Let's get to it . . . Jerry from Tamarac, FL:
When Gene is at any of these scouting events that take place does he concentrate mainly on the top prospects or our need areas or generally all prospects available?
John: Smith and the Jaguars' scouting staff at an event such as the Senior Bowl divide the players into position groups, with each scout focusing on a group. The scout watches the players in the group, interviews them and the staff reviews notes as a group throughout the week. Smith certainly focuses on players of particular interest, but he also is thorough enough to gather information on most of the players at an event the size of the Senior Bowl.
Dan from Egg Harbor Township, NJ:
How are us Jags fans supposed to get excited for the draft when we have Gene Smith making our picks? The guy seriously picked Tyson Alualu over Jason Pierre-Paul two years ago.
John: Many teams were wary of Pierre-Paul. Uncertainty surrounded him coming out of college in 2010, and a topic among many at the Senior Bowl this week was just that – that he was an example of a relatively risky pick instead turning out to be a very good player. It happens. Is Pierre-Paul a big-time player? No doubt. But let's not rewrite history to make it look like that was an obvious selection at the time. Alualu is a staple of the defensive line and he has been bothered by a knee injury his first two seasons. The Jaguars' struggles in recent seasons have not been because they drafted Alualu. He has played well and was a focal point of the sixth-ranked defense this season. As for getting excited about Gene Smith's picks, let me say this: a high-ranking official from a 2011 playoff team told me at the Senior Bowl that the Jaguars' scouting staff is perhaps the NFL's best. I get that it's hard to accept that because of the 5-11 record this past season, but it's far from the first time I've heard it and that's a pretty common belief around the NFL.
Eric from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Being realistic, what do you think the chances are that the Jags will have Mario Williams on the roster by September of 2012?
John: Not to be evasive, but we're about 45 days from the start of free agency. I think there's a better-than- even chance the Texans will not re-sign Williams and if he's free, I think there's a better-than-even chance the Jaguars would pursue him. If those two things happen, it would depend on where Williams wants to play, so while I wouldn't bet my house on Williams playing in Jacksonville it's far from an absurd thought, either.
Alex from Jacksonville:
Much has been said about how Blaine Gabbert is expected to make a huge jump going into his second year. Do you feel like Will Rackley will also be able make a big jump going into his second year?
John: Yes. Rackley was a clear example of a player as a rookie who could have used a year as a backup to learn the NFL. Instead, he played as a rookie, started pretty much the whole season and seemed to improve as the season continued. That experience absolutely should benefit him.
Chris Rocha from Crestview, FL:
I disagree with the Torry Holt signing. Each stopgap veteran like that stunts your development of a younger, raw player. We only have so many roster spots. Often, cuts must be made and how many times have we seen a great player cut? Didn't Johnny Unitas start with the Steelers?
John: Different circumstances call for different approaches. Ideally, you would have a "pure roster" in the sense that every player would be drafted and developed at every position. Your team would be veteran starters with young, developing players behind them. The NFL is not always ideal – in fact, that's rarely the case. The Jaguars need to improve at receiver immediately, so it may be a case where at least one veteran player on a short-term basis could be the proper fit.
Rjaaenee from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Thanks for the videos from Mobile. When you are showing players in drills, do I need to pay attention to the name and number of the player or is it just filming the practice?
John: It's just filming of players practicing. No hints in the videos. Even if we at jaguars.com were so inclined, it's way too early to provide accurate hints.
Keith from DeLeon Springs, FL:
Does the head coach have carte blanche when putting together a staff? How much input does the GM have, or does he just give a thumbs up or thumbs down to the coach's choice?
John: Like many things in the NFL, it depends on the situation. In the case of the Jaguars, Mike Mularkey and Gene Smith worked together, with Mularkey certainly leading the way and having final say but with Smith having input. Sometimes, there's this perception that everything in life and in the NFL is some sort of confrontation or struggle with one side or the other having to have final say and the other side coming away bitter and unhappy. Ideally, people working together such as Smith and Mularkey meet, discuss and come to consensus. If they generally share the same philosophy and values, reaching that consensus is not only usually easy, but sometimes produces a better result than someone doing it alone. All indications are that Smith and Mularkey have the beginnings of such a relationship.
Dakota from Clearlake Oaks, CA:
Can we get an update on D'Anthony Smith? I almost forgot about him.
John: Smith is continuing to strengthen and is a pretty simple case of a player who has had bad luck with injuries. When he has played in training camp the last two seasons, he has done a lot of things the Jaguars like. The feeling is still that he has a very real chance to be a part of the rotation.
Travis from The Colony, TX:
What rating on paper would you give the Jaguars' coaching staff at first glance? It seems as though Mike Mularkey has assembled one of the better, more well-rounded staffs in the league. In addition, there is a good blend of freshness and experience as far as NFL tenure is concerned.
John: There was a lot of praise both publicly and privately at the Senior Bowl for the Jaguars' coaching staff. Many, many people who know football will tell you, for example, that Jerry Sullivan is one of the best two or three wide receivers coaches in the NFL, and that there is little doubt the Jaguars' receivers will improve underneath him. Greg Olsen at quarterbacks coach has experience as a coordinator, and the two coordinators – Bob Bratkowski and Mel Tucker – have extensive experience as well. Pretty much everyone you talked to thinks Mike Mularkey is a solid choice as head coach, and they weren't surprised that he has been able to assemble a professional, experienced staff. Obviously it's early and these guys haven't even been in the office as a group at the same time, but at first glance it's a good start.
Jeremiah from Atlantic Beach, FL:
No question. I just read the message board about the Bucs hiring Schiano. It's funny to read another team's fans talk about exciting the fan base with the hire of a head coach. One guy was calling for Marty Ball. Really? Isn't he close to 70? Anyway, I guess you're right. Fans are fans, no matter what team.
John: I did find it interesting that aside from Jeff Fisher in St. Louis every job opening around the NFL was filled with a decidedly unsplashy hire. The reaction to most among fan bases was what you'd expect – criticism and a lot of public complaint about not being familiar with the name. Some of these hires will work and some won't, but the key will be having a professional coach who puts together a solid staff that is on the same page – and then, getting to work. Coaching isn't sexy or splashy, and the good franchises know a coaching hire isn't judged in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
Matt from Clemson, SC:
I don't know the statistics on this, but my impression is that when healthy we had a strong secondary last season. Now, we brought in a new secondary coach. Are there advantages and disadvantages to this? Can a secondary actually regress in terms of effectiveness due to a new coach?
John: Sure it can. It can also improve under the guidance of a new coach. Why assume the secondary will digress? I heard nothing this week at the Senior Bowl from people around the league that indicate Tony Oden will come in and turn the secondary into a shell of itself.
Matt from Jacksonville:
Oh, how soon we forget. So many people want to condemn Gene Smith for selecting Blaine Gabbert at No. 10. I've even heard so-called experts on local radio criticize the pick as a "reach."How did we forget that all the draft projections and mock drafts had Gabbert at No. 1? Even the most pessimistic had him going in the Top 5. On Draft Day, everyone was amazed that he was still available at No. 10 and Smith was praised by those in the know for pulling off a coup to get Gabbert. I expect fans to be irrational and ignorant, but it really irritates me when people who get paid to know football fuel the fire by spouting such nonsense.
John: Who says getting paid to know football means you can't be irrational and ignorant?
Let's get to it . . . Jerry from Tamarac, FL: