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O-Zone: Flowing in the wind

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Roland from Ocala, FL:
Ozone, I hear Carson Palmer thinks the crowd at EverBank will be "interesting." Just how interesting do you think it will be?
John: I think it will be quite "interesting," actually. You're referring to comments made by once-Bengals-then-Raiders-now-Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer Wednesday, who miffed a lot of Jaguars fans during a conference call with Jacksonville media when he said: "We know this is going to be an interesting atmosphere. It's not going to be a sold-out stadium, it's going to be a little bit of a different energy in it and we've got to be prepared for that and just be ready to play football. There's a totally different energy when a stadium is full if every seat is sold out, and when the stadium is empty there's a different energy. You can't worry about any of those outside distractions. You've just got to focus on doing your job each and every play and do what it takes to win the game regardless of how many people are watching or who is in the stands." I would say a couple of things to that: first, we don't know yet how many people will be there Sunday. Second, as most people who know the facts on these things, EverBank Field is significantly bigger than most NFL stadiums – even with some seats covered – so my guess is there will be plenty of people there; maybe even a few more than Palmer is anticipating. Third, as anyone who has been in EverBank on game day can tell you, the place has a tendency to get noisy. Shoot, there are times Jaguars Twitter alone gets loud enough it's hard to hear a snap count. I do know this: I've hung with the Bold City Brigade and the Teal Street Hooligans and a whole lot of other unbranded Jaguars fans enough to know they can get loud when motivated – and they tend to get motivated for, say, Jaguars home games.
Michael from Reynoldsburg, OH:
The City Council in Jacksonville approved the $43 million for EverBank Field renovations. Please explain the advantages of this when we're losing four home games over four years to London? It seems like paying for a party and not getting to eat!
John: You seem to believe three games in London mean less reason to have a state-of-the-art stadium in Jacksonville. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan doesn't see it that way at all. In fact, both the London games and the EverBank Field improvements are part of Khan's overall plan for expanding the fan base internationally while strengthening the franchise in Jacksonville. The advantages of the stadium improvements – which are being funded by the city AND Khan – are to improve the stadium for the nine Jaguars home games each of the next three seasons and all home games thereafter, and also to improve it for other stadium events. As is the case with the London initiative, it's part of an overall plan to improve the fan experience – and strengthen the franchise.
Mike from Section 238:
With reference to losing in order to secure the No. 1 pick, how many current NFL starting quarterbacks were No. 1 overall picks? How many elite quarterbacks were No. 1 picks? It doesn't seem you only get them at No. 1 unless it's extremely obvious that Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning is in the draft.
John: There are nine former No. 1 overall selections playing quarterback in the NFL – Peyton Manning (Broncos), Alex Smith (Chiefs), Andrew Luck (Colts), Carson Palmer (Cardinals), Sam Bradford (Rams/injured), Cam Newton (Panthers), Matt Stafford (Lions), Eli Manning (Giants) and Michael Vick (Eagles). Five of those players – Luck, Bradford, Newton, Stafford and Eli Manning – are with the first team they played for. I'd consider about half elite or getting there, with the exception of Palmer, Smith, Vick and perhaps Bradford, though Bradford still has a chance. There are, of course, plenty of examples of No. 1-drafted quarterbacks not working out, with JaMarcus Russell the most obvious recent example. So, no, it's no guarantee. And there are plenty of elite quarterbacks – Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers most notably among them – who weren't selected No. 1. Bottom line: You must pick right, and that's true whether you're picking No. 1 or No. 32.
Steve from Jacksonville:
Your answer regarding Andrew Luck being "can't miss" got me thinking. How many quarterbacks over the past couple of decades were considered "can't miss?" I know Luck was. I'm thinking Peyton Manning was, and going back a few years, John Elway (despite the fiasco with the Colts), but anyone else?
John: There's really no such thing as "can't miss," though Luck was probably the closest thing in the last 20 years. Remember, there were some who questioned Manning's arm strength, and there wasn't even really a consensus leading into the draft that he should be selected over Ryan Leaf. The draft was a less-publicized and less-scrutinized beast when Elway was selected, so the labels from that era don't resonate quite so strong. The reality is absolute can't-miss quarterbacks are rare – if they even exist at all – and there certainly doesn't seem to be one in next May's draft.
Doug from Jacksonville:
My head is spinning … my world crashing … human sacrifice … dogs and cats living together .... mass hysteria! The title of the O-Zone did not come from the last answered question! What in the....
John: "Curveball."
