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O-Zone: A fine, fine man

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Greg from Palatka, FL:
What's your gut? Does Gabbert play Sunday or not?
John: I believe Blaine Gabbert will play. He has progressed daily, and as of Saturday morning, he has 24 more hours to heal before Sunday's regular-season opener. He appeared to be throwing the ball well in practice Friday. It wouldn't shock me if he doesn't play, but if you're asking me to guess, I'd guess he starts Sunday.
Bill from Jacksonville:
How does a team with six Pro Bowl players lose 14 games?
John: Bill! 'Sup!? You're referring to the Chiefs last season, of course, and as I've said often: winning in the NFL sometimes is about more than raw talent. A lot goes into it: correct preparation, limiting mistakes, winning close games, getting some belief in what you're doing, etc. Sometimes, it can be as simple as one position group not performing – say, the offensive line. If that happens, the offense doesn't function and no matter how well the defense plays, it doesn't matter. In the case of the Chiefs last season, they had a 37-13 giveaway-takeaway ratio and that certainly didn't help. The Chiefs acquired quarterback Alex Smith in the offseason. He's known for not making costly turnovers, so they obviously feel if they reduce that ratio or turn it around they can improve pretty dramatically. And maybe they're right.
Amar from New Orleans, LA:
Do you see Luke being the nastiest player on offense? I hope he is going to maul defenders in the run game.
John: I don't know about "nastiest." There are some nasty types on the offense, but I think Joeckel will prove to be far nastier on the field than he appears when talking to him off the field. We shall see. It's difficult to tell just how nasty a lineman is in preseason. This will play out over time, and I suspect Jaguars fans will like the rookie's nastiness level.
Manuel from Jacksonville and Section 215:
I am surprised with your early-than-usual O-Zones. Is this as result of a bonus or promotion you got to motivate you? Or is it as result of an ultimatum from Lamping?
John: What's a "bonus?"
James from Jacksonville:
Watching the first quarter Thursday night, Peyton Manning looked a little off and I was having small wonderings that he might be slipping at least a bit. Things got better in the second quarter though, and then came the second half. No. He hasn't slipped a bit.
John: No, he hasn't. Having covered him 10 years, I will say his arm doesn't look as strong as perhaps it once did. But his ability to see the field, throw to the right receiver and get the team into the right play makes up for it – and then some. If he keeps working at it, he has a chance to be pretty good.
Jeremy from Andover, KS:
What's the deal with hits on receivers over the middle with the Ravens/Broncos? There were several in the game (on Dallas Clark, for example) that it just seems like last year would have easily been defenseless-receiver penalties. Did the rule or guidance on the rule change? It just seems inconsistent with last year. After last year, it seemed that the rule had basically eliminated those types of hits from the game. Are they actually letting them play football again?
John: Players adapt to rules changes, and that will happen as time goes on, but I don't know that that accounts for the feeling you got from Baltimore/Denver. I watched the hit on Clark, and it looked like a legal, hard hit. That has nothing to do with officials calling it differently and everything to do with the player making a proper hit.
Mike from Atlanta, GA:
Stole my wallet and spent 30 minutes helping me look for it. #ShadrickSightings
John: Yes. Yes. Absolutely.
Mark from Jacksonville:
Hindsight is 20/20. Was releasing Daryl Smith a mistake?
John: The answer remains, "Time will tell." I've weighed in on this often, and the explanation about this situation really hasn't changed. Jaguars defensive players will tell you Smith was the best player on the defense in 2011. But he missed 14 games last season with a groin injury and was entering his 10th season. That combination of age and a recent injury is a difficult combination for a team trying to determine whether to re-sign a player with whom they are unfamiliar.
Dennis from Salt Water Beach:
My friend and I were texting back and forth talking fantasy football smack prior to the Denver-Ravens game. Rooster, as we call him, is a die-hard Jags fan and season-ticket holder. By now, I thought for sure he would know all-about #Moodachay. After all, it has been over two months since the inception. Not so much. His responding text stated "Yeah, I see it all the time but have no clue. Is it a Tomahawk Indian who's tee-pee caught on fire and he is now in a bad mood." I couldn't help but share...
John: Tell him to read here.
Grant from Jacksonville:
After the rain delay Thursday, I noticed while the Ravens were exiting their locker room that most players walked right out while a few walked up to an official and got what looked like a pat down, as if trying to search for weapons, by touching their shoulder pads and going down the sides of their waist. Any idea what that was about?
John: They likely were checking players for illegal substances. Players can't put substances on their jerseys to make them slicker or harder to grasp. Usually, offensive and defensive linemen are checked for this. I didn't see what you're talking about, but that's the best guess.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
Will Ta''u or whatever his name is is the best blocking fullback in the NFL? I don't think so. Did you happen to watch Vontae Leach of the Ravens last night? There's the best fullback in the NFL. He's a crushing blocker and can catch passes out of the backfield. Blaine hit hands of stone Will right in the hands with a pass in the preseason that turned into an interception. Please don't patronize us with statements such as "Will is the best blocking fullback in the NFL". We're not that stupid.
John: Wallace, you're usually a very astute reader with good questions, but in this case, I'd ask you to read what was written. I wrote on Thursday that Pro Football Focus graded Ta'ufo'ou as the best blocking fullback during the 2013 preseason. I did not write that he's the best blocking fullback in the NFL. When I write things using analytics and statistics web sites I do so in the same vein as the team uses analytics – as a tool to help people better understand what's going on. People don't know much about Ta'ufo'ou, so I offered the statistic to indicate that he might actually be pretty good despite his lack of name recognition. So, no, you're not stupid and I never said you were. In this case, though, you weren't as smart as usual.
Tom from Ponte Vedra Beach and Section 106:
I'm waiting for the second half Sunday to see how well this staff makes adjustments. All too often last year we'd play respectably in the first half and fall by the wayside in the second.
John: You're right. That appeared to be a major problem last year. It was remarkable and mindboggling last season at times to watch games snowball out of control. I'll be watching it, too. A lot of people will.
Dakota from Dupree, SD:
What does the depth chart at tight end look like? Who will start and who will play the second tight end spot if Lewis is out?
John: Marcedes Lewis indeed is out with a calf injury. Allen Reisner will start, with Clay Harbor and D.J. Williams also likely active. Reisner showed during training camp he can be effective as a pass receiver, though it's doubtful the Jaguars can duplicate Lewis as a blocker. It angers people sometimes to hear people talk about Lewis' importance as a run blocker, but it's real and that may be where he is missed the most Sunday.
Andy from St. John's, FL:
I thought I read the O-Zone every day and watch every View from the O-Zone video and follow you on Twitter, but what is up with this #shadricksightings? I must have missed something here. Obviously, it is taking real-life examples and implying JP is cheap, but what did I miss? How did this all start?
John: #Shadricksightings are a running joke that started about a week ago, playing on the character/persona of our own J.P. Shadrick as a Southern gentleman who loves life and all it offers, savoring every moment of life and getting by with as much as he can. Remember, it's a persona and not real life. In real life, he's a kind, giving soul who thinks only of others, donates much of his salary to charity, eats a gluten-free diet and volunteers at local churches and outreach programs five nights a week and every other weekend. He's as fine a man as I've ever met and if he liked me in the least, I'd be proud to call him my friend.

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