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O-Zone: Exciting times

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Ross from Brandon, FL:
When people say, "Sign the following free agents," what makes the fans think that the players want to come to Jacksonville?
John: Why wouldn't they? Money is money, and the Jaguars have a lot of salary-cap space, so they are in a position to spend a lot if they so desire. Also, this is one of 32 NFL franchises. This is also a team with a lot of young talent and a head coach with an infectious personality for whom players like to play. I'm not saying every player in the NFL has Jacksonville No. 1 on his wish list, but there's no reason the Jaguars can't sign coveted free agents.
John from St. John's, FL:
Are the Jags going to look for a center in free agency again this year?
John: I think the Jaguars will explore all options in free agency. If they see a significant upgrade they will consider it – and there are few positions to which that doesn't apply. I imagine that includes center, but I don't imagine the position will be a high-priority item at the top of the wish list. That's because the Jaguars like Luke Bowanko a lot. I'm getting the idea that that's a very tough concept for people to grasp, but it doesn't mean it's not true.
Josh from Zephyrhills, FL:
Do you think the center from Chicago, Brian de la Puenta, and then Bryan Bulaga could be a fix and then maybe bring a center along to take over after de la Puenta leaves in a couple years? Two veterans on the line would be outstanding! I know Zane struggled last year at guard, but isn't a lot of the blame on poor center play? It is the quarterback of the O-Line! Also, do you take a chance on Leonard Williams and pass on Suh, or do you take Suh in FA then draft Williams?
John: As free agency comes barreling toward us, I suppose there will be many emails like this. First off, let's not assume de la Puenta is an improvement over Bowanko. de la Puenta was available in free agency last season and the Jaguars opted against signing him – as did many teams. Also, I can't say what the Jaguars should do in regards to Suh until we know if he's going to hit free agency, but I don't think a team's going to go wrong drafting Leonard Williams. I also know as I finish answering this question that it looks like it's going to be a long, long month until free agency starts, but it also could be a lot of fun.
TJ from Cherry Point, NJ:
When will we actually know something about the possible return of Justin Blackmon? So far, all indications are that he will most likely be able to play. Am I wrong on this?
John: Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said he hopes to know something regarding Blackmon's status before the NFL Draft on April 30. That's two and a half months away. While I understand people's overwhelming desire to know something on this front, there's really not a terrific hurry for the Jaguars to know Blackmon's status. The Jaguars aren't drafting or signing free agents based on Blackmon, so not knowing in the next few weeks won't change anything. As far as indications about Blackmon, yes, I believe there's a good chance he will be able to play next season. That's because all indications are that Blackmon is doing well and out of rehab. If that's true, I expect him to play. Stay tuned.
Renee from Section 104:
John, did you just name Terry Bradshaw as a great quarterback? Is he in the Hall? What's the adage …. great receivers make an average quarterback good and a good quarterback a great one? Lynn Swann and the Steel Curtain plus Franco Harris gave Bradshaw a leg up. Really. He's great? GO JAGS
John: Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls – and beyond that, he was a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, the NFL MVP in 1978 and had one of the strongest arms in NFL history. I don't know about your adage except that great players playing with one another tend to make one another better. And great quarterbacks make running backs a whole better – and I'm not as sure about the other way around. And yeah, Bradshaw's in the Hall of Fame. And yeah, I called him great.
Andrew from Toledo, OH:
I did not say any of the other running backs shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. I singled out Edgerrin James because I think he got those numbers thanks to being healthy and having Peyton Manning. Harris, Smith, and Dorsett all had better numbers than James.
John: Yes, they had better numbers than James. I don't doubt that Fred Taylor was better than James. I absolutely believe he was, but that doesn't mean that James only had success because of Manning. It's absolutely not the case.
Jace from Jacksonville:
Will Paul be ready for another season with his injured pectoral?
John: Yes, Paul Posluszny will be ready for next season – in fact, he expects to participate well before that.
Dan from Exeter, CA:
I've heard players are more important than scheme in the NFL. If that's true, why does it seem that the head coach usually gets the axe before the general manager? Just wondering.
John: General managers are far from "safe from the axe," and it's hard to answer your question because every franchise makes decisions for different reasons. One reason, though, is that often the general manager has hiring/firing power over the coaching staff. Another is that owners often believe a change in coaching staff can be made easier than changing an entire personnel department/organization structure.
Earl from Middleburg:
Concerning the draft, with all the high-level defensive prospects, and Mariota still likely on the board at No. 3, and a team desiring his employment, trading down to a maximum of No. 10 and still acquiring a top tier DL/LEO (of course with a bunch of gimme's) would that be the most likely scenario of a trade down?
John: That's a scenario observers are discussing. This scenario assumes someone's desiring Mariota enough to trade up, and we're a long way from knowing if that's true. If there are teams wanting him enough to give up picks to get him, then yeah … your scenario is in the right ballpark.
Maurice from North Potomac, MD:
I think it's clear an upgrade is needed at the Otto position. Do you think it's more likely we address this need in the mid-rounds of the draft, or through free agency? If it's through the draft, a guy like Shaq Thompson really interests me. I highly doubt he will be around in the second round, but if he is, I say we jump on him. Him and Telvin Smith would be nasty. Your thoughts on him and if it's more likely we address this in free agency or the draft?
John: This is one of the grayer areas entering the offseason. I absolutely believe right tackle and free safety will be free-agent priorities. Otto linebacker is a little less clear. A player such as Malcolm Smith of Seattle makes a lot of sense as a free agent, and you're right about Shaq Thompson: he does makes sense at the Otto, but he isn't likely to be around when the Jaguars select early in the second round.
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
I need you to explain this to me. How do you tell your fans ".500 is not too lofty a goal this year," then expect us to get excited about this season? You just told us that 8-8 was the upper reach of your expectations. So, that means at home I could reasonably expect 4-3 or 3-4 record. So what is the motivation for season ticket holders this year? Come see us probably lose again? Patience is not a fan virtue but really how many more years of "competing" do we have to endure before we can reasonably hope for a winning season?
John: I didn't say that 8-8 was the upper reach of my anything. I said I believe the Jaguars have a better chance to finish 8-8 this season than I thought they did last season. I happen to believe that will be difficult because 3-13 to 8-8 would be a very big jump. Is it doable? Sure. Is it realistic to expect significantly better than that? Well, let's just say it would be tough. As far as the explanation you want, I don't know if I can help you. I don't write things or say things with the idea of "exciting my fans;" if I want to do that, I dance with the second button of my shirt unbuttoned. What I try to do is answer as honestly and as reasonably as I can. I try to do it every day in an entertaining fashion. If the Jaguars continue to improve as I believe they will, then I imagine things I write will excite Jaguars fans more as time goes on. Who knows? Maybe the Jaguars will far exceed my expectations. Stranger things have happened.

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