Christopher from Hokes Bluff:
I am getting tired of the Anger vs. Russell Wilson storyline. No one could have known Wilson would be this good. If they had, he would have been picked in the Top 5. If Jag fans are going to continue this argument, then let's go and say this: "How we could pick all those guys before Tom Brady in his draft?" Anger is a solid pick for a third-rounder, a guy who is most likely going to be a productive member of the team for a long time.
John: I haven't spent much time on the Anger-Wilson issue, mainly for just the reasons you cite. Looking back on past drafts and saying "What If?" is without question fun. And it's very easy to do. But no general manager's drafting can stand up to a pick-by-pick breakdown of who they might have picked instead of the players they actually picked. Would the Jaguars love to have Russell Wilson now? Sure. Would many teams have selected him in the Jaguars' situation? No.
David from Durban, South Africa:
I feel for Maurice Jones-Drew as folks criticize his lack of production. I watched the interior (principally the left guard and center) being collapsed into the backfield time and again. When is Will Rackley going to be available to play?
John: You're correct that Jones-Drew's lack of production this season is far more about the offensive line than Jones-Drew. The Jaguars for the season are averaging 2.8 yards per carry, which is exactly a yard per carry below last season, when the team struggled to run and tied the franchise-record for lowest average yards per carry for a season. That's indicative of the offensive line, which has struggled to run block this season, particularly on the interior. That was particularly true this past week, when the team rushed for 1.8 yards per carry against a very good Titans front. As for Rackley, he practiced limited on Wednesday, and it sounds as if he will play Sunday.
Tom from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I recently heard Mike Ditka say he believes a player should never lose his starting position due to injury. While I know Blaine Gabbert didn't play well before he was hurt, he was the starter. Looking at it from the outside, it would seem the right thing is to give Gabbert one more shot now that he is healthy. I respect Henne, but it's not like he has lit up the field. Thoughts?
John: Your point is a valid one, and Ditka's thoughts are shared by many in NFL circles. Football is a violent, dangerous game, and cases of players losing jobs because of injuries are relatively unusual. In this case, though, it's fair to think the Jaguars coaches probably were considering a quarterback change with or without the injury, and Gabbert certainly had not grasped the starting job by any stretch. I don't think it would be a mistake to start Gabbert, necessarily – mainly because neither he nor Henne has played well enough to be a rock-solid choice – but it doesn't appear that's the plan.
Mark from Ponte Vedra and Section 215:
The City Council votes 14-2 to fund the city's portion of the EverBank upgrades. Shad Kahn puts up $20 million to fund the team's portion, as well as spending $10 million on locker-room and training-room upgrades. I think this cooperation between city leaders and the NFL owner is the reason the Jaguars are not leaving anytime soon. Am I naive in thinking that?
John: No.
Chris from Crestview, FL:
Is Johnny Football the answer for us? He seems like an amazing once-in-a-lifetime talent that is doing better after winning the Heisman last year (stats-wise). The question to you is can he play at the NFL level and do you think he will be with the Jags next year?
John: I believe he can play at the NFL level, though I have no idea if he will be with the Jaguars next season. I was skeptical when Manziel was a freshman, but watching him this season, you have to be intrigued. He's far from a can't-miss. He's unorthodox and his size will be an issue at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. But if you need a quarterback and he's there when you're selecting – boy, he's awfully intriguing in a lot of ways, too.
John from Section 132:
The Reynolds suspension seems as if it hurts worse than it should. Was he going play in Poz's place? If not, what will the linebacker corps look this week?
John: Russell Allen was going to move to Posluszny's place – as he did late Sunday. That would move John Lotulelei to Russell Allen's spot, making the linebacking trio Geno Hayes, Allen and Lotulelei.
Ray from Vernon:
Why not give Ricky Stanzi a shot at starting to see what he has? Or do they already know and he is just a practice-squad arm?
John: Coaches watch practice, and what they see there is usually the reason for players either "getting a shot" or "getting a shot." Stanzi is the third quarterback on the Jaguars' roster, and there haven't been signs of that changing anytime soon.
Paul from Jacksonville:
Do you think that Ed Reed's stint with the Texans will hurt his HOF chances? I think it may at least move him from the first ballot.
John: No. Why in the world would a half a season overshadow an entire career? If Reed is a first-ballot Hall of Famer – and he's probably right on the borderline – this season won't hurt that.
Mario from Zapata, Texas:
Driving by EverBank in a '67 Camaro with the top down and with your mullet flowing with the wind. #shadricksightings
John: You make a good point.

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