Let's get to it . . . Paul from Jacksonville:
The "Hard Knocks" stuff is getting to be almost as fun as questions about Tebow and Gabbert. There seems to be a perception that an NFL reality TV series needs to be over-sensationalized to be successful. I would think being able to see into the everyday lives of some of the most elite athletes in the world would be enough of a hook, wouldn't you?
John: You almost lost me at Tebow and Gabbert questions being fun, but I stayed strong, negotiated your email and came out better for it on the other side. The people at Hard Knocks better hope the show can be successful without over-sensationalizing, because with rare exceptions, football people do what they can do to avoid controversy and distractions. Fortunately, it's a compelling enough game that you don't need to be over the top. Hard Knocks, to the best of my recollection, wasn't really all that controversial before the Jets/Rex Ryan season, and Ryan is a rarity in that he doesn't mind the attention. But the show was popular and successful without that, and there's no question Hard Knocks can be successful without over-sensationalizing. If that wasn't the case, it never would have lasted as long and it wouldn't have had its long-term popularity.
Brad from the sidelines:
Do you ever fear that players read your comments about "personality" and might get their feelings hurt for not being "on the list" and then decide to take a shot at you in the hallways? ;-)
John: If they did, I'm sure Hard Knocks would love it.
Ray from Jacksonville:
Maybe my memory is shaky, but it sure seems like I've always heard how a good offense helps a defense and a bad offense hurts them. I've only heard this "bad offense helped defense" this year, and only about this team specifically. Is this a theory that you have heard often?
John: As with most sports topics, this is an argument people will twist to fit their point of view. A good offense obviously helps a defense because it makes the team better. Now, it is true that the statistics of a defense can be helped when the offense struggles because the opposing offense in theory can play more conservatively with the knowledge that it doesn't have to take risks to win. A defense also can be helped statistically when its offense is run-oriented, because a run-oriented offense is going to take time off the clock and therefore give opposing offenses fewer chances to get yards. I don't care much about all of that, because as I've said before: whatever the statistics, the Jaguars' defense did its job well when healthy last season. It has to keep getting better, but the improvement last year was pretty significant and if there is improvement next season it would mean a very, very good defense.
Trey from St. Augustine, FL:
One conclusion that I have come up with is to never get excited about anyone in OTAs, training camp, or preseason. The regular season is a completely different monster.
John: I wouldn't say "never," because there are cases when you can see pretty significant improvement in a player in the off-season. That's even more true in training camp and preseason. But yes, temper the excitement until the regular season. The game is different when it counts.
Mathias from Stockholm, Sweden:
I feel the media reporting on Seau is below par. Is there any evidence, even circumstantial, that Junior Seau shot himself in the chest because of too many concussions? There seems to be some sort of assumption that this is somehow concussion-related. I've tried to find an article that reports the facts about his situation, but have not found one that contains anything indicating that there in fact is such a link. However tragic, unless there is any kind of evidence at all it would seem a lot more likely to me to be depression-related due to the loss of external validation, fame and status as an elite athlete etc. Can you shed some light on this? I want to know if such a link is real or if Seau's death is just being used as a means to an end to feed a fire.
John: Your concern is well-founded. In this case, I don't know that the "reporting" is below par, but I would say the media probably has jumped the start a bit. By that, I mean while it is natural to assume Seau's situation was concussion-related, there's nothing to report in that area because doctors have not yet determined whether that's the case. That's not necessarily bad reporting, but a case in which there are no facts to report. It would be nice if we lived in a world in which the media could accurately portray that but because the media is more than journalists now – i.e., bloggers, tweeters, fans-turned-commentators – stories such as Seau's are polluted with so much opinion and speculation that the facts are blurred beyond recognition. All of that said, I don't know that I'd categorize the media's approach as a means to feed the fire. I'd say the approach is just a byproduct of the technological age in which we live, and something that we're going to have to get used to – if we haven't already.
Thomas from Jacksonville:
In your opinion, what was Gabbert's best moment as a rookie? (I know cynics and naysayers will probably think there wasn't any, however he had moments where he flashed his potential just like he had moments that made you cringe).
John: The two that stand out were the touchdown pass to Zach Miller against New Orleans and the one to Chastin West against Atlanta. Each throw showed the arm talent and ability to recognize that's tough to teach. There were others, and if you were watching closely, Gabbert showed plenty about which to be optimistic last season. What he needs work on are the coachable things and that's what's going on during OTAs.
Tim from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Speaking on the business side, I'm not a big fan of the split contract. I feel this causes players not to give 100 percent in order to keep themselves healthy and paid full salary. One of the smartest contracts that I've read about would be that of Rashean Mathis. He's a veteran who is coming back from a major injury. He seems to have a fair and basic contract that's loaded with performance-based incentives. It seems simple: you play, you get pay. Do you see the future NFL evolving into this being the norm; basic salaries per position, but performance based incentives? We saw rookie salaries change and the result was a more exciting draft. Your thoughts?
John: If teams had their way, all contracts would be set up with as many performance-based incentives as possible. The problem is in the era of free agency, you're competing with all other teams for players and players understandably want guaranteed money up front. So long as there is something close to a free-market system, you're not going to have a league of contracts that are performance-based. You can offer them, but there's always going to be some team willing to guarantee money up front as a way to lure the player.
Nick from St. Paul, MN:
What do you honestly think about the Texans? They are obviously our No. 1 threat in winning the division, but a lot of analysts seem to think they're Tier 1 in the AFC along with the Steelers, Ravens, and Patriots. I know their defense got better last season (ours will be better this year) and their offense has a couple of weapons, but am I the only one that thinks they're a bit overrated and the Jags have a solid chance at outshining them this season?
John: There were a few weeks before quarterback Matt Schaub got hurt last year I thought the Texans were very good – good enough to make that move toward being a late-round playoff team. What impresses me about the Texans is they seem to have a sound offensive system that has been pretty reliable for an extended period of time. That leads you to believe it's not going away. They also have done a nice job of building a good, young defense, so I don't have a problem with people who put them with the Steelers, Ravens and Patriots at the top of the AFC. They're as good a choice as any. That said, the NFL is year-to-year and very much about matchups, and I don't think anyone around the Jaguars thinks the Texans are an unbeatable force. That's the level the Jaguars have to reach to be a playoff contender, and I'd say the feeling around the organization is that's a reachable level.
Strnbiker from Dothan, AL:
Other than naps, what is the part of your job you enjoy the most?
John: After an important meeting has been held, we sometimes get emails that there's food in the break room. I've become awfully fond of that.
Food in the break room!!
Let's get to it . . . Paul from Jacksonville: