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O-Zone: Finding fault

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Let's get to it . . . Tom from Charleston, SC:
Every day we read a lot in the "Zone" as to whether or not to cut Justin Blackmon. I for one feel we owe the YOUNG man a chance to correct the negative and show his worth. What is being done in that direction? Has he entered a rehab program? Is he taking ownership of his situation or simply offering lip service? What is and what can the organization do to help him other than just pledge their support?
John: No. If the tone of the O-Zone is that there is a big debate or discussion around the Jaguars on whether to keep Blackmon … well, that shouldn't be the tone. There really isn't much debate except among fans. He can apply for reinstatement next offseason and when/if he is eligible, the Jaguars almost certainly will welcome him back. That doesn't mean they won't be cautious with how they proceed. That doesn't mean they will depend on him as a core player. That doesn't mean they won't try to develop a No. 1 receiver other than Blackmon. But it does mean he likely will get a chance to prove his worth. Reports are that he has entered a program, but I can't say how much ownership he has taken or much lip service is involved. Only those around him know that and maybe only he knows that. The organization can't do much right now except support. He is not allowed to be at the team facility until after he is reinstated.
Sage from Orlando, FL:
If you don't think the Jaguars will go 0-16, what games do you think they will win? They'll be 0-15 and you'll probably still say they're gonna beat the Colts in the finale, lol. Words you will eat. They'll go 0-16 just to show you – and maybe to hold off the Bucs from picking first, who are clearly a better team with the near upset of the Seahawks.
John: Wow. It looks like you told me.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
The quarterback play and running game will improve with better O-line play. The same goes for the defense. It will get better when the D-line gets better. Just a thought.
John: That's actually two thoughts, and they're both pretty good ones.
Kurt from Jacksonville:
Do you think the NFL will eventually rule that players cannot discuss fantasy football? MJD was asked which defense to take: Carolina or Tennessee. He picked Carolina, but with a lot of hesitation. It really sounded like he has no faith in his team's offense. (Adios, MJD! Enjoy New England next season!)
John: I doubt the NFL will have that rule. Fantasy football has been a major factor fueling the rise of the NFL's popularity in the last two decades, and the NFL Players Association usually will fight rules restricting what players can and can't say. The league discourages talking of gambling, but that's because no professional sports league wants to risk the slightest perception that players are motivated by anything other than winning and losing. That's the reason professional sports leagues are quick with mega-significant punishments with anything related to gambling. There's not quite the same stigma associated with fantasy football.
Joe from Nashville, TN:
Hey, O-Man. Long-time Jaguars fan from New York. Just made the move to Nashville and will be seeing my first NFL game this week. Any advice on what I should watch for at the game?
John: Watch the guy behind you doesn't take your wallet.
Matt from American Fork, UT:
If there was a General Manager Hall of Fame, who would be the first 3 inductees?
John: The position has evolved a lot in recent years, and many of the best general mangers once also held the role of coach. Among the most notable of the last 30 years have been Bobby Beathard, Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, not to mention the late George Young. There are more, of course, but that group stands out in my mind.
Marion from Zapata, TX:
Sneaking out of work early on payday, just because.#shadricksightings
John: What does payday have to do with anything?
Tim from Glennallen, AK:
Actually, Mr. O-Zone, you are mistaken. A player is a bust if they are inducted into the Hall of Fame. Just saying.
John: Clever.
JT from Columbus, MS:
I have twice emailed you this season with the reference to the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw who by many accounts took upwards of four seasons to "figure it out" as an NFL quarterback. The Jags have pretty clearly decided on Gabbert, and so he'll probably not see the field again in a teal uniform. Still, if he was cut today, would he get picked up? As for these days, are modern quarterbacks really so much better that if you don't make it in two seasons, you're a bust?
John: Thanks for the update regarding our correspondence; I was indeed curious about the exact number. You recall correctly about Bradshaw and there are cases such as Alex Smith now of quarterbacks struggling through three, four or five seasons before emerging as an effective starter. And while it indeed appears a long shot that Gabbert will get an extended look again, it wouldn't surprise me to see him get a chance to play somewhere else. In fact, I'd be surprised if he doesn't get another chance if he's not with the Jaguars next season. As for your final question, I don't know you're definition of "bust," although I get asked to label guys as such a lot. Quarterbacks do have a shorter window of opportunity than they once did. It's not because they're so much better than their predecessors as much as fans and ownership simply having far less patience than they once did.
Shane from Jacksonville:
With the Rackley injuries, Brewster has been getting the snaps at left guard, but whenever he is mentioned it's said he's not as strong as you would typically want with a left guard. I was just wondering does a guy like Nowak ever get any reps in there to see what he's got?
John: We're getting a lot of questions along these lines, and I suspect we'll get a lot more as the season goes on. Remember, coaches don't necessarily need to put a player in a game "to see what he's got." They see players in practice and saw them in the preseason. That's not always the best gauge, but as I've said before and as I'm sure I'll say again – you can't just put every young player in the game to "give them a shot." You have to put enough players that you believe are ready to give the team a chance to be competitive.
Robert from Fleming Island:
With Blackmon being out, which receiver do you think has the best opportunity to prove himself?
John: Much of the burden will fall on Cecil Shorts III, which is where it should be. He's the No. 2 receiver and not so far in a talent sense from being a No. 1. Beyond that, Stephen Burton will get a huge opportunity. The coaches like his potential a lot. This is his chance to fulfill it.
Brian from Santa Rosa Beach, CA:
John, what did you have for breakfast today?
John: Mutton.
Jim from Jacksonville:
You spoke of progress. Where do you think this team, on the field, is better today than one year ago?
John: Before Blackmon's injury, I would have said wide receiver. Because Daryl Smith didn't play last season, I don't know that the linebacker play is all that much different than last season, and the Jaguars are better at running back than they were last season after Jones-Drew was injured. I also don't know that the secondary is all that much worse than last year's. The Jaguars are younger and a lot more inexperienced in a whole lot of areas. With that youth and inexperience you take a step backward sometimes before moving forward.
Kurt II from Jacksonville:
If you were the general manager of a team that needed a quarterback and your quarterback was available to select, who would that quarterback be and why? Who would be your second option? (You probably won't pick this question since much of your time is focused on the NFL and not scouting).
John: You're right that I don't focus much on scouting, but with the premise that my insight into these guys is very sketchy, I like Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater as college players. How either's talent will play out in the NFL, I don't know. College talent doesn't always translate, but if you're asking who I like best among those to whom I have paid attention, I like each of those guys.
Jody from Fort Pierce, FL:
Am I being superstitious or is it all my fault? I have watched my Jags get beat all year— except the Denver game, when I set the DVR to watch later. I watch Bridgewater to see how he looks and Louisville gets beat. I watch Boyd and Clemson gets beat. This week, I decide, 'OK, I can see what Mariota has to offer.' That didn't go so well. Think I should go get a rabbits foot?
John: It's your fault, but not for the reasons you cite.

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