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O-Zone: Dead-on cool

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it… Nick from Jacksonville:
I'm excited to see how running back plays out in camp. I feel like we have a very good group of relatively unproven players who are hungry to get out there. I see Toby (Gerhart) starting, obviously, but after that I'm lost: who's our change-of-pace back? Who can we trust to protect the quarterback on third downs, or will Gerhart do it all? Can we possibly keep all four, where each will be able to contribute in their own way? #Duval
John: Yes, the Jaguars can keep all four, with Jordan Todman and perhaps Denard Robinson as the change-of-pace backs. Robinson was one of the major stories of the offseason, and he looked significantly better and more confident than he did last offseason. A lot of that may be because he is healthier. But one positive about signing Gerhart is you don't necessarily have to change him out on third downs. He is versatile enough to play every down, which is good. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch likes to keep defenses off balance by using a lot of players. He'll use all of the Jaguars' running backs, but coordinators also love to not have to pull players out in certain down-and-distance situations.
Mike from Middleburg:
It's Dead Zone time. Does that mean you just might answer one of my questions without me having to praise or prop you up? I think your head's big enough, don't you? Thank you O SIRZONE.
John: No, the propping and praise will still help.
Greg from St. Johns, FL:
I'm curious on how large a role the fullbacks will play in our offense this year. How many fullbacks do you think make the final roster? Wouldn't the diminishing role of running backs have a dramatic effect on whether teams even keep any fullbacks moving forward? Seems like you could keep a larger running back to perform the same type of role.
John: Fullback will have a role for the Jaguars this season, though it won't be huge. It will be as a blocker, with perhaps the occasional run or reception as a wrinkle. I believe one fullback will make the roster. I suppose the diminishing role of running backs could prompt some teams not to keep fullbacks, but if you're going to ask bigger running backs to play the blocking, short-yardage roles of a fullback, that's fine. You just better make sure he can do it.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
There is a great deal of comparisons of the Jags to Seattle. If Gus Bradley had not been the defensive coordinator in Seattle, would those comparisons still exist? Even if everything else were exactly the same...we still had several players from there, still played a similar style of defense, still built thru the draft, etc. I guess what I'm really asking is, is there really a significant similarity between Jacksonville and Seattle, or is the majority of it because our coach came from there?
John: This is sort of a chicken-egg question. Yes, people make comparisons between Seattle and Jacksonville because Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley used to coach there, and because he was critical to the development of the Seahawks' defense and how that group played. But in this case, the comparisons are legitimate. There are a lot of similarities and it really doesn't matter much which came first so long as the techniques work.
Mark from Jacksonville:
Not meaning to be nitpicky, but some of your responses recently seem contradictory. You state "Bortles will start when he's ready, which means perhaps the second half of next (2014) season," but then also state that "I'm leaning toward thinking he'll be the backup." This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The backup needs to be ready to start as he obviously could be needed to come into the game at any time. So I just don't understand why a player the team has determined isn't ready yet is the (first) backup for the most important position on the team. Can you please clarify? Thanks.
John: I've wrestled with this one, too, and the truth is I don't think the Jaguars know yet which way they're leaning. Your argument makes sense – that if Bortles isn't ready to start he isn't ready to be the backup, either. That's what gives Ricky Stanzi a chance perhaps to be the backup. At the same time, there's a school of thought that once you get to the season you've got to do what gives you the best chance to win and it's conceivable that Bortles could give you a better chance to win than Stanzi even if he doesn't give you as good a chance as Henne. Those are intriguing issues and arguments, and the search for the answer will make training camp intriguing.
Otto from Downtime, FL:
Well, John … What do we do now...huh? I ask you, what do we do now?
John: What do we do now? What do we DO?? We dance!!
Christopher from Richmond, VA:
We hear so much about the receivers and who might be left out but what about defensive backs? How many safeties and corners do you think the team will carry on the 53-man roster? Do you think Mike Harris, Jeremy Harris, or Chris Prosinski make the team?
John: I'm going to say cornerbacks Alan Ball, Dwayne Gratz, Mike Harris, Demetrius McCray and Will Blackmon make it as corners, with Winston Guy, Johnathan Cyprien, Josh Evans, Craig Loston and perhaps Prosinski as safeties.
James from Westside:
I don't agree with the NFL taking two preseason games into the regular season. First, it doesn't give the coaching staff enough time to process the new talent they have acquired before the final cut deadline. Second, the season for NFL players is long enough and in my opinion, two more games are just going to add to more injuries. Your thoughts?
John: My thought is you have accurately noted the two major arguments against adding two games to the regular season. And to listen to football people within teams tell it, these are major concerns. General managers will tell you it will be difficult to adequately assess players with just two preseason games simply because it will be difficult to give starters and front-line players enough reps to prepare while giving bubble players enough reps to assess them. The injury issue is perhaps just as significant. The league already is one of attrition, with teams ravaged by injuries in the final month. Adding two more regular-season games just accentuates that issue.
Ryan from Gainesville, FL:
Brace yourself, O-man. The Dead Zone has arrived...
John: Yep.
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
I don't get this cloning thing John. You may be able to "clone" a system, but you can't clone the coach. I don't think Coughlin could "clone" Bradley's style and vice versa. But both are great coaches.
John: Sen'Derrick Marks and I were actually talking about this on the Palm Coast stop on the Jaguars Caravan on Thursday (#namedropsighting). Marks made the point that the coach's style isn't as important as him being true to himself. Bradley is who he is and he never wavers from that. Players sensed that and his approach last season in difficult times confirmed it. Coughlin was dramatically different, but was always the same person. He wasn't trying to be something he wasn't and always approached players from an honest place. The really good coaches do it that way. Players sense phoniness.
Fred from Naples, FL:
It has recently come to light that a big reason why Denard Robinson dropped so many passes last year was due to the fact that he had nerve damage to his hands and could not fully extend them. The Jaguars knew this when they drafted him knowing full well they had no idea when the full feeling would return. Why did they wait so long to make this public? Personally, now that he is fully healthy I cannot wait to see how much he accomplishes this year. Nice job during the OTAs this year and hope you have a nice vacation.
John: There are a couple of reasons teams don't reveal such things. One, if you talk about a limitation such as that when a player is struggling it sounds like an excuse. Two, you give other teams information that could potentially be used in game-planning. Three, there's just not much to be gained from having the information public.
Kyle from Davenport, IA:
Hey John, did I hear you right? The second half of NEXT year? I'll trust Dave and Gus, but that seems awfully far out.
John: When discussing the 2014 season recently I sometimes have referred to that as "next season." I often refer to a season as "next season" until training camp begins. When I said Bortles might not play until the second half of next season, I meant 2014. Sorry for the confusion.
Dude from Jacksonville:
People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
John: You're a beautiful spirit, Dude.
Alon from Denver, CO:
John you are one cool cat. I'll try to think of something Jaguar-related but honestly just keep being you.
John: I'm starting to like the Dead Zone.

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