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O-Zone: Caught red-handed

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it... Mike from St. Mary's, GA:
On the topic of slowing the passing game a little, would allowing more contact down the field be a reasonable fix? Maybe not as much as in the days of Mel Blount, but maybe change the five-yard chuck rule to 10 yards instead?
John: It certainly would address the issue. That would prevent receivers from running free downfield unimpeded as they do now. There are a number of things that could be done, of course. The problem is there isn't much sentiment to slow down the passing game right now, so I wouldn't stay up late during the next NFL Owners Meetings waiting for news on a change.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
Perhaps next year's season-ticket campaign should simply state, "Consistently Rebuilding Consistency." I get that it is going to take another three-to-five years to get the team roster righted. It doesn't mean I have to like it, nor is there a guarantee the public will keep supporting this team. GO JAGS.
John: No, there are no guarantees in life, or in the NFL. It's tough right now, because the overall progress coaches have seen this season hasn't resulted in victories. As that progress shows itself on the field, I do believe the public will support this team. The history of this franchise – and even the support the fans are showing during this difficult period – suggests that won't be an issue.
Sal from El Paso, TX:
You fail to acknowledge a very fair and basic point when discussing the state of the team – that is that we've heard it all before. "Be patient." "The GM knows what he's doing." "It's going to take three-to-five years." That's a lot of Kool Aid to have to swallow.
John: I absolutely acknowledge the point, and I think I have been pretty open in acknowledging it. It's absolutely hard to hear that it will take a while. If there's a viable alternative, let me know.
Greg from Jacksonville and Section 233:
I've about had it with the self-righteous calls to cut Blackmon because he wasn't remorseful or "sorry enough." The guy clearly has a problem. Is it surprising to anyone he didn't want to admit it? I'm really disappointed too. But some of these people in the media that call for his release should check themselves and their own behavior. People living in glass houses....
John: Yep.
Charles from Bangalore, Indiana:
The ascendancy of the quarterback in the NFL has reached the point that it is detrimental to the "parity" philosophy that Pete Rozelle nurtured and grew. Back in the day, a stellar defense or great stable of running backs could get you past mediocre play from the quarterback. How can the league expect all 32 clubs to find a quarterback that can play at the elite level to maintain any quality of possible competition?
John:I agree that the ascendency of the quarterback is dominating the game, and I agree that the leaning toward pass perhaps swung too far that way. But with all due respect to Rozelle, who is a major reason this league is where it is, I'm not sure that parity ever has been dominant in the NFL. I grew up on the NFL in the 1970s, and the Rams, Cowboys, Vikings, Steelers, Dolphins and Raiders pretty much dominated that era. It wasn't quite so quarterback-centric in those days, but it wasn't parity, either.
Alan from Buford, GA:
I'm not trying to be insensitive here regarding Gary Kubiak's condition, and I hope he recovers just fine. But say the Texans had won that game this past Sunday against Indianapolis. Which coach would've gotten credited with the win: Gary Kubiak or Wade Phillips? They both would've coached only half a game.
John: Because Kubiak is the head coach, official NFL records would have credited him with a victory.
Doug from Jacksonville:
I would like to meet Ryan from Duval. He evidently has never made mistake he learned and grew from, and he has an uncanny ability to know what people really mean. I doubt he has ever been in the same room as Blackmon but yet somehow knows for certain he is a liar. That's pretty impressive.
John: Don't be so hard on Ryan. A lot of people feel the same way about Blackmon, and that's to be expected. People get very angry, irritated and righteous with athletes and public figures who make mistakes and get subsequent chances. That's human nature. People do get chances to redeem themselves. Thank goodness.
Scott from Ormond Beach, FL:
Hey, get out of my seat.
John: I was here first.
Chris from Crestview, FL:
The problem with keeping Blackmon is he will be one slip from a lifetime ban so you can never count on him. Also, as you can see from Miami, a bad character guys can kill a team. On the plus side, he's the only elite player we have. I don't envy the coaches on this decision.
John: Retaining Blackmon is actually not a very difficult decision at all. The coaches don't have to "count" on Blackmon, and the front office doesn't have to, either. You can draft players at the wide receiver position and other positions as if he's not there and treat it as a bonus if he is. Also, I don't know that it's accurate to say Blackmon's character puts the team at risk. Without getting into the specifics of the story in Miami, there are different levels of "bad character," and it actually remains debatable if Blackmon is a "bad character" or not. Players and coaches appear to like Blackmon, and appear to be rooting for him. Does that mean they plan to follow his path? No. But is this guy a team-killer? I don't get that sense in the least.
Jonathan from Orange Park, FL:
The only reason the Jags' organization is keeping Blackmon is because of his talent, period! Not because they do really care for him or his well-being. If Blackmon is not that talented he would've been cut on his first or second offense. We are not that stupid, John!
John: Of course, talent plays a role. This is professional sports. Players aren't treated the same, nor should they be.
Daniel from Jacksonville:
I liked what I saw from Denard Robinson in the running back role last week, but I'd like to see him become more of the offensive we were expecting. What does he have to improve on to get featured more as a wide receiver, kick returner or Wildcat quarterback?
John: The first thing he needs to do is play well at one position. After that, thought could be given to him branching out.
John from Dayton, OH:
Is there a significant interest in developing Matt Scott or has management determined it's not worth their while? There has just been very little news regarding his status this year and going forward.
John: Let me try to shed some light on this. While there was much furor when the Jaguars signed Matt Scott as a rookie free agent last offseason that he was a real factor for the starting quarterback position, that was never the case – and the Jaguars never really indicated it would be the case. That's not a knock on Matt Scott. It's sort of the norm for an undrafted quarterback. There hasn't been much news because Matt Scott is on the practice squad. That doesn't mean he never will be good. That means that right now he is on the practice squad and not on the active roster. The Jaguars are developing Matt Scott the same way they would develop any practice-squad player, by having him on the practice squad, letting him practice and having him in team meetings. If he was the best option to play quarterback, he would be starting. And the first step toward that would be signing him to the active roster.
Trey from Jacksonville:
Reading your answer on Alualu makes me sick. Dude has one tackle for loss this year and that was on his sack. Not exactly playing OK, in my opinion. Were we to expect the LEO to get all the sacks this season? Between Babin and Branch both of them were supposed to generate 40 sacks combined? No wonder no one likes Branch.
John: I'm sorry you're feeling sick. Perhaps you should lie down or take an aspirin. I wouldn't say Alualu has played great this season or that he has played like a Top 10 selection during his career. But I was asked to evaluate him this season. He has graded out very low as a pass rusher, but he has been at least average against the run. Pro Football Focus, for example, grades him very low as a pass rusher, but in the site's "run-stop-percentage" statistic – a category that measures percentage of meaningful tackles on run plays – he grades out 13th in the NFL among ends who have played 50 percent or more of their teams run snaps. Again – not great, but very definitely "OK."
Tim from Jacksonville:
I remember Steve Howe in baseball. He was always sorry, always rehabbing and always getting suspended again . . . must be nice to have different rules in place just because you were given some athletic ability or a pretty face.
John: Geez, Tim – bitter much? It's pro sports. Athletic ability does get you special treatment. And as far as the pretty face stuff – yeah, it's nice for us, too.
Mike from Jagsonville:
What is Shadrick's real position, aside from having his arm caught in the vending machine?
John: Give me a minute.

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