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O-Zone: Al...most...there

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Coop from Jacksonville:
What's the deal with some people being punt returners and some being kickoff returners? Is there really that much difference?
John: Actually, yes. While at first glance it might seem strange that many teams have one player returning punts and another returning kicks, the roles in fact require significantly skill sets. A punt returner ideally has the ability to make defenders miss in a tight space, then accelerate quickly away from the dodged defenders. A kickoff returner typically relies more on straight-ahead speed, reason being he is receiving the ball in more space than a kick returner. There are players with the ability to both, but there usually aren't 32 who can do both well, which means a lot of teams have different players in the roles.
Ryan from Detroit, MI:
O-man, will you join my Fantasy Football league?
John: No, but you can fantasize about that maybe never happening.
Mike from Jagsonville:
The expectation (and I share it) is that all the draft picks are going to be good to very, very good. Is there a stat on how many rookies make it?
John: There's not really a statistic because people have different definitions of "making it." Does it mean making the team? Or does it mean contributing for three or four seasons? Does it mean being a core player/starter? Realistically, if you get two core players from a draft who sign long-term second contracts with the team and three others who are starters and key contributors that's a very, very good draft. That means you will probably be disappointed with this draft, because those drafts are rare. But that's OK. You won't be alone. Most people have unrealistic expectations for draft classes – and, of course, for pretty much everything.
Christian from Menasha:
I like your team.
John: Welcome aboard.
Beau from Mountain Home, ID:
Why is it, when I read the O-Zone, Weird Al's song "Word Crimes" comes to mind?
John: Maybe you're on something.
Wallace from Jacksonville:
What's with the not-so-veiled question from Bryan Anger asking when people will stop talking about what round he was drafted in? All he did was change the spelling of his name for the question. By the way, his answer to his question depends on two things - just how productive his NFL career turns out (so far, jury is out) and how productive Russell Wilson's NFL career turns out. As Gene Smith passed on Wilson to draft Anger, Gene's choice could be one that's talked about for many years. You think that's a fair assessment?
John: It has become vogue to constantly mention that Anger was drafted before Wilson. It's an easy fact to mention because it's cute and sounds ridiculous in retrospect. Therefore, it will continue to get a lot of mileage. But the reality is a whole lot of teams passed on Wilson, and there was never any chance the Jaguars were going to take Wilson or any other quarterback early that year. They had just drafted Blaine Gabbert in the Top 10 the year before and they weren't ready to give up on him at that point. Obviously in retrospect that appears to be the wrong decision but it's not really right to say Smith passed on Wilson to take Anger. It wasn't "either-or," it was just the decision that got made at the time. It probably wasn't significantly worse than a lot of draft-day moves, but because of the circumstances, sure, it will get talked about for a long time.
Tim from St. Petersburg, FL:
John, what's the deal with all your minions spotting you from their cars? Real fans follow behind and in step. A la Forrest Gump.
John: And what's weird is those are just the women.
Lindsey from Jacksonville:
John, looking at the schedule, it seems the NFL did the Jaguars no favors. This looks like a very difficult start to the season, but I still can't wait to get started.
John: The Jaguars' schedule to start the season isn't easy by any means, though the league of course owes no team any favors. Going out of the division on the road to start the season, especially with the first game at Philadelphia, probably isn't the ideal start. Still you have to play every team on your schedule sometime and I've long believed that you really know very little about strength of schedule until five or six weeks into the season, anyway. Too much changes from year to year within the NFL – and injuries are too big of a factor – to assume much about the schedule in the offseason. But you know what? Even if the early season schedule is tough, NFL schedules are supposed to be tough. Win a few of those tough early games and suddenly you're in good shape in October.
Dave from St. Augustine Shores, FL:
The Doctor prescribed bourbon and soda for my bouts of nostalga. Of course, I've taken to calling myself The Doctor recently.
John: We now have people concerned about not only feeling nostigalic but about their bouts of nostalga. If anyone actually starts feeling nostalgic over this it's going to give me a really sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Or something like that.
Eric from Boston/DTWD:
ALMOST DONE STUDYING FOR THE BAR!! Let's grab a beer or 10 when I am back in Duval County before the Bucs game. It's not like you will have to work or anything..
John: May I ask who's calling, please?
The Guy Who Proposed on the O-Zone from the Dead Zone:
I decided to watch baseball this year and I came to an epiphany. I think one of the top three reasons football became so popular is because of the instant replay. There is so much time between plays for football it allows an instant replay for the laymen. What think you? Oh yea... holdout, webcam, and I can see the light.
John: I think you may have pretty low standards for "epiphany." I understand liking instant replay. I can even see a guy sitting around, watching an NFL game and saying to a friend, "You know, that instant replay … it's cool. I like it." Besides, the NFL was already on its way to being wildly popular by the time Commissioner Paul Tagliabue pushed for and got approved the current instant-replay system in 1999. While it's not perfect, it's now hard to imagine the NFL without replay and for the most part it has accomplished its objective of ensuring the league does not miss obvious calls. Still, I can't say it's one of the top three reasons for the game's popularity. Top five? Maybe, but not top three.
Mike from East Moline, IL:
I think there is something missing from the goal-line runner conversation. Many of these runners' yards were paved by great offensive lines. I would feel good about getting in the end zone on 4th-and-1 if I am handing off to Jerome Bettis, running behind Tom Rathman and the 1992-1994 Cowboys' offensive line.
John: Without question goal-line runners depend on their offensive line. Come to think of it, that's true of pretty much every type of runner.
Geoff from Orlando, FL:
What's the most important position group that needs to improve on the Jaguars next season?
John: The entire team still needs to improve. That's the reason the Jaguars addressed just about every area in the offseason. But if I had to pick one, I'd say offensive line. The Jaguars appear to have upgraded the left side with the return of left tackle Luke Joeckel and the addition of left guard Zane Beadles. If the group as a whole can be more consistent, then that will give Chad Henne and a young group of running backs and receivers a chance to make significant strides. If the line struggles it will be difficult for this offense to improve.
Jimbo from El Bimbo and Jacksonville:
Here John, I will whisper this: you're crazy.
John: Huh?
Ralph from Orange Park, FL:
For best runners of all time, I would certainly include one Gale Sayers.
John: A lot of people who watched football in the 1960s would agree. I don't know that you can put Sayers in the category of best running backs of all time but in terms of an exciting player to watch – and a player who for a small period of time demanded attention – Sayers ranks with any player in NFL history.
Gary from Jacksonville:
It was a dark and stormy night. The kind you read about in lousy mystery books. Suddenly there was a bright light shining. As I looked closer it was the new video boards, a new season about to start and a new day dawning for a NFL team on the rise. It was glorious. I even think I heard heaven's choir break forth in song! Oh the sound of pads cracking, leather slapping and loud grunts are soon to fill the air. What could be sweeter? Go Jags!
John: Players report Thursday.

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