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O-Zone: A funny, funny word

Let's get to it . . . Marcus from Jacksonville:
We've heard a lot lately about the evaluation of the roster. I'm assuming the evaluation is done in large part through watching game film, so my question is, "Does that hurt Blaine Gabbert's chances?" We heard all last year that he was much improved in training camp, and he was head and shoulders above Henne on the practice field. That obviously didn't translate to games, so will that hurt him in the evaluation process?
John: I doubt it will hurt Gabbert, one reason being he was a high-profile enough selection that Caldwell and anyone else in the NFL likely had scouted him and had an idea of his value coming out of college. Another reason is that Gabbert almost certainly will have a roster spot entering the offseason, and at that point, his status will be about how he performs from that point forward. That's the positive of the situation for a lot of Jaguars players with the new leadership – what went on before doesn't matter nearly as much as what will happen in the future. If Gabbert performs and earns playing time, then performs well in the games, the events of his first two seasons won't be a factor in how these new decision-makers view him.
Tery from Jacksonville:
Hypothetical scenario: Kaepernick goes down in the Super Bowl. Smith comes in and wins. Your thoughts?
John: I think that'd be awesome for the 49ers. Winning the Super Bowl is a "cool" thing for a franchise.
Steve from Section 206:
We all know the Pro Bowl is a popularity contest. The players get a free vacation in Hawaii and the fans get to see the best of the best have fun with each other on the field. I guess people would rather see it played like Pete Rose when he took out Fosse in the All-Star game? I don't know.
John: We have continued to get emails about the Pro Bowl all week, so people obviously care about this issue – probably more than I do, to be honest. Each year around this time there are a slew of stories about how to "fix" the Pro Bowl. The issue gained momentum last season when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed concern over the quality of the game. My prevailing thought remains two-fold – that it's an All-Star game that no one is forced to watch and that most reasonable people understand that players aren't going to risk injury by blocking and tackling at the normal level of intensity. The ratings for this year's game were similar to the World Series, so it's hard to imagine the game going away or really needing a drastic change.
Hoboman from Jacksonville:
O, I live in your Basement.
John: I live on a slab.
Chris from Jacksonville:
GM Gene put a strong emphasis on finding "character" guys. Most of his picks or free-agent signees were usually team captains and not found on police blotters. Obviously, this formula did not work. Do you see the new regime going for some more colorful "characters" who can actually play?
John: Smith was criticized for many things, and the emphasis on character was one of them. But he was far from alone in NFL circles believing character is important when evaluating players. Bill Polian and Tony Dungy, the key decision-makers through much of David Caldwell's time in Indianapolis, emphasized character a great deal, so it stands to reason Caldwell likely believes it has importance. Will Caldwell remove as many players from the board as Smith did or emphasize it as much? That's hard to say, with many such decisions being case by case, but I don't think you'll see Caldwell completely ignoring character and signing player after player with reality television shows.
Paul from Jacksonville:
When does the O-man get to take a vacation?
John: Whenever I darned well want. Well, except for during the season. Or the preseason. Or during the combine. Or the owners meetings. Or the draft. Or during the weeks leading to the draft. Or Senior Bowl Week. Or minicamp. Or training camp. Or OTAs. OK, June 25-27.
Will from Jacksonville:
It still makes no sense. If Bradley had two coordinator candidates targeted, why tell us that it will take a long time to make hires?
Greg from Jacksonville and Section 137:
Where can we purchase a set of those carved Jaguars jaws? They look expensive, but I must have them. I simply must.
John: The Jaguars jaws belong to the head of our digital media department, whose name escapes me because I don't know it. Although I'm told he does a decent job, between you and me, I can't imagine the jaws are too expensive. Let's just leave it at that.
Jim from Jacksonville:
Did we drop the ball in not waiting for Greg Roman?
John: I guess the only answer to this is, "We shall see." Greg Roman never has been a head coach in the NFL, nor has Gus Bradley. Both were respected coordinators ready to make the jump to head coach. The Jaguars are ecstatic to get Bradley, and many in league circles believe he and Caldwell are a good team capable of building a winning franchise. It's very possible Roman is capable of doing the same. Gus Bradley is the coach of the Jaguars, and I've gotten no sense that anyone around here is remotely disappointed about that.
Jerry from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Many of the Jaguars injuries this year occurred during physical practices run by the head coach. Strength and conditioning coaches can only offer their opinion on work-out and stretching regimens. The head coach determines the duration, intensity and nature of the teams practices and preparation.
John: There is sometimes a tendency after a coaching change to jump on all things that happened under the former regime as awful and the reason for something that went wrong. While certainly many things Mike Mularkey and the former staff did went wrong, and while last season was indeed a lost one, I can't necessarily blame physical practices for the injury situations. Again, the Jaguars had a slew of injuries in 2011 and 2012. Mularkey's practice regime hardly could be blamed for the injuries in 2011, and however physical Mularkey's practices may have been, league rules limited those practices to one day a week. Injuries happen in the NFL. Some years some teams have more than others. Sometimes, the reasons for those injuries are having players predisposed to injuries. Sometimes, the schedule of practice has something to do with it. Sometimes, there are rashes of injuries at positions that lead to more injuries at that position. Rarely, is it one thing and it hasn't been one thing around the Jaguars lately, either.
Ed from Winston Salem, NC:
Do you think Rob Ryan would be a good fit as a defensive coach in Jacksonville?
John: Not if he wants to be a defensive coordinator. Bob Babich has been hired for that position. Besides, Ryan typically has been associated with the 3-4 defense and new Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley has typically run a 4-3-based scheme.
Micah from Springfield, MO:
In years past, I understood the quarterback hype. This year? I don't understand it at all. Geno Smith? Really? I'm no scout, but I don't see that elite level talent when I've seen him play. While I think we will see a few first-round quarterbacks this year, I don't think there should be. Why is there such hype over Geno Smith?
John: Is there hype over Smith? I'm not sure there is. Smith created a lot of buzz early in the season at West Virginia, but that cooled. He is projected as a first-round selection – and there are indeed those who believe he may go No. 1 to the Chiefs – but most draft analysts think that would be a case of the Chiefs reaching for a player not really worthy of the No. 1 selection. So, while Smith may indeed be drafted early, I don't know that I see much "hype" about the possibility.
Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
One more question, again assuming read-option quarterbacks are the future: Do you see NFL teams looking more at other teams' backups who were written off as running quarterbacks or projects? Guys like Dennis Dixon and Pat White come to mind.
John: I don't assume read-option quarterbacks are the future. I think the read option gives teams with highly skilled quarterbacks who can run really fast an option to use that speed in their offense. For that reason, I don't see teams going back and trying to resuscitate the careers of players who didn't make it in conventional offenses.
Nick from Annapolis, MD:
Your column was uninspiring and failed to spark a decent question, so I decided to whine like a baby instead. I have had my fair share of questions answered, but never have I been selected as the punch line final answer question. I think you have bad taste.
John: Speaking of "uninspiring."
Johnny from Section 141 and Palatka, FL:
Look, free is my second favorite word, so I love your freeness here at, but I really need you to answer more questions in the O-Zone every day. I gotta fill eight - EIGHT! - hours here, five days a week, or so. So between breaks, naps, and lunch(es), I still need to kill about two hours. Thanks in advance. Government jobs rule. Go Jags.
John: My favorite word is duty. I always laugh when I say it. "Duty." "Heh." See?

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