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O-Zone: Doin' work

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Bryant from White Plains, NY:
Zone, I decided to try to watch the MLB draft. I got through the first two picks and I couldn't do it anymore. The NFL is still far and away stronger in this area than every other major sport.
John: The NFL Draft is cool. I like it. A lot of people do. Is it better than baseball's draft? Probably, but don't forget that it's not really a level playing field. College football and college basketball are more high-profile than high school and college baseball, so it stands to reason viewers will be more familiar on at least some level with the players being drafted into the NFL and the NBA. That lends itself to more interesting drafts.
Dave from Jacksonville:
I'm getting the sense that Gus Bradley wants the Jaguars to "compete." What do you think?
John: I think I'm supposed to see him today. I'll check.
Shannon from Brunswick, GA:
Hey, Zone! How does Nick Marshall look so far?
John: Nick Marshall, who played quarterback during his last two collegiate seasons at Auburn and who is trying to make it as an undrafted rookie free agent cornerback with the Jaguars, looks pretty much as you would expect him to look – and as he should look. He is an athletic player who hasn't played cornerback in several years trying to do it in the NFL. He has shown he clearly has the athletic ability to play in the NFL and he also has shown that he needs time to learn to play cornerback professionally.
Paulo from Salvador, Brazil:
Hey, O-man! If I tell you, I´ll have to kill you! Just like OTAs ...
John: Shhhhh.
Samwise from Shire:
If we end up cutting Storm because Bernard Pierce outplays him for the last spot, what is the financial impact? I know it's minimal due to where Storm was selected but I want to understand how it works.
John: You're right that the financial impact of releasing Storm Johnson would be minimal, and you're right that it would be minimal because of where he was selected. A seventh-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Johnson signed a four-year, $2.2 million contract with $63,000 signing bonus. If he is released before this season, he would earn no salary in 2015 but would keep the signing bonus. He also would count around $47,000 in dead money on the salary cap this season, about $31,000 next season and about $16,000 next season. Those are very minimal amounts by NFL standards. None of this is to say Johnson will be released, but that's how it would work financially.
Jeremy from Jacksonville:
John, in your latest gig with the great J.P., you two seemed to be really excited about the things to come. You even referenced a few players, including an unnamed second-round rookie. What do you know? Secrets, secrets, don't make friends. Go Jags!
John: I try to block out time spent with Shadrick, not out of meanness or distaste as much as self-preservation. Because of that, I don't remember the specifics of the "latest gig," but I may have been speaking about T.J. Yeldon. The second-round rookie running back from Alabama has been impressive in OTAs. He is quick and has good vision and good feet. The knock on him is he doesn't have great breakaway speed, but plenty of backs aren't home-run threats. I project Yeldon has having a big impact as a rookie. We'll see.
Marcus from Jacksonville:
With all the additions to the team's starting lineup such as Jared Odrick, Jermey Parnell, Davon House, Sergio Brown, Dan Skuta and Julius Thomas, aren't we in the same situation we were in last year with all the rookies? These guys still have to get used to each other to start playing well. That takes time. Expectations seem high to me when I hear people talking about going from seven wins in two seasons to going 8-8 this year. I see the talent improving and I want to be optimistic, but let's keep it real.
John: I'm conservative on this front by nature, and those who know me from my days growing up on the mean streets of 1970s/1980s Arlington know I indeed I do "keep it real." Still, while I'm probably somewhere in your ballpark in terms of tempering expectations, I probably have a touch more optimism than you. That's because I think players such as Parnell, Odrick and Thomas will have a significant impact quickly. If you combine that with development of the young core players that should mean an improved record. Does that mean 8-8? I don't know, but I do believe it will be improvement.
Dwayne from Section 408 and Jagsonville:
O-Man, I've been down to the O-Zone abyss before. Let's just say you can't un-see it once you've seen it. #DTWD.
John: I thought at first you were talking about the O-Zone comments section. Then I realized you were talking about me. Whatever.
Wallace from DWTD:
So Logan from Wichita thinks the NFC South is "really good"? Following his logic, which NFL division is not really good? Can you think of a division the Jags would rather have on the schedule for 2015? I can't.
John: I can't, but I admit I haven't thought about it and probably won't. Trying to project what NFL teams will be good from one season to another is hard enough without trying to figure which divisions will be good. The NFC South overall had a subpar record last season. The chances of that happening again are pretty slim. Generally speaking, divisions have a couple of teams that do well and a couple of teams that struggle. Sometimes you find a statistical outlier and have a year such as the NFC North had last season, but generally speaking schedules balance out. Even if they don't, injuries and player improvement/digression make records hard enough to predict that there's not much use worrying about schedules until they get played.
John from Savannah, GA:
I'm hiding out in Duval. I'm a desperate man. Send lawyers, guns and money.
John: I'm the innocent bystander …
Mike from Jacksonville:
How does Luke Joeckel look from a physical standpoint? It sounded like in previous interviews with him he played underweight last season. With a real offseason, not in rehab, was he able to bulk up?
John: He did play a bit light last season. That was because he was unable to weight train as much as would have been ideal last offseason because he was rehabilitating/recovering from a season-ending ankle injury sustained in Week 5 of his rookie 2013 season. As of a few months ago he had added about 10-to-12 pounds of what he considered good weight and he doesn't seem to have lost any.
Alex from McLean, VA:
I'm starting to think the recent rule changes in the NFL that emphasize passing and the quarterback are going to backfire because if you don't have an elite quarterback there is little hope to succeed. The NFL is turning into a league of the few "haves" and majority "have nots" where there is little hope to eclipse mediocre if you don't have one of the few elite quarterbacks out there. Fan bases without the top quarterbacks now question whether it is better to lose games in order to get some top pick. These sentiments won't help the league grow in my opinion. I say this knowing full well the NFL has never been more popular so what I do know? I think I just realized I am now old and cranky and just objecting to change.
John: I understand your concern, and there's probably some validity to your theory. But I grew up following the NFL in the 1970s, when teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, the Los Angeles Rams, the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins had such a stranglehold on their divisions at times that the NFL seemed like an eight- or nine-team league. That was truly a have- and have-not time and you see nothing close to that now. Besides, while the NFL definitely is a quarterbacks league, that always has been true. If anything, the last few years have debunked somewhat the theory that only quarterbacks make the Super Bowl. While Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have made Super Bowls in recent seasons, so have Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson. While all three have been varying levels of good-to-very good they're not automatically walking into the Hall of Fame yet.
JD from Duval:
I'm making "I am Ed from Ponte Vedra" T-shirts if anyone wants in. #DTWD
Dave from Jacksonville:
Why does the team permit media to watch OTAs - and then forbid them from reporting what they see? Are you guys just so cool that the players love seeing your faces?
John: I addressed this Tuesday, but aside from the reality that viewing practices does allow the media to get a better feel for the team, there is some truth to the implication behind your question. The media is cool. There's a lot to like in that bunch. Players need inspiration, and seeing longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist Gene Frenette with his cap pulled over his eyes ready to start doin' work is nothing if not inspirational.

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