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O-Zone: Help wanted

JACKSONVILLE -- Let's get to it . . . Edward from Jacksonville:
Rebuilding sucks.
John: I almost didn't post this email, because I thought, "Well, yeah – of course, it does." After I thought about it, though, I disagreed. Is it difficult to see familiar names and faces – and in my case, players I've worked with and enjoyed interviewing – leave? No question. At the same time, if you're a Jaguars supporter what "sucks" is 2-14 and what "sucks" is seeing a team with seemingly little hope of making the playoffs. What is further bothersome is when strides aren't made in the right direction. Starting now, this offseason, I don't see that being the case any longer. You get an idea being around David Caldwell and Gus Bradley that the direction of this franchise is right, and that you're going to start seeing improvement. What will that mean in terms of record next season? Honestly, I have no idea. But if you see improvement next season and you see this team start moving in a direction that logically you can see ending in contention for the playoffs and the Super Bowl at some point in the future, I'd argue that for a Jaguars supporter that doesn't suck at all. In fact, that would be pretty cool. It's what you've been waiting for for a long time.
Chris from Jacksonville:
It stands to reason there are guys on the roster Bradley and Caldwell believe are not going to be a good system fit; and/or players the team is highly unlikely to re-sign when their current deals expire for whatever reason. What is the argument for NOT trading away those players for draft picks, patching in free agents as needed, and using the picks to draft as much young talent as possible with an eye toward the future? Would it not be preferable to get less-than "full value" for those players, rather than have them play/sit for one or two seasons and then watch them leave to another team for no draft pick consideration?
John: It's very possible those discussions have taken place. Trading in the NFL isn't as simple as pressing a button and executing the trade. There has to be someone on the other end of the phone willing to give up something to get a player. Draft picks are important, and teams generally don't part with them for older players unless the older player brings something different than the draft pick might bring.
Sean from Fleming Island, FL:
You seem eager to empathize with Greg Jones who wants to play for a winner, but when the Jacksonville fans want to enjoy supporting a winning team you give them no sympathy.
John: What?
Troy from Orange Park, FL:
With all of the other NFL teams who need a quarterback going through free agency to get one, it is looking like no quarterback will go in the first round. It would seem that the picking Geno or some other quarterback at No. 33 might be possible. What do you think?
John: It's possible that Geno Smith will be available at No. 33, but still not probable. Even if Smith slips out of the Top 10 or 20, it's very likely that some team would trade up into the first round to get him. Now, is there a chance the team could take a quarterback at No. 33? That's a very real possibility, but it would be surprising if Smith were available there.
Mark from Raleigh, NC:
Kevin Ware had a horrific injury. Is that the worst injury you ever saw? What's your worst injury?
John: It's up there. I also was on the practice field in Stevens Point, Wis., the day running back Leon Brown dislocated his ankle at the Jaguars' first training camp in 1995. The injury was severe enough that players turned away and many who were there still talk about it as one of the worst football moments they witnessed. Brown, who played at Paxon High School here locally, never played again. The Joe Theismann injury is up there, too. As for me, I've been lucky. I've had my pride hurt a lot, obviously, but very little physically. That's one of the benefits of being born notably nonathletic.
Robert from Point Grey:
Yo, Teflon Johnny-O, watup? One constant I have trouble with is the perception that Gabbert has been "terrible" so far in his career. He hasn't. Last season he compiled a better passer rating and completion percentage than Luck, Locker, Tannehill and a few other young QBs who are older than him, drafted higher, and in better situations.
John: Point taken. I can't in good conscience sit here and write that Gabbert has been as good or better than those players you mention. He honestly hasn't been to this point, but I can in good conscience write that there have been circumstances causing Gabbert to struggle. He played too soon as a rookie, and last year was a mess from the start – not Gabbert, but overall. As tired as people may get of hearing it and reading it, Gabbert realistically is in exactly the situation Gus Bradley and David Caldwell have laid out publicly. He has a chance to compete for the starting job. I'd say he has a pretty good chance of winning it. The team will evaluate and assess him based on what he does from that point on, so in terms of how the Jaguars feel about him and his future with the organization, the clock in a very real sense starts now.
Steve from Nashville, TN:
You said Greg Jones wanted a chance to play for a title. The fans would like a chance to cheer for a title as well.
John: Yes, and the people building the team want a chance to play for one, too. That's the idea behind the roster moves and decisions being made now. The idea is to establish the foundation and sometimes that means releasing players in the short-term so you can build for the long-term.
Donte from Richmond, VA:
Like most of the fans I'm frustrated about the moves that have been made and have not been made, but I've been a Jags fan for a long time and have seen the organization make so many different decisions I have learned to ride with it. However, for the life of me I cannot understand how we would allow Daryl Smith to walk but keep Clint Session on our team. It seems I haven't heard anything about him in well over a year. I know you can't completely answer the question, but why would you think he would remain after all of the cuts we made?
John: I actually can completely answer the question. Clint Session was released by the Jaguars last December.
Tim from Jacksonville:
If the Jaguars draft a starting-caliber pass rusher and combine him with the current pass rushers on the roster, and perhaps an improved interior with a Miller and a healthy Alualu, how much improved can the pass rush be this season? I know a rookie can help but it seems defensive ends often take two-to-three years to reach their prime. Pass rush has been an area that the Jaguars have not even been average in for years.
John: Your scenario would improve the pass rush, with a key to that being the development of Andre Branch. It's reasonable to expect production from Jason Babin, who is expected to play the Leo position. Branch registered one sack as a rookie last season, but the coaches like his potential in this scheme. I'm always hesitant to guarantee dramatic improvement in terms of sacks from an individual player because it's difficult for a defensive end to control his sack numbers. Sometimes, they're hard to come by even if a player is playing well. But if Branch can provide pressure and become a player for whom teams must game plan – combine that with an impact rookie, and yeah, that would greatly help the pass rush.
Jim from Neptune Beach, FL:
As of today, the Jags have 57 players on the squad. Adding seven draft picks makes 66. I think the team went to training camp last year with 83, so there's going to be a lot of college free agents. If I were an agent for an undrafted college player, my first call would be to the Jags. Chances of making this team look outstanding, don't they?
John: Yes. That's the idea. Competition, competition, competition. Build with youth. Establish a foundation. This is Ground Zero and the build begins now. The Jaguars will be phenomenally aggressive in collegiate free agency, with money for signing bonuses and roster spots – and perhaps a starting position or two – a possibility. Will Jacksonville be attractive to undrafted players? Yeah, I'd say so.
Jerome from Bryceville, FL:
Colin Cowherd said that if Tony Romo hadn't received his huge new contract, many teams (including Jacksonville) would have jumped on the opportunity to sign him to a similar contract. That doesn't fit at all with the new vision for the team as I understand it. Your thoughts?
John: I haven't given the scenario much thought because it never really came close to being feasible. Romo still had a year remaining on his contract, so he was a year from free agency. Would the Jaguars have signed him next offseason had he come free? Considering his age and the cost, I doubt it.
Davy from Los Angeles, CA:
Cheer up, sleepy John!
John: You need help. I like that about you.

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