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O-Zone: Getting to know you

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it . . . Jordan from Jacksonville:
It's amazing what Seattle has done in the draft after Round 3. The Super Bowl MVP came in Round 7. Their best cornerback came in Round 5. Every round matters.
John: Yes, every round can matter – and often does. You still need to hit on Round 1 just about every year and close to that in Round 2. Your percentages are just going to be better there over the course of time. But Seattle showed absolutely that you can get good football players after the Top 100 players are picked on draft day. I don't know that it's reasonable to expect that sort of success on Day 3 consistently, but the Seahawks have done remarkably well.
Nathaniel from St. Augustine, FL:
In an era where free agency and the salary cap make it more difficult to keep rosters together, rules have been changed that favor the offense and scoring. Facing one of the best offenses in history, what the Seahawks defense did in the Super Bowl is just amazing! Knowing we have one of the architects of that defense leading our team makes you confident in the Jaguars future. Go Jags!
John: The Seahawks were very impressive, and yes, there's little question that defensively and culturally, the Jaguars have a very similar approach under Bradley. But let's not fall into the trap of expecting the same trajectory just because Bradley once worked there. Just because there are similarities doesn't mean there are guarantees; the Jaguars of course will have to follow their own path and deal with their own highs and lows, hits and misses, etc. But there is a sound structure to what Seattle has done, and for the Jaguars to have elements of that in their foundation is certainly not a bad thing.
Phillip from Brunswick, MD:
Mr. O., I'm tired of quarterback talk already. Who do you think will be the top running backs coming out in the draft? I think Carlos Hyde would be a fine upgrade from MJD and a great complement to Todman.
John: Hyde is impressive, as is Tre Mason of Auburn, though. I tend to agree with a lot of draft analysts that a running back won't be selected in the first round this season – and if there is one, it will be very late in the round. It's just not a position on which teams are going to place a draft-day premium. The question even in the second or third rounds is how early do you go? You can win without an elite running back, so waiting a round or two for a player such as Ka-Deem Carey of Arizona or Jeremy Hill of LSU … maybe that makes sense, too. Also, I wouldn't automatically assume any rookie is going to be an overall upgrade over Jones-Drew. I know it has become vogue to assume such things, but he's a very complete player.
Sean from Fleming Island, FL:
Can you list out the significant dates and activities between now and the draft for the Jags?
John: The NFL Scouting Combine will take place in Indianapolis February 19-25. College players then have their on-campus workouts – Pro Days – throughout March. David Caldwell and the Jaguars' decision-makers will attend the combine en masse, with Caldwell, Gus Bradley and other key decision-makers attending various pro days. After that, much of April will be spent back in Jacksonville finalizing the draft board and reviewing draft-day strategy. The draft this year will be held May 8-10.
Hunter from Jacksonville:
No, but really... why did he have an earpiece?
John: Hunter is referring to a question he asked shortly after the Pro Bowl about why the referee in that game wore an earpiece. The league has been experimenting with having the referee wear earpieces. It has been tested in the preseason in an effort to possibly improve in-game communication between officials, and was worn at the Pro Bowl.
Steven from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Let's get real on our free- agent expectations. The Browns have more cap space than the Jags, and can "franchise" Alex Mack. If they don't, wouldn't he and other top free agents be attracted to playoff teams/Super Bowl contenders? I think Dave has the right mind set: go after the second-tier free agents who can blossom under the Bradley regime and then cash in.
John: There are a couple of issues with Mack. As is the case with any free agent, there always is the possibility he will re-sign with his current team. While the franchise tag is indeed an option if the Browns and Mack don't agree to a long-term deal, the franchise tag for a center is the same as for all offensive linemen: more than $9 million, which is a high salary for a center. I'd expect the Jaguars to seriously consider Mack and a few other free agents. If they see the free agents being a good value, I expect they'll pursue some, but I don't think they'll spend big just to get a "veteran name" to play a "position of need." That got them into trouble with Aaron Ross and Laurent Robinson two years ago. I can't see them mimicking that approach this offseason. As for attraction to playoff teams, there is that. There's also cash money, baby – and people like cash money.
John from Kokomo, IN:
First of all, I'm not a fan of Johnny Manziel. So, if you had to choose between Bridgewater or Bortles, who do you take?
John: Bridgewater, though I don't know that there's a quarterback in this year's draft that's a legitimate Top 3 candidate. It seems more and more that's an issue with which many people studying the draft are struggling. It's hard to know for sure how much Caldwell is struggling with it, and I doubt he says much or offers many hints until he's darned sure ready do so.
James from Jacksonville:
Here's one fer MJD. Even with his age he's still better than most running backs in the NFL. Plus he's 100 percent healthy now.
John: One fer Jones-Drew, and yeah, that's an important point to be made. There are some readers who seem in a hurry to part ways with Jones-Drew, and that's fine. Opinions are cool. But Jones-Drew does many, many things well and still squeezed a lot of productive yards last season in a year of transition and behind an offensive line that struggled at times. You may be able to find more explosive big-play running backs than Jones-Drew is now, but you can sure get yourself into a situation where you're not as strong at that position without him as you were with him.
Joshua from Germany:
I wonder how many general manager's draft boards will change after the Super Bowl. The old adage "defense wins championships" holds true once again.
John: Once again, the Seahawks were impressive. No doubt. But I don't see general managers blowing up their boards and completely overhauling philosophies based on this season. The best players are the best players, and general managers will continue to scout and grade those players regardless of Sunday's result.
Scott from Chelsea, NY:
There have been a few articles that speculate the Jaguars won't get any compensatory selections. I know that it's a "secret" formula that decides who gets how many picks, but do you think the Jags stand a chance to get one this season?
John: They stand a chance, but it's no lock. Teams receive compensatory selections if their free-agent losses the previous offseason outweigh their free-agency gains. Terrance Knighton, Derek Cox and Rashad Jennings are the big "fors" in the Jaguars' formula and Sen'Derrick Marks is the biggest against. Knighton and Jennings each signed very minimal deals and while Cox signed a long-term deal in San Diego, it wasn't break-the-bank-by-free-agent standards. I'd say the Jaguars have a chance, but I'd also say fans expecting a big haul could be disappointed.
Clay from Jacksonville:
Of the game-day active players, how many typically do actually play in the same at some point (assuming usual number of injuries, etc.)?
John: It's rare for more than two or three players to be active and not play. It will happen at quarterback and sometimes at backup offensive line, but most other positions play as part of a rotation or on special teams.
John from St. Louis, MO:
O-Man, how many years are the Jags away from getting back into the playoffs?
John: It's impossible to predict for sure. I'd be surprised if they make it next season. I'd be surprised if they weren't a legitimate contender for a playoff spot in 2015.
Christopher from Richmond, VA:
If they were all up for new contracts today, which quarterback do you think would land the larger contract: Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, or Russell Wilson?
John: I think they all would get franchise-quarterback, foundation-of-the-future contracts. I think the difference between deals for Luck and Kaepernick and Newton would be minimal, while Wilson's might be slightly less because of the perception – perhaps an incorrect one – that he's a system, game-manager guy. But it wouldn't be that much less – I mean, he'd still be able to afford … well, just about anything.
Dan from Lambertville, MI:
I have decided to follow the Jaguars and leave behind the many years of heartache trying to be a fan of the Lions. What's the most important thing I need to know as a Jaguars follower?
John: This is a start.

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