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O-Zone: Flexibility

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it… Marty from Milwaukee, WI:
In regard to the defensive-player-versus-quarterback argument: which player would you rather have? Drew Bledsoe (a good, sometimes great, quarterback) or Derrick Brooks (Hall-of-Fame-level talent)?
John: This is a very, very tough question. Did I say, "Very?" As ridiculous as it may seem at first glance, I have to say Bledsoe. That's particularly true if you're going from below-average play at the quarterback position to the level of Bledsoe. If you already have adequate play at the quarterback position, perhaps you would choose Brooks. But if you have nothing productive at the quarterback position and have a chance to get the level of Bledsoe there, you'd be hard-pressed not to take that player. Is the quarterback position that important? Yeah.
Ryan from Jacksonville:
How often, if at all, do teams make picks based on the draft of their divisional rivals? For instance, if Houston were to take Clowney could that cause the Jags to take offensive lineman in earlier rounds than they expected going into the draft?
John: It would not. Teams have been known to draft based on strengths of their division opponents. There is debate over the wisdom of that, with some believing it best to build as strong a team as you can to beat as many opponents as you can. But you won't see teams building based on the drafts of division opponents. Too many draft selections don't develop for that to be a common approach.
Dakota from Dupree, SD:
O-man, if Khan made you interview all of the new cheerleaders for an article how would the wife take this new assignment?
John: I'm sure she'd worry herself sick over a gaggle of early 20s cheerleaders suddenly having the unfettered access to an aging bespectacled, blazer-clad sportswriter for which they had yearned so long.
Marjorie from Jacksonville:
Dave has got to do everything possible to make sure Clowney doesn't go to a divisional foe. We simply cannot have that beast chasing down whatever quarterback we have for two games a season for the next ten years! Trade up to avoid a decade of grief with Clowney and Watt.
John: I know we have entered the period of pre-draft Clowney fear. It was expected in the wake of the Pro Day in Columbia, S.C., this week and sure enough, it has arrived. But you can't let the fear of one player – particularly a defensive player – dictate your entire draft strategy. I'll put it this way: as dominant as Lawrence Taylor was – and he was absolutely dominant – the Redskins won three Super Bowls playing in the same division in his career and other teams won Super Bowls during that era, too. Just because other teams have great players doesn't mean you can't build a great team and beat them, too.
Eric from New York, NY:
If Clowney's not available, what do you think about the Jags taking Sammy Watkins as opposed to a quarterback or Khalil? (Caldwell was with Atlanta when they traded up for Julio Jones.)
John: I don't think that's out of the realm of possibility at all.
Bud from Middleburg, FL:
This need at quarterback is not a recent development. This team has had a need at quarterback for years. They went nine years without drafting one, which worsened the problem. One could say the Jags have never had an elite quarterback, as Mark Brunell was marginal. Is there any reason to think that things are going to change? The Jags don't seem to think quarterback is an important position.
John: I can't vehemently disagree with much about your email until the last line: "The Jags don't seem to think quarterback is an important position." That implies that the decision-making and philosophy of the organization now is somehow influenced by or connected to what occurred in the past. I can assure you that's not the case.
Holly from Mount Airy, MD:
I want our Jags to keep players healthy and on the field. Do you think poor workout techniques are to blame for injuries to players such as Luke Joeckel, Blaine Gabbert and Maurice Jones-Drew in recent seasons? Sometimes slowing it down and counting one, two, three, four then down for four counts can make all the difference in preventing injury. Do you know if the guys are looking out for each other to train to strengthen, and not just fast reps? Not always sure why we have so many Jags hurt for a few games or get put on IR, but if it can be prevented, seems like players and staff should know about it and perhaps address it.
John: This is a line of questioning I got a lot in the O-Zone in 2011 and 2012, and one I didn't see as much last season. That makes sense because the Jaguars had fewer injuries last season than in the previous two seasons, but whatever the numbers, the answer remains much the same: the NFL is a violent game, a game in which players get hurt. Joeckel last season sustained a broken ankle. Jones-Drew in 2012 sustained a foot injury that sidelined him 10 games. Those are hard injuries to prevent whatever the training techniques. Gabbert sustained a variety of injuries the last two seasons and other players have missed time for various reasons. It happens every year to every team in varying degrees. The Jaguars did make a concerted effort throughout last season to bring players back from injuries with a very proactive, forward-thinking return-to-play protocol – with the idea to have players as healthy as possible. It seemed for the most part to be effective, with the Jaguars staying relatively healthy until the last month of the season. As for "guys looking out for each other," the strength-and-conditioning staff researches and utilizes the latest in workout techniques. They're the ones looking out for the players, and they're very qualified to do so.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
Do you see our special teams making a stride forward this year?
John: I think they made pretty significant strides last season, and see no reason they shouldn't be good again this season.
Ramen from Queens, NY:
After seeing Clowney at his Pro Day, it is safe to say that he can be a freak in the NFL. If that Jags get him, do they take a help the offense in the second round or find another dominate player to match with Clowney?
John: Let's start by saying I don't think Clowney really changed his draft-day dynamic with his Pro Day performance. He showed during his Pro Day he is an otherworldly athlete with special physical abilities. I think people sort of thought that already. That said, I think the Jaguars will focus pretty heavily on offense in the draft. That doesn't mean they won't take Clowney, but it does mean I don't think you'll see all Day 1 and 2 selections on defense.
Eric from Boston, MA:
If Sammy and Mack are both there at three and we can't trade back, putting your general manager hat on, who would you grab and why?
John: I prefer what I call my Silly Saturday hat, but barring that, I'd put on my GM hat and say this is a real difficult choice. The Jaguars are in need of playmakers – i.e., players who can make game-turning, game-winning plays. Mack and Watkins appear to be those kinds of players at positions the Jaguars need. I'd probably take Watkins based on the fact that the team needs explosiveness on offense, but it's not like I'm saying that's an easy decision.
John from Cape May, NJ:
Jags are on the clock and Clowney is still available. The Falcons call wanting to trade up. My question is what would the Jags require in order to make that deal? I'm thinking the Falcons' 2014 first, second and fourth as well as their 2015 first and third would be sufficient. Is that enough for the Jags to pull the trigger and pass on a once-in-a-generation pass-rusher?
John: It would be enough and they would do back flips. Theoretically, if the Falcons just offered what you're discussing from 2014 – their first, second and fourth – it would be enough to do the deal to move up those three spots. You might be able to squeeze one more late-round selection, but probably not a future premium selection.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
With the number of total picks the Jags have in this draft, do you see Caldwell using all the picks, or trading for a few choice picks in later rounds?
John: The good thing for Caldwell about having 11 selections in the draft is it gives him what any general manager likes – draft flexibility. He can use all 11 selections, but if he targets a player he needn't sweat too much if he gives up one pick to get a player he really likes. If I had to guess, though, I'd say he probably will use all 11 selections. Not only that, I'd say if he makes a trade, it would be for more selections rather than fewer. This team is early in the build process. The more good, fast players this team can get into camp and put at a bunch of different areas on the roster, the better chance a bunch of those players could be pretty good.

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