JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . .
Blues Man from Palatka, FL:
Since you spent time in Indy, do you see any comparisons with how the team is being built compared to the Colts when you were up there? I know the obvious caveat is Peyton, but leaving him out of the equation, do you see the influences Polian had on Caldwell?
John: I don't know that I see many specific, obvious examples yet, but they were dealt different hands – and we're only a half a year into David Caldwell's tenure here. Bill Polian was fortunate to have two highly-rated quarterbacks available in his first draft in Indianapolis, 1998, and he was particularly fortunate to make the right decision by drafting Peyton Manning. He was then able to build around Manning, and the Colts eventually put pieces in place for a long run of contending for Super Bowls. Caldwell came into a situation with a young quarterback who is still an unknown, and partly because of that, his approach must be different. I like a lot about what I've seen from Caldwell – the willingness to make difficult decisions, the willingness to stick to his beliefs (i.e., not drafting a quarterback he did believe in, etc.). He also seems to have strong convictions in how to build a roster – speed, a strong offensive line. But I actually don't know that it's fair or necessary to compare Caldwell to either Polian or Thomas Dimitroff, the latter of whom he worked for in Atlanta. Caldwell is his own guy, and through he learned from Polian and Dimitroff, he will build the Jaguars in his own way based on the team's unique set of circumstances. Which is exactly how the good general managers build.
Keith from Summerville, SC, temporarily in Australia:
O-man, I'm here working in Melbourne and they tell me Monday is the Queen's birthday. What should I get her?
John: Toaster. That's the sort of well-thought gift that always allowed the O-Zone to score big with the ladies in my younger, "clubbing" days.
Jerry from Jacksonville:
Any thoughts yet on how the Jaguars will address Justin Blackmon's four-game absence?
John: I see Cecil Shorts III getting significant catches with Blackmon out of the lineup – and when Blackmon returns, for that matter. He's going to be that good. I also see Mohamed Massaqoui being able to provide enough of a threat opposite Shorts to give the quarterback options there. A storyline to watch in the preseason is going to be Ace Sanders. He is really, really quick and could be more of an option on the offense than many thought on draft day. You're going to see a lot of different approaches offensively, and if a receiver is active early in the season, it's safe to say the Jaguars are probably going to figure ways to get him the ball quickly. That means a role for Jordan Shipley, Massaquoi, Sanders and maybe a receiver to be named later (after training camp, perhaps).
Craig from Jacksonville:
Tell Keith from Palatka that knitting has been found to be a good substitute to alleviate the stress of overanalyzing a journalist's column. Just skip the Dixie Cup and drink straight from the bottle as another form of relaxation.
John: I have no quarrel with Keith. He's one of the most loyal O-Zone readers/writers. As for your advice, never skip the Dixie Cup. If you lean back and balance it on your stomach, as I am wont to do, you'll find sitting on the front porch on the kitchen stool a little slice of heaven.
Eric from Raleigh, NC:
We should cut MJD because he's getting in trouble with the law and won't be effective in the new zone blocking scheme.
John: Cute, Eric. You should get together with Brandon. I suspect that would be quite easily to accomplish, and I'm sure you two would find each other very entertaining.
Dave from Section 410 and Jacksonville:
Oh-Zhure. That's a sneeze, not a name!
John: Bless you – and me.
Cliff from Orange Park, FL:
I am one who believes the exposure of London games may be good for the Jags. However, I am more concerned at the disadvantage it puts the team in. Home games are important in a title chase and we will have essentially nine road games and seven home games throughout this rebuild. I think that will be harder than many think as the team gets better but the schedule is more difficult.
John: There's no question that's a concern. Notice I say, "concern," and not an insurmountable obstacle. Playing on the road will make it more difficult. There's a reason they call it home-field "advantage," and not home-field "disadvantage." At the same time, good teams win on the road and really good teams often thrive on the feeling of going on the road, overcoming an obstacle and getting the job done in adverse circumstances. Yes, there is a very real chance this setup could bite the Jaguars once during the next four seasons, and if it does, that will become a part of the debate. But it's on the team to get good enough to treat it as an inconvenience and not a season-killer.
Steve from Jacksonville:
It just dawned on me. You're video bombing OTA press conferences.
John: That just dawned on you?
Zoltan from Budapest, Hungary:
Everybody's talking about Gratz and Cyprien, but how are the other three drafted rookie defensive backs doing? Do you think that Harris or McCray can win the other starting cornerback job?
John: Safety Josh Evans, selected in the sixth round, is doing well, and it's conceivable he could play his way into a starting role in his second or third season. I think he'll play a key role as a reserve this season, and if injuries force him into the lineup, it appears he would be fine. It appears Demetrius McCray is ready to push for a starting role more than Harris, but right now, Alan Ball appears the likely starter. The Jaguars probably would feel good about Ball entering the season as a starter opposite Gratz, but on a team emphasizing competition, that corner could be an area where the Jaguars look for players throughout the preseason.
Chris from Section 205:
I think the only time I've heard the name Brandon Marshall this offseason was when he got runner-up in the home run-derby competition. Have you heard or seen anything to think he has a chance to make an impact it this year?
John: Brandon Marshall is competing for an outside linebacker position. I wouldn't say I've seen anything from him that stands out, but the pads aren't on yet, either.
Al from Newark, NJ:
I have my books and poetry to protect me...but they can't help me in a physical fight.
John: I have no need of friendship . . . nah, Al, you win – brilliant.
Jeff from Starke, FL:
Let's agree there are probably four or five quarterbacks who are elite, then a couple of groups of 10 similar in performance. Then a few bottom-dwellers that are hanging onto the job while the team looks toward their own top four quarterback one day. Do you ever see another expansion seeing that we can't get 32 quarterbacks that their respective general manager/coach would be satisfied with?
John: I don't know that there's any rush for expansion, but quarterbacks aren't the reason. Right now, the league is balanced at 32 teams with eight four-team divisions. This makes scheduling easier, and there aren't really markets that cry out for expansion. You can say Los Angeles, but there are stadium issues there that continue to make that a tricky proposition. Also, there are attendance issues in enough markets that there doesn't seem to be any crying need for a 33rd and/or 34th team. The league is working now to enhance the in-game experience. That's necessary with the improvement of the television-viewing experience. Once every team in the NFL is to a high-demand situation, expansion makes a little more sense, but I don't know that you'll see it any time soon. There are positives to having demand for a product, even one as popular as the NFL.
Jory from Kodiak, AK:
My eyesight is pretty good..... But did someone really put Matt Schaub ahead of Tom Brady on their QB list?
John: No doubt.
John from Tampa, FL:
Dixie cups? Not red Solo cups? Way to swim against the flow like the wild salmon of Capistrano. Well done, O-Man!
John: I operate on Senior Writer's salary. I have yet to move funds around for red Solo cups.
Joe from Pontypridd, Wales, United Kingdom:
John, I can see that this Jacksonville/London relationship is going to be a beautiful thing. That said, please remember that a large number of the fans filling Wembley in Jaguar colours will be from other parts of the UK - I'm talking Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales - we don't usually take too well to being lumped in with our English cousins. Go Jags!
John: Point taken. I had a "small-town," Midwestern cousin who used to break into houses and rearrange furniture. Last I heard, he's not allowed on the town side of the flood wall anymore – even on days when the river rises. I actually like being lumped in with him, but the feeling isn't mutual. Whatever. To your point, I'll try to do better.
O-Zone: Budgeting for cups
JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . .
Blues Man from Palatka, FL: