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O-Zone: Change of pace

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Ben from Maplewood, NJ:
Do you think in the last couple years there has been more of an emphasis on drafting players based on a culture fit rather than overall skill level? How likely is it that Dave Caldwell passes on a more talented player primarily because he doesn't fit the culture of the organization? Looking back at last year's draft class, I feel like this group exemplifies what the Jacksonville Jaguars' organization is all about and I'm excited about the future.
John: It's good you're excited. Excitement can be … well, exciting! I absolutely don't think Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell places culture fit above talent when selecting players, though culture fit and character do matter. The reality of the draft is players are often fairly close in ability, particularly once you get beyond the Top 10 or 15 players. That enables general managers to often pick the best fit from a group of similarly-rated players. In that sense, there is little question that most of the players selected by Caldwell have fit the culture – either by fitting immediately or quickly adapting to the culture. And yes, Caldwell's two draft classes define a lot of what the organization is about. But that doesn't matter unless they can play, and I absolutely believe Caldwell picked accordingly.
Dave from Jacksonville :
Hey John! My birthday was yesterday... What did you get me??
John: Oops.
Nathan from St. Augustine, FL:
I know I'm the minority opinion on this, but I just don't understand the logic that you shouldn't pick a running back in the Top 10 of the first round. If you're David Caldwell, and you believe Melvin Gordon is the next DeMarco Murray, why would you not take him with your pick? To me, if you think a player can add 1,500 yards a season to your offense who cares where you take him? Has it just become a case where in the running game scheme is more important than the actual player?
John: If a general manager believes a running back can add 1,500 yards to an offense there's little doubt he would take that player. But in the last decade or so, most personnel people in the league have come to a gradual realization that a running back usually by himself does not add that sort of production. There are exceptions, but that's the rule. The position is very dependent on what goes on around him from the offensive line to the effectiveness of the passing game. So, it's not so much about the "scheme" being more important than the player as it is the rest of the offense needing to be at a certain level for the player to be effective.
Steve from Jacksonville:
With all the talk of the NFL draft, do you ever get a question about a college player you have never heard of? If so, do you research said player to answer the question, or do you ignore the question?
Dave from Jacksonville:
I like the addition of Julius Thomas this offseason. I can imagine two tight-end sets with him and Marcedes Lewis on the field. Thomas might demand a cornerback to cover him, possibly leaving Lewis covered by a linebacker (hopefully a big mismatch). I think Thomas has the ability to open up this passing game quite a bit. What say you, O-man?
John: I say Thomas probably won't get very many cornerbacks covering him, but your point that he creates matchup issues is a good one. His addition absolutely must open up the passing game quite a bit. That's the reason the Jaguars signed him. As for your other point, I also like the idea of Lewis and Thomas on the same roster. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.
Greg from Asheville, NC:
John, in response to Dave, it was Jason Taylor. I know it was him because I remember leading up to the game he was doing some trash talk about how he was going to dominate. Not that Tony Boselli needed any motivation, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.
John: We're back on the question of "Who was it Tony Boselli motioned down the field?" It was indeed Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor in a game played at EverBank Field in 1998. I remember the game more than the trash talk. But whatever trash talk occurred it was sort of silly. Boselli wasn't always perfect as a player. But he was as good as I've seen at the position. And he never got dominated.
Bill from Folkston, GA:
Most teams carry both a designated kickoff return man and a punt return man. Is there a difference in the skill sets for the two that is not readily apparent?
John: Yes. A kickoff specialist typically has straight-ahead speed whereas a punt returner is more about quickness and ability to make defenders miss in tight spaces. Some players can do both well; most cannot.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
I think seven wins this year is the magic number. Six or less and there will be lots of grumbling, hot seats, or maybe firings. Eight or more and people will be very happy with the progress; needles will be way up (playoffs potential in this range). Seven wins falls right in between. Good enough that people believe the right progress is being made and stay with the plan in place, but not overjoyed.
John: OK.
Tudor from St. Augustine, FL:
Um really? Rivers over Eli? Just curious, how undefeated are Big Ben and Rivers vs Tom Brady in the Super Bowl? Enough said. No, really, enough said … there is NOTHING anyone can say beyond that statement. There's no contesting it, no debating it, no if this and that. Fact.
John: I almost contested and debated just to be annoying, but that's so, "Not me." I actually don't think there's a mammoth difference between the three quarterbacks in that draft, though Roethlisberger and Rivers have been better than Manning of late. All three developed into a elite, franchise-level quarterbacks. That's rare and notable stuff.
Jay from Charleston, SC:
Why not sign Wes Welker for a year? I'm not really talking about playing but rather as a mentor for our young receivers especially whoever plays slot. He has a lot of knowledge and wisdom that can help our players get better long term. We did it with Red Bryant and Chris Clemons on the D-line and it worked out well for us.
John: Bryant and Clemons both started for the Jaguars, so in their case, the Jaguars were "talking about playing." Pay players to play first; mentoring is a bonus. If they're not playing, don't bother.
Adam from Richmond, KY:
I read where you mentioned a plays on which your BFF Boselli demonstrated dominance; I would like to throw out the game where Mike Doss was calling out Fred Taylor and with the game on the line, Taylor broke the game-winning touchdown. Not only did Taylor score, but he sought out and just flat-out ran over Doss, then looked back and held the ball out as he walked in the end zone. Awesome memory of a dominant player.
John: That game was in 2003 in Jacksonville. The Jaguars beat the Colts on a rainy day and yeah … not Doss' best moment.
Rollin from Chapin:
Who do you think has the best chance of being the first pick in the draft?
John: Jameis Winston.
Jim from the Villages:
Uncle Dave always does the unexpected. This year, he takes either Cooper, White or Scherff. Defense can hold its own. We need points. That being said, who do you like out of the 3 above?
John: Your boldness is impressive, and though it's highly doubtful the Jaguars would go offensive line at three it's perhaps less doubtful they would go wide receiver. That being said, I like Cooper out of the three above.
Kyle from Ohio:
It's starting to look like there is a strong chance Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota go 1-2, whether by Buccaneers/Titans or Buccaneers/Titans trade. Between Dante Fowler Jr. and Leonard Williams, who makes more sense? The guy that fits a major need almost to a 'T' in Fowler – or a guy widely perceived to be the draft's best player and a guy with next-to-zero perceived bust factor that is poised to make the 31 teams that don't get him kick themselves for many, many years? Basically, how do you pass on a guy of Williams' caliber, even if a guy that fits one of your biggest needs almost perfectly is right there?
John: I'm not as convinced that Winston and Mariota are going 1-2 as you and many others seem to believe, because I still believe Mariota will slip, but hey … time will tell. Either way, if you believe Williams is as good as you describe – if you believe he actually merits that many words and a sentence that long – then by all means you take him.
Gabe from Washington, DC:
What if we traded Marcedes Lewis for Adrian Peterson?
John: Then Peterson would be on the Jaguars' roster and Lewis wouldn't be on the Jaguars' roster. And vice-versa. Sort of.
Dwayne from Jacksonville:
Now that I know the pattern, it's getting boring. Could you write seven more columns and go on a two-week rotation?
John: Hold on …

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