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O-Zone: Doin' work

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Sam from San Marco, FL:
Are people blind? Lost in the past? The Jaguars have replaced the weak links. Blake Bortles was an outstanding choice. This is clearly going a strong team ready to make a playoff run now.
John: The Jaguars indeed should be better. They indeed have improved the roster. That's not to say I'm walking around chirping "Playoffs in '15," but that's because the playoffs are really hard to make in the NFL and I want to see progress on the field before I chirp that way. But will they be better in terms of victories and losses next season? Yeah, I think so.
Andrew from Toledo, OH:
Please remind people that the Eugene Monroe trade opened the door for such a good draft last season. David Caldwell was able to trade up to get Brandon Linder and Allen Robinson while still getting Telvin Smith. The fans should trust Caldwell after last season's draft alone.
John: OK.
Kevin from Bakersfield, CA:
Am I the only one who thinks Andrew Luck is a bit overrated and also plays behind a terrible offensive line??
John: I have no idea if you're the only one or not, but from this perspective it's very, very hard to call Luck overrated. Actually, it's impossible. In three seasons he has led the Colts to three playoff appearances – and as you point out – he has done so behind a line that has struggled at times. I'm not sure what more could be expected from Luck in three seasons, to be honest.
Mark from CT:
With the addition of Bernard Pierce, do you think that means the chance of drafting a running back high in the draft has decreased?
John: No.
Andrew from Windsor, Ontario:
Johnny! I enjoy reading comments by fans on how they believe Gus is on the hot seat. I think he has done a good job developing players during a complete remodel from the previous regime that is evident based upon the lack of individuals present from them. What are your thoughts on the job Gus is doing?
John: I'm never sure how to answer hot-seat questions, particularly when it comes to Gus Bradley and the coming season. Do the Jaguars need to show improvement? Yes. Does that improvement need to come in the form of more victories? Yes. Then again, I think anyone reasonable – Bradley included – would tell you that the roster is in significantly better shape now than it was either of the past two seasons. That's in part because of free agency, but mostly because young players drafted should be maturing and developing. Because that roster is in better shape, there's a feeling in the building that improvement will come – and yes, that it will come in the form of more victories, though I don't know that there is a Magic Victory Total. If that improvement doesn't happen, I think everyone involved would be surprise and believe that something is wrong. Is that the definition of a hot seat? If so, then the seat is hot, but really this is just a matter of there being a belief that the building that has taken place the last two offseasons should yield results and that that should pretty much happen organically.
Steve from Nashville:
How will out-of-market Jags and Bills fans watch the game in London on TV?
John: They won't unless they're watching it digitally.
Bruce from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Prior to the start of free agency, another website listed the Jags top five needs as cornerback, tight end, outside linebacker, right tackle, and free safety. If those writers were accurate, I'd have to say Caldwell/Bradley are doing a bang-up job. I would add defensive end to this list. Of these positions, which do you think still need significant upgrades?
John: I think defensive end could use a significant upgrade in the sense that the Jaguars could still use a young pass rusher. Free safety is still a bit of a concern because while Sergio Brown will compete for the starting position, he isn't quite the "slam-dunk" free agent as the other five first-wave free agents: linebacker Dan Skuta, defensive end Jared Odrick, right tackle Jermey Parnell, tight end Julius Thomas and cornerback Davon House.
Brian from Greenwood, IN:
Johnny O ... I had a brutally tough day today, then my wife got mad at me for something I don't remember ... can you help?
John: No, but I can relate.
Ed from Danvers, MA:
O-Zone … I understand the point of the compensatory picks but awarding the Super Bowl champions an extra third-round pick just doesn't make sense. Why not award them according to the draft order, i.e. Tampa Bay gets the first one, Tennessee the next, etc., right on up the line?
John: Your first sentence doesn't really line up with the rest of your emails because I don't know that you understand the point of compensatory selections. The league awards compensatory selections to teams whose losses outweigh gains in the previous offseason's unrestricted free-agency period. The system is designed to allow teams who draft and develop good players to replenish their rosters if/when those players sign with other teams. The Patriots indeed did receive a third-round selection, but it had nothing to do with winning the Super Bowl; it had to do with them losing players of significance the previous offseason and being given the chance to replace that player at least to some degree.
Tyler from Jacksonville:
In all honesty, what qualifies Jordan Palmer to be an offseason coach for Bortles? Shouldn't you first coach at lower levels before being trusted with an NFL quarterback? Seems like giving a toddler a Harley before he's mastered the tricycle...
John: Palmer qualifies because Bortles says he qualifies. Palmer is his choice. He trusts him.
Ron from Orlando, FL:
Anterior-cruciate ligament? Well excuuuuuse me Mr. Fancy Pants, but in an effort to save you carpal tunnel syndrome due to too much typing, you can just stick with the abbreviated version (ACL) and I think we'll all understand what you're referring to.
John: No.
John from Jacksonville:
Do you feel the Jaguars are going to bring in a veteran receiver? I don't see a difference-maker on the market and bringing in a guy for "locker-room presence" seems overrated. Cecil Shorts is an outstanding locker-room guy, but I don't think he made a huge difference in the production of our young receivers.
John: I think Shorts certainly helped the young receivers last season in terms of having someone there to show them how to approach the NFL. Shorts is a hard worker and his approach is exemplary. That said, I tend to agree that there's a limit to how much the veteran presence helps. You don't want your entire position group to be solely rookies, but you also don't need an unproductive veteran taking up space. Besides, wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan is one of the NFL's best and has more than two decades experience. The wide receivers meeting room doesn't lack for experience.
Rick from Calloway, FL:
What do you think this will do to Gregory's stock? I do hope if he falls the Jags pass on him.
John: Gregory's positive marijuana test at the NFL Scouting Combine in February sure won't help his stock, but I doubt he will be a factor for the Jaguars. They're picking No. 3; he won't go that early and I can't imagine he would fall to the second round. If the Jaguars trade out of the No. 3 spot, I doubt they were taking Gregory even before the test, but that's speculation on my part.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
O-man, are NFL teams overall getting younger? It seems that getting younger and faster is on the top of every team's wish list.
John: That is the general NFL wish list, and has been for a while. I'm sure there are exact numbers on this, but finding them would require what noted Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) may or may not have referred to as "work." Those numbers also often don't reflect the on-field reality of teams. Many teams have a young overall roster while their starting lineup and key players may be significantly more experienced than their "average age" might indicate. When I covered the Colts late in Peyton Manning's time there, they had that situation. Because of cap management, they were very, very young at a lot of positions, but players such as Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday were veteran enough that on-field they were actually an older team. Overall, are teams getting younger? I haven't sensed a sea change in this area in the last five-to-10 years, but there's no question teams are younger in the salary-cap area than they were in the pre-cap era. You used to see teams with veteran backups, special teams players and veterans all over the lineup. Now, veterans who don't qualify as elite, core players have a tougher time staying on rosters because teams prefer younger, cap-friendly players if the talent level is close.

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