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O-Zone: High expectations

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Chad from Jacksonville:
Can you guys video organized team activities and put them on the website?
John: No. Organized team activities begin today at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields, but with the exception of the June 5 practice, they are closed to the public. When practices are closed we at don't typically post them to the website because there are team activities, schemes and strategic elements involved. The June 5 practice is scheduled to be held from 10:50 until 12:50.
Jim from World Golf Village:
If I was Chris Smith, I would really study tape of Dwight Freeney. Similar bodies. Great role model. What say you?
John: I say it's fine for Smith and other defensive ends to study Freeney, and the more a pass rusher can learn elements of Freeney's spin move, the better. At the same time, there are elements of Freeney's game – unreal speed, elite core strength that helped him be a better bull rusher than many realized, a quickness matched by few pass rushers ever – that are difficult to emulate.
Trent from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Why are non-first round rookie contracts all for four years?
John: Actually, all rookie contracts for drafted players are four years. That includes first-round selections, though teams have an option to pick up a fifth year on first-round players. The four-year parameter was put into place by the owners and the NFL Players Association in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement as part of several moves to make rookie negotiations easier and – more importantly to teams – far less expensive.
Mike from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
We have seen fast turnarounds in this league. Dave Caldwell has improved both lines, added speed at linebacker, and upgraded Chad Henne's weapons. Let's say the Jags go 10-6 and win a playoff game in 2014 with Henne at quarterback. Would Bortles start 2015 on the sidelines a second straight year?
John: We'll start as I usually do with this topic – by effectively throwing water on playoff talk. It's not that the Jaguars can't make the postseason in 2014, but it's probably a stretch to say that this is now one of the best 12-to-15 rosters in the NFL. It's closer than it was 16 months ago, but it's not there yet. Now, as for your question: While your scenario would certainly spark much sports-bar, message-board, Twitter-timeline debate, it probably wouldn't change Bortles' timeline. He almost certainly will start at quarterback for the Jaguars by the start of the 2015 season. The idea is for him to the franchise quarterback for the long term and the long term would probably start by the beginning of his second year whatever happens around him.
J Hooks from Orange Park, FL:
John, with all the talk of expanding the playoffs and adding games to the season, do you see the possibility of the league allowing teams to add more players to the 53-man roster?
John: Perhaps, though it's not as if expanding rosters would be an absolute must in a longer season. Teams are accustomed to signing players off the street and off practice squads late in every season. An expanded season and postseason would mean more of that, but teams could function without roster expansion.
Mark from Jacksonville:
You left free-agent signee Tandon Doss off your list of likely wide receivers for the final roster. Oversight, or will he just be a returner?
John: That's a tough one. I wouldn't say Doss is lock to make the roster, and he likely will be competing with Mike Brown for the fifth receiver position. If Doss wins the punt returner job, then it's conceivable the Jaguars could keep a sixth receiver, though in that scenario they could keep him as the fifth receiver/punt returner as well.
Mark from Charlotte, NC:
What are the chances anyone wears "32" this year or next...
John: Almost zero.
Jack from Los Angeles, CA:
As a huge Jaguar fan out here in L.A., I can't wait till the San Diego-versus-Jacksonville game Week 4 and I'm so excited to see these great draft picks and free agency players come in. Anyway my question: Do you think Allen Robinson or Mike Brown will get the No. 4 wide-receiver job and do you think Toby Gerhart will break 1,000 rushing yards?
John: I think Allen Robinson will be one of the Jaguars' Top 3 receivers next season, and I think Mike Brown will compete with Tandon Doss for the fifth position. Considering the projected improvements along the Jaguars' offensive line, and considering his success when given a chance in Minnesota, Gerhart certainly should be a 1,000-yard rusher if he's healthy for 14 or 15 games.
Paul from Jacksonville:
What's the over/under on the number of "get-back-to-football" emails you'll get before training camp?
John: I don't even want to think about it. While many understand that the coming two months – particularly the five weeks between the end of organized team activities and training camp – by necessity often contain less football talk than other times of year, there historically are those who bemoan the organic, question-driven twists and turns in the O-Zone during that period. There's not much I can do to ease their burden except to say football season will be upon us soon enough.
Ken from Gainesville, FL:
John, I have become very interested in our new wide receivers (like every Jags fan I'm sure). When I was reading about Lee and Robinson's 40 times, some argued Robinson was not that fast. At that point, I became curious as to what the great Jerry Rice's 40 time was - a modest 4.7. My question to you is what made Jerry Rice so good; arguably the best to date? What do you remember about Jerry Rice?
John: I don't think there's any argument. I'm of the belief that Jerry Rice was not only the greatest wide receiver ever, but perhaps the greatest football player ever. Very few players have so dwarfed all others to play his position, and when Rice played he was so far and away the greatest receiver of his, any or other time to that date that there was little debate on the topic. Although I was not covering the league in his prime, I recall Rice's route-running to be precise, and – as you went on to note on your email – his work ethic and dedication were otherworldly. I think what was most notable, though, was that Rice had exceptional game speed and quickness. His 40 time may have been modest, but if he was a tenth or two slower than other receivers, he rarely got caught from behind and his first-step quickness and ability to run routes precisely and with superb timing assured that was usually open.
Joseph from Denpasar, Bali:
I don't like reading human interest stories about UDFAs and seventh round picks. They make me care about them as people and then feel disappointment that their hard work and perseverance didn't pay off if they don't make the team. Can't we just act as if they're pieces of meat that are able to play a sport and only develop consciousness once they've made the roster for the season? And here's a #DTWD from the other side of the world.
John: Well, no, we're not going to stop reporting on and discussing Jaguars players. That means I guess your solution is to skip past stories on the site about this players. Or, if you don't mind, click in the story and leave so we get credit for the page view.
Andrew from Mandarin and Section 410:
I saw on an earlier O-Zone when somebody asked if Shad knew how much he was revered by the fan base. I was wondering if Gus knows how much the fan base reveres him.
John: I think Gus has an idea, but as is the case with Khan, he probably doesn't fully grasp the extent of it – if only because he, like Khan, is too focused on his job to spend too much time on the subject. I, on the other hand, have a pretty good grasp how the fan base feels about me. I cry a lot.
Robert from Evanston, WY:
How are the referees picked for games they ref? Also, where do they train to be NFL-ready, etc. It has always intrigued me. Great job, O-man.
John: Officials work in crews under the leadership of a referee. They are assigned games by the NFL office and typically have spent years working high school games, then college games, training and attending clinics along the way. The NFL scouts college officials to potentially join NFL officiating crews as needed.
Christina from Section 123 and St. Augustine, FL:
We just got an adorable Chiweenie and named him Bortles. Blake has some high expectations. I'll have to change the dog's name if Blake doesn't pan out. I don't see that happening but you should let him know his littlest fan is rooting for him.
John: I Googled "Chiweenie" and this came up. I then spent some time wondering just where we're headed as a society.

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