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O-Zone: Brand new friend

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Andrew from Crawfordsville, FL:
Will the release of Jason Babin be eligible for a compensatory pick in next year's draft if he is picked up by another team and plays a decent amount of snaps this year?
John: No. Jason Babin was released by the Jaguars Thursday morning, and the key word there is "released." Only unrestricted free agents – meaning players whose contracts expire – count under the compensatory system.
Brian from New Hampshire:
Is the cutting of Jason Babin a sign of how well Chris Smith and Andre Branch are progressing? I just find it weird to re-sign him just to cut him before training camp.
John: Yes, the release of Babin is a sign that Branch and Smith are progressing. It is a bit odd to re-sign him and then release him, but Babin didn't receive significant guaranteed money to sign. Look at it this way: the Jaguars signed him to ensure they had adequate depth at the Leo position. Releasing him means they believe they have that depth without him on the roster.
Mike from East Moline, IL:
Oh sure, I realize we can only see so much in underwear practices, but how is Andre Branch coming along? Is he developing another pass-rush move? Oh sure, he had a good second half of last season, but will he continue that for a full season? Do you think that there is a probable scenario where Branch has a good enough season the Jags' see him as a long-term solution?
John: Oh, well (see what I did there?), you're right that there is a limit to how much we can learn about Andre Branch or any defensive lineman in OTAs. What I can tell you about Branch is the coaches – particularly Head Coach Gus Bradley – have spoken very highly of Branch throughout OTAs and the three-day minicamp this week. His development appears to have contributed to the decision to release Babin. Branch appears to be in good shape, and from what I have seen of individual pass-rushing work – which really consists of players against a big, rubbery pad – Branch looks quick and athletic. All of that, of course, is leadup to the important time for Branch. That's when the pads go on in training camp. He made strides last season, but no doubt more is expected. As far as being the long-term solution, I don't think it works that way at defensive end. If Branch looks like a really good pass rusher next season, I don't think that means David Caldwell and Bradley are sitting in a room next offseason saying, "Hey, let's not find someone who's really good at rushing the passer."
Tim from Geoje-Si, South Korea:
Coach Bradley a clone? We're an emulating people, John. If we see something that works, we "clone" it 'til we own it. This shouldn't be such a big deal but I guess the media needs something to report. As long as Coach Bradley's approach and philosophies work, call it whatever you want . . . the proof of success is in winning; something we haven't been that good at in the past.
John: Yeah, I can't really pin this one on the media. I haven't heard media talking much about Bradley being a clone of anything. This seems to be one from the fans, and wherever it's from, it's pretty telltale evidence that we're getting to … yes … that time of year. #deadzone
Chad from Yulee, FL:
During this five-week break, what are the CBA rules? Are players allowed to use the facility to work out? Is contact between the players and the coaching staff allowed?
John: Players may use the facility to work out. There may not be contact between players and coaches to discuss football-related matters. Essentially, the team can keep the doors unlocked if players want to come in, but the team can't do anything to even imply that the player should enter.
Mike from Jacksonville:
Realistically, when do you think Bortles makes his first start? Also, I've heard all of the NFL comparisons (Big Ben, Locker, Luck, etc.) - who do you think Bortles will be most like? Thanks!
John: Bortles will start when he's ready, which means perhaps the second half of next season. As for comparisons, I'm working on it. I see the Roethlisberger comparison, although Bortles appears to use athleticism and feel/instinct in the pocket as opposed to using raw strength. I don't see Luck or Locker. Once he gets his footwork down and starts throwing as he's capable, I'll probably have a more accurate answer.
Trae from Jacksonville:
Mr. Oehser, I am sure that I could find this information on my own and I know I have seen it in the past. However, I figure why not ask the genius that is John Oehser. How many minicamp practices will be open to public and which ones? Thanks for your time and I enjoy your column.
John: Two were open to the public – Tuesday and Wednesday – though I sense that may not have been your real question.
James from Westside:
Now that Blake has signed, what do we talk about now???
John: We could talk about me needing to grow up. Or we could talk about why I sat alone a lot in the seventh grade at lunch. No, better yet, let's talk about why "G" (not her real initial) didn't like me back. I never got to talk that one out.
J from Duval:
John: That's right.  Who’s asking?
Bo from Dresden, NC:
During game day do you see the Jaguars suiting up three quarterbacks? If not, is Blake allowed to be on the sidelines or in the coaches skyboxes?
John: I think Bortles will be in uniform, and I'm leaning toward thinking he'll be the backup. Time will tell. Sometimes when I lean, I fall over. Often, I bruise.
Josh from Savannah, GA:
One thing I would like to point out after watching a good bit of film is Allen Hurns' third-down ability. I saw catches made on third-and-long by Hurns from Stephen Morris over and over and over again. To me, this shows the confidence he had from his quarterback in long-distance downs. I like this kid a lot, and I hope he can find some playing time to develop further, and it sounds like the coaches might like him a little bit as well.
John: Hurns is certainly among the players who stood out in OTAs. He not only has shown he is versatile enough to play several receiver positions, he has been remarkably consistent for a rookie. I'm always hesitant to anoint rookies in OTAs. That's especially true of receivers, a position where players can look very good without pads and significantly different with them. But Hurns coming out of OTAs certainly merits a close look during training camp.
Jack from Los Angeles, CA:
Do you think the Jags might go after Brandon Flowers? It would help our cornerback position greatly along with Dwayne Gratz, Alan Ball, and Will Blackmon.
John: No, he's a smallish cornerback and the Jaguars generally speaking are gearing toward bigger corners. Also, the Jaguars think Aaron Colvin is a future starter and they like Demetrius McCray. Rookie free agent Rashaad Reynolds could be a factor, too.
Wisdom Crying Alone in the Streets:
A quote to Rod with the cheerleader wife... "A man will do many things to be liked, but a man will do anything to be envied."
John: And I will do anything for quit-your-job, life-changing money.
Jim from Chuluota:
Do you think Blake will start any of the four preseason games just to see how he handles the whole process?
John: I think there's a good chance he could start the fourth preseason game. Chad Henne would probably start the first three if healthy, particularly the third, "dry-run" preseason game. But the fourth would be ideal to give Bortles a chance to work with a few front-line players for a short time and to go through the process of preparing as a starter. We'll see.
Rick from Annandale, VA:
Watching Jaguars Live from MiniCamp this week I noticed a player with Jersey No. 9 returning kicks. A quick check of the team page shows we do not have a player with that number. Can you tell us who that was?
John: Good eye. That's Nathan Slaughter, a wide receiver from West Texas A&M. He was in minicamp as a tryout player. He along with two other tryout players long snapper Charley Hughlett and punter Kasey Redfern were signed to the 90-man roster Thursday.
Zoltan from Budapest, Hungary:
Hello, John! Lately I heard barely about Storm Johnson. How do the coaches see his development and work during OTAs and minicamp so far?
John: There's not a great deal to hear about running backs during non-padded OTA and minicamp practices. Johnson looks fine. Within the context of OTAs and minicamps he has been impressive with several long runs. We'll know far more in August.
Richard from Jacksonville:
No visionary but you are a sarcastic ass. I won't be sending anymore questions as fodder for your cute repies. Grow up!
John: I sincerely apologize. I'll try to do better. There's an "l" in replies.

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