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O-Zone: Good advice

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Nate from Fort Duvall, PA:
What is the status of Sen'Derrick Marks? Is he 100 percent or is he still rehabilitating his injury from last season? How long do you think it will take for him to get back to full speed? I would imagine the limited play the last two seasons would have slowed him down a bit.
John: Marks actually hasn't been limited the past two seasons, just 2015. Still, your question is timely considering the veteran defensive tackle isn't participating in 2016 organized team activities. That's indeed his status, and he was fine with that when I spoke to him Thursday afternoon. He said the absence is precautionary more than anything, with the reality being he's not going to benefit enough from OTAs to make any risk of offseason injury worthwhile. Marks has been in this defensive system for three years now; as he said Thursday, players at his position newer to the system such as Malik Jackson, Michael Bennett and Sheldon Day benefit far more from May-June reps than Marks. I don't know how long it will take Marks to get to full speed, but that's not important. What's important is he is full go for the regular season – and if Marks is healthy, there's no reason that won't be the case. He had 8.5 sacks in 2014 before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the regular-season finale and he looked like he was starting to return to his pre-injury self when he tore his triceps in Week 9 last season. I saw nothing during the four games he played last season to make me think he can't be effective this season. We'll see.
John from Boynton Beach, FL:
Is there another sports journalist that looks less likely to be able to play the sport they cover than Vito Stellino and football?
John: I think Vito has at least one one competitor.
Marc from US Assure East:
The Jaguars had a great offseason. You could almost say it was perfect … but not quite. They should have pursued/signed Alex Mack. Theoretically, Dave must have felt he would not make our team better – or he had fairly strong hopes we could get Ryan Kelly in the second round, or even trade up to the back of the first. I don't see how anyone can reasonably argue that Mack would not have made us better for several years, even if he has lost a slight step. Imagine having Jermey Parnell, A.J. Cann, Mack, Brandon Linder, and Kelvin Beachum/Luke Joeckel. So, I still give the Jags an A and I am really excited for our future, but I can't quite give us that A . Am I too not picky?
John: You say Caldwell "theoretically" felt Mack wouldn't have made the team better; that's a fact because if Caldwell felt otherwise he would have at least tried to sign Mack. Caldwell's view was that while the Jaguars really, really needed Mack two years ago when they pursued him the need this offseason wasn't nearly as great. That's because the Jaguars like their interior linemen, particularly Linder. The angst over not signing Mack has been real among some Jaguars observers and fans. I have never felt any such angst from Caldwell or anyone around the Jaguars, and I in fact have heard no real angst at all at any point this offseason about the center position. The team has felt very good about the idea of Linder there for a long time. However you grade it, this team feels it has a good combination on the offensive line entering training camp.
Austin from Jacksonville:
Hey, O-Zone: When will Jacksonville host a Super Bowl – or any event at that? It seemed our city was just as capable as others of hosting big events in Super Bowl XXXIX. I guess my question is when will we host a large event (Combine, Super Bowl, Draft, etc)?
John: I wouldn't count on a Super Bowl in Jacksonville any time remotely soon. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan said earlier this offseason he wasn't inclined to push for the event because downtown Jacksonville lacks the hotels and infrastructure; his feeling is that pursuing a Super Bowl would set Jacksonville up for failure. I also don't see the combine coming to Jacksonville, but that's OK because the combine isn't a terrific fan event, anyway; it's far more of a business trip with an emphasis on physical examinations. I do think there's a good chance Khan will push for the draft to be held in Jacksonville once the amphitheater is built and the surrounding area is a bit more developed. He said in January he thinks that would be a good fit and would make a lot of sense. Khan has been pretty consistent about getting things he wants for this area, so I wouldn't rule out this city hosting the draft sometime in the foreseeable future.
Jairus from Salt Lake City, UT:
Reading the recent Luke Joeckel interview, I can't help but think some of his comments seem a bit passive. Was there fire in his eyes, John? Does he appear more driven and passionate than before – and on that note, is it common to have competition at the position push a player into taking the next step? Thanks!
John: I have great difficulty with these kinds of questions, because in 22 years covering the NFL I have yet to see a player's interview persona translate even remotely to on-field play. No, Joeckel did not yell the comments in his interview with the media this week, nor did he speak with a scowl. He did not threaten the media with physical force, nor did he beat his chest and sneer as he spoke. He answered questions that were asked of him, and that's what he's supposed to do. The point I'm trying to make – and taking a long time to do it – is that a player's tone in an interview has nothing to do with his success or failure on the field. Joeckel is motivated to be the Jaguars' starting left tackle, and it appears from what he said this week that he is working hard to do that. While I never got the impression that he wasn't working hard before, he certainly didn't seem passive or lacking anything this week.
Jonathan from Jacksonville:
I haven't heard much about James Sample besides he's not willing to give up No. 23. Do you think he has a chance to beat Johnathan Cyprien out of the starting job?
John: I think he realistically faces an uphill battle, but he has a chance. Coaches and personnel officials seemed a bit more confident in Cyprien after reviewing last season than they did in its immediate aftermath. The general thought was although he struggled at times he actually played pretty consistently when allowed to play in the box as a true strong safety. The accompanying theory is Cyprien should fare much better now that Tashaun Gipson can play a true free safety role and allow Cyprien to focus on strong safety. Sample also played just four games last regular season, so he didn't get a chance to show the team what he could really do. Because of all of that, there's a general feeling that Cyprien has a very good chance to be the strong safety entering next season. All of that said, the Jaguars love Sample's potential and if he outplays Cyprien in training camp he could beat Cyprien out for the job.
Zach from Jacksonville:
I'm curious as to the improvement for individual positions on our roster. How much better will Malik Jackson be than Sen'Derrick Marks? Dante Fowler Jr. than Chris Clemons? Jalen Ramsey than Dwayne Gratz?
John: Good questions.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
John, in contract signings is a signing bonus the same as guaranteed money? Is that amount paid upfront or spread out?
John: A signing bonus is guaranteed money, though a contract can include other guarantees; for instance, a player's salary for a particularly season can be guaranteed. And yes, a signing bonus is paid up front, though it is spread out evenly over the life of the contract for salary-cap accounting purposes.
Mikey from Tallahassee, FL:
Would you say playing somebody at OLEO would give us a spread defense?
John: And away we go …
Willis from Jacksonville:
If Tashaun Gipson ends up playing safety, tackle and linebacker, can we call it the Staccato position?
John: … clever …
Charles from Midlothian, VA:
Do we have anyone small enough to play the TOTO position ? If we do he could play either a OZ or HOLDTHELINE or a 99 formation…
John: … OK, that's enough for the day.
Les from Jacksonville:
Why do you answer questions that are not football=related? I thought this this was the Jaguars' O-Zone ... I read the O-Zone every day. It just seems like a waste of space when people have real questions to ask.
John: I've said often that people ask questions and I answer them. I don't control the topic, and sometimes the topics indeed vary widely. Just recently, for instance, I answered a question about driving. The answer emphasized the importance of staying in one's lane …

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