in need of a new contract within the next two years. You could probably also add Eben Britton, Rashean Mathis and Rashad Jennings to that list as well. They are going to eat up a large amount of the cap space people want to use to pay Maurice Jones-Drew. Would you agree?
John: I would. I don't know that the team necessarily will sign every player on the above list to a long-term, cap space-eating contract. But the team certainly has a core and a future to consider when figuring out whether to renegotiate current contracts.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
As you've made clear, there is only so much one can take away from watching players practice sans pads. That said, which position(s) might be more telling of talent level in these "underwear" OTAs.
John: Quarterbacks, receivers and cornerbacks – pretty much any position that involves athleticism and making plays on the ball. Laurent Robinson, for example, has shown good things that make you believe he's going to be the upgrade the Jaguars expect and Aaron Ross has looked impressive when he has participated. Obviously, the linemen – any position that involves full contact and strength as its primary skill set – can really only be judged in training camp and game situations.
Mailman from Section 416:
O Man! Thanks for the streak. Does this make you the Joe DiMaggio of writers?
John: I'm more like that long snapper or kicker that never misses a game. I'm here every day, and I only get noticed when something goes horribly awry.
Andy from St. Johns, FL:
Is there a "Rainman" of O-Zones? Do you think there is someone out in the world who can recite every O-Zone question and answer from every O-Zone and name the date, who sent the question in and where they are from?
John: If there is, our society is in a lot of trouble – and there is a very embarrassed set of parents out there.

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