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All about evaluation

Let's get to it . . . Chris from Jacksonville:
With all of these contract disputes going on with the Jags and the Magic, I'm curious if you could shed some light as to why the NFL and NBA are so different with their superstars. I can't ever see Andre Johnson and Gronkowski leaving their teams to go play with Aaron Rodgers. Is that because the NFL is set up differently financially or is it because players are just more loyal in the NFL?
John: It's most definitely not loyalty. The franchise tag typically prevents movement of elite-level players, and NFL teams for the last decade and a half or so have put a premium on retaining core players while they are in their prime. The career span also is such that players are elite for a shorter time than in other sports. I doubt you would see an NFL team ever structure a contract for a 32-year-old non-quarterback the way the Angels did for Albert Pujols this offseason. That means there are fewer opportunities for players to become free agents when they can truly make a difference. The nature of the NFL just doesn't allow for as many high-profile free agents who can make a true turnaround-the-team impact.
Mike from Orlando, FL:
Those beautiful women in the "Roar of the Jaguars" photo on Facebook aren't your "roadies," are they?
John: Everyone has dreams. Perhaps that's theirs.
William from Jacksonville:
How has Laurent Robinson performed this offseason? I'm very excited about him and Blackmon this year.
John: He performed as you would expect a veteran to perform in the offseason. He carried himself in a professional manner, and looked ahead of most of the rest of the wide receiver group. He certainly has the look of a guy who will come in and help the unit improve immediately. That's the offseason. It starts mattering in 13 days.
Matt from Clemson, SC:
What's your take on how the defense will play this year compared to last year? Yes, they were sixth in the league, but this year they get the luxury of playing against the Packers, Bears, Lions, Patriots, and of course, the Texans twice. All high-powered offenses with solid quarterback play. This year will be more telling. What do you think?
John: I've said before this offseason that I believe the Jaguars' defense could be better this season and not be ranked No. 6 in the NFL. The Jaguars' defense played well enough last season – particularly early before injuries hurt the cornerback position – to keep the team in most games despite a struggling offense. I believe the Jaguars' defense should be able to do the same thing this season, and I consider that more important than the overall rankings.
Chris from Jacksonville:
How "fair" do you think the national media's criticisms of Gabbert have been? I understand why they do it (Jags are easy targets), but do you think it is "fair" to completely rip on a national level an extremely young quarterback who was thrown into the type of awful situation Gabbert was put in last year? I have to wonder if Gabbert was playing for the Cowboys last season and they struggled, would the media rip him like they have or would they be more forgiving and optimistic? Since when should any team ever abandon hope on a top 10 QB selection after only starting the guy 14 games? Ridiculousness.
John: Of course it's not fair. Most media criticize Gabbert because they saw maybe all or parts of two or three games, and they criticize him because the team went 5-11 and Gabbert ranked low in the passer ratings. And yes, they criticize because it's easy. They also criticize because Gabbert didn't play all that well through a lot of the season. Under normal circumstances, the criticism of Gabbert might be a bit more merited. But Gabbert was moving from a spread to a pro-style offense, doing it after a lockout, and also doing it with largely a lame-duck coaching staff. But you know what's best for Gabbert? All that criticism, fair or not, means nothing. He'll get a chance going forward to prove it was wrong.
Greg from Neptune Beach, FL:
Why are you convinced Marcedes Lewis will rebound from last year? I really hope he does, but I remember him having some pretty big problems catching the ball every season except for two years ago.
John: I don't know that I'm "convinced," but I believe he probably will be improved. I think a lot of things went wrong in a lot of areas last season, and I think a lot of those things fed off each other. I think the receivers will get better, and that Gabbert will get better, and I think those things happening will make it easier for Lewis to succeed. I also think he is an elite athlete with a lot of pride, and those sorts of players tend to respond when challenged.
Jensen from College Station, TX:
Were you not invited to cover the Roar Calendar shoot or did you decide not to go because the sunshine would hamper your nap time?
John: The Roar was busy. I didn't want to be a distraction.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
Can we stop with the MJD contract talks until training camp starts?
John: Realistically, because my job is to answer questions, probably not.
Josh from Jacksonville Beach and Section 106:
What are you referring to when you say the entire 2008 offseason set the franchise back significantly? Thanks, O-man.
John: The Jaguars traded up in the draft for two players, Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves, neither of whom played a significant role. They did this at a time when the roster was aging, and they could have used additional draft selections to begin rebuilding rather than retooling. They also signed Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence as free agents, and neither contributed. Every team has their times of missteps. For the Jaguars, the 2008 offseason was such a time and it took a while from which to recover.
Ben from Slime City:
As this offseason winds down and the preseason approaches, it looks like one of the best additions to this franchise is you. You've kept us informed and offered unbiased opinions about our Jags. This offseason has been flying by for most fans due to all your hard work. I speak for everyone when I say, Thank you.
John: Thanks, Dad. I'm not sure you speak for "everyone," but I'll call later.
Ross from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
If MJD plays the season out and has a good year, do you think Gene Smith would be more willing to negotiate an extension next offseason?
John: A lot of that would depend on how it appears Jones-Drew is physically. If he appears to be slowing down and if the years of carries seems to be weighing on him, those things will come into play. But certainly logic would tell you a renegotiation would be more logical with one year left on the deal as opposed to two.
Jason from North Pole, AK:
Do you think the Texans still would have won the division last season if Peyton had been healthy? And if not, how many more seasons do you think the Colts could have held on?
John: I think it would have been close, but my guess is the Colts would have won the division. I think the Colts would have remained competitive and making the postseason until Manning was no longer effective. As bad as the Colts looked last season, remember: they were 10-6 in 2010 with a slew of injuries at several key positions.
Laurie from Neptune Beach, FL:
Y'all are making me blush.
John: Good week for Laurie.
Frank from St. Augustine, FL:
When teams are scheduled to play in London, do both teams give up a home game or just one team? What I'm getting at is if the Jags play in London they don't necessarily have to give up a home game, do they?
John: Only one team has to give up a home game, but Shad Khan has been pretty open about his willingness and desire to play in London. My guess is if the Jaguars do play overseas they'll be the one sacrificing the home game.
Dave from Panama City, FL:
I don't buy the "preseason record doesn't count" theory. I agree it's important to evaluate players, but it seems to me that good teams – consistent playoff teams – win more games in the preseason. Of course there may be exceptions, but as a general rule I think I'm correct. Educate me...... PS. Moving to Jax this fall. Can't wait to get my season tickets next year.
John: One has nothing to do with the other. It's all about evaluation. St. Louis went 4-0 last preseason, and looked great. Atlanta went 0-4, and looked pretty bad at times. If you want to evaluate anything in preseason, pay close attention to what's going on when the starters are playing. Though that also can be unreliable, it can sometimes provide some insight. You also can certainly see things in one-on-one matchups at times. But for the most part, who wins and who loses in preseason just isn't a great indicator.

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