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O-Zone: Greatness matters

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Carl from Middleburg, FL:
The Jags need to win. Why doesn't Gus Bradley ever speak about winning? He needs to follow the great Vincent Lombardi more: "Winning is everything." What do you think?
John: I think Bradley doesn't need to follow the great Vince Lombardi or anyone else, because the worst thing an NFL head coach can do is to try to be something he's not. You can't lead players doing things that aren't true to your character, because players sniff that sort of thing out in a hurry. Bradley believes passionately in what he preaches and teaches to players, and a huge reason why players believe in him – and they without a doubt believe in him – is they respect and believe in that passion. Look, no one doubts winning is everything in the NFL, and no one doubts it's the ultimate goal. It doesn't need to be said. It doesn't need to be yelled. It permeates all else. Incidentally, Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban takes a strikingly similar approach to that which Bradley takes. It's a philosophy based on focusing on the task at hand and assuming that doing that will lead to the ultimate goal of winning. You really can't win until you do all of the other things well. Do those things and winning will take care of itself.
Jon from Washington, DC:
Besides Brandon Linder, who took snaps at center during minicamp?
John: Tyler Shatley.
Blues Man from St. Johns:
John - I couldn't help but notice that Brian Sexton looks like a smaller version of Vince McMahon from the WWE. Is Sexton as tough as he tries to look? Can JP take him down for the three count? By the way, you guys do a fantastic job at keeping us informed of all the camp news!
John: Sexton indeed is as tough as he looks. I'll just let it stand at that.
Hassan from Irving, TX:
Hey John, are you thinking what I'm thinking regarding Eugene Monroe? More importantly, is GM Dave thinking what I'm thinking?
John: Oh, goodness.
Tony from Chicago, IL:
There has been a lot of talk about how fast this team is now. How will that match up to the "exotic smashmouth" brand of football Tennessee is striving for, which seems to be the exact opposite philosophy?
John: We'll find out, but in the 2016 version of the NFL you better be able to run. The Jaguars have worked hard to get faster over the last three or four seasons and there's little question this will be the fastest version of the team during that span. If there's an overarching takeaway from the last four weeks of organized team activities and minicamp, that's it.
Alex from St. Johns, FL:
I'm excited to see all the Marqise love. As a fellow Trojan at the same time Marqise was playing, watching him every week, I've never seen anyone that could blow the top off of a defense like he could. Sure, it was college safeties and corners but it takes a special athlete to score 80-yard touchdowns when the defense knows that is what you are trying to do. And he did it all the time. With a healthy Lee, this could be the best receiving corps in the entire league.
John: You're right.
Kelly from Jacksonville:
As a Jag fanatic since the beginning I must say this is shaping to be one of the most talented, exciting bunch I've seen. But with such high-dollar free agents and payout potential of some of the younger players, how long could a presumably Pure Playoff Jags Team hope to financially stay together?
John: The Jaguars will be able to sign enough core players to contend. They can contend as long as the quarterback is playing at a high level.
Cliff from the Netherworld:
John, which is more frightening - getting the ball hiked to you with Dante Fowler Jr. staring you down, or grabbing the last doughnut with Shadrick staring you down?
John: There are a lot of similarities. While Fowler has the edge in athleticism and charm, I doubt he can match Shadrick's willingness to do absolutely what it takes to achieve the desired goal in your stated situation. There's a lot to be said for "want to," so I gotta take Shadrick.
Steven from Jacksonville:
I have both read and heard mention that Myles Jack played the weak-side linebacker position in minicamp. I thought weak-side linebacker was Telvin Smith's linebacker position? Is Jack competing with Smith for playing time or am I confused about Smith's role on defense?
John: Jack worked primarily at the middle linebacker spot in minicamp, but it stands to reason he will get reps at all three spots. That includes the weak side, which indeed is Smith's spot.
Tom from Virginia Beach, FL:
Once games start for real, who has the last chance to make a substitution? All the e-mails about different packages on defense have me wondering? Does the team practice having the wrong players in for certain situations for when they are caught off-guard during a game?
John: Rule 5, Section 2, Article 10 of the NFL Rulebook reads: "If a substitution is made by the offense, the offense shall not be permitted to snap the ball until the defense has been permitted to respond with its substitutions." It's tough to practice for being off guard, but teams do have to be prepared to play defense in less-than-perfect match-ups.
Kyle from Somewhere, Ohio:
I always find things like minicamp and spring practices confusing. I never know how to take plays. I mean, I saw Julius Thomas make Myles Jack look very lost at times and I'm not sure to say "Good for Thomas, maybe he will be better this year" or, "Uh oh, Jack is a bust."
John: Minicamp and spring practices are like pretty much anything in life: they are best analyzed in context. In the scenario you mention remember that Thomas is a two-time Pro Bowl tight end with a lot of NFL experience working against a talented rookie with a lot of speed. Thomas is supposed to make Jack look very lost and Jack is supposed to look lost at times. The NFL is a different game played at a different speed than college football. As for Jack and Thomas … Thomas indeed has looked good in OTAs and looks like he has good chemistry with Blake Bortles. That could lead to more production from Thomas, although he had a solid stretch late last season when he was more productive than some seem to remember. As for Jack, he has practiced two days in the NFL … are we really writing about bust? Really and truly?
Brian from Charlottesville:
I've heard Yannick Ngakoue has looked outstanding in minicamp. Which is this more indicative of: Ngakoue being undervalued as a third-rounder or our offensive line potentially being a problem? Perhaps it's too early to tell. My concern is if a rookie third-rounder is making our offensive linemen look bad in training camp, what will Pro-Bowl caliber players make them look like in September?
John: You answered your question within your question when you said "perhaps it's too early to tell." This also ties in with the last question about busts and analyzing OTAs/minicamp. Slow down. Take a breath. See this for what it is. We're talking about offensive and defensive linemen in non-contact situations. Outside of seeing athleticism and raw potential, everything is "too early to tell." There's very little perhaps about it.
Jairus from Lake City, FL:
John: There's a 2016 season prediction for all 32 teams floating around out there by Erik Lambert who predicts the Jaguars regular season record will be 11-5. I'm skeptical to buy into the idea of a record flip mostly based on the plausibility of the Jags being able to go from winning only a couple of road games last season - if you consider London a road game - to winning most of their road games and making that projected record. Do you think it's wild to believe they will become road warriors after just one off season? Thanks
John: Erik Lambert predicted it!!? Well, if that's true, this shouldn't be "floating around" anywhere. It should be plucked out of the air, nailed down and held up for all to see. Nay, it should be lauded, praised and ceased upon as if were holy. Anything written by Erik Lambert deserves no less.
John from Edmonton, Alberta:
Do you think having a great quarterback in camp can impact the level of play of the secondary during the regular season? I would think to some extent that getting your practice reps against someone who can truly test you and challenge you only elevates your play (and exposes your weaknesses). We haven't had that type of quarterback in quite some time, but there are signs we do now.
John: Having a great quarterback can't hurt, but it doesn't help a secondary as much as other things. Chief among those things: having great players in the secondary.

